Oatmeal in beer!? Yes. You can drink beer for breakfast and tell your boss you had some oatmeal and you would not be lying! Woo hoo!
Oatmeal Stouts are currently classified as style number 13C, which means I’m halfway through tasting all six types of stouts, as classified by the 2008 BJCP guidelines! You can see my post on Dry Stouts here and the one I did on Sweet Stouts here.
I found that Oatmeal Stouts were a nice balance between the sweet and dry styles. They were sweeter than dry stouts, but not as sweet as milk stouts, and they were oh-so-smooth. Their super silky, full mouthfeel often comes directly from the addition of oatmeal to the beer, and can come with a rich, nutty flavor that adds a beautiful complexity to this style. Interestingly, according to the BJCP, this style actually originated in the UK as a seasonal variant of the sweet stout.
Summarized BJCP Description of Oatmeal Stout: (full description here)
A very dark, full-bodied, roasty, malty ale with a complementary oatmeal flavor.
ABV: 4.2 – 5.9%
8 Ball Stout (Lost Coast Brewery)
The Poet (New Holland Brewing)
Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout (Samuel Smith Old Brewery)
Oatmeal Stout (Breckenridge Brewery)
Velvet Merlin (Firestone Walker Brewing Company)
The oatmeal stouts I tasted ranged from brown to very black. All were opaque with ruby red or garnet highlights.
Overall I found that all of the stouts had super-subtle aromas that were difficult to detect. I basically had to snort my beer to get a true sense of their bouquets! (Oh, I’m just kidding…sort of.) Most of them had a beautiful coffee-and-cream smell with some variety of sweet compliment such as toffee, caramel, or cherry. The Samuel Smith had the most beautifully bizarre smells of bubblegum and peach. And at the risk of making up a word, the Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout had a nice “aftersmell” (you know, like an aftertaste) of burnt toast. Sadly, the FW Velvet Merlin had a raw squash smell and a taste to match that made it impossible to enjoy. However, I managed to get a new bottle of it a few weeks later for a re-taste, and found that it had a nice cocoa-hazelnut aroma.
All the beers had a very full, creamy mouthfeel, and in the case of the 8 Ball stout from Lost Coast, this creaminess was so great that it resembled a nitro beer. New Holland’s The Poet had an almost boozy aroma but its mouthfeel was remarkably creamy, full, and smooth. I thought the Velvet Merlin was a bit thin in body, in both versions that I tried.
Again, the first FW I tasted was so squashy that I couldn’t enjoy it. However, round two of FW had a deliciously dry cocoa and sweet cherry flavor, with some hints of pepper and raisins.
My favorite was New Holland’s The Poet. This beer was not only the most beautiful to look at, but it was just the tastiest of them all! It had a lovely lacey head, and upon swooshing, (technical beer term) the head would bubble up, turn from tan to cream-colored and seemed to be alive. Swoosh swoosh swoosh. It had a sweet, toffee candy, almost boozy aroma with hints of caramel and malt. Its mouthfeel was remarkably creamy, full, and smooth. This beer’s flavor was a beautiful balance of dry cocoa and coffee, with hints of hazelnut and sweet cherries. Its finish resembled burnt toast (What, you don’t love burnt toast?!) and it had a subtle aftertaste of bread and vanilla bean. I think I loved this beer so much because when I think oatmeal, I typically think bland and boring (sorry, oatmeal). I never imagined that an Oatmeal Stout could have so much complexity. Hey oatmeal, you are now a complex and exciting food!
What’s your fave oatmeal stout? Am I crazy for detecting squash in a Firestone Walker beer? (I mean I was shocked, myself.)
p.s. If you’re in Chicago this weekend, don’t forget to check out C.H.A.O.S. Brew Club’s Stout and Chili Night! This world-class homebrew club is throwing an amazing party at their space where they’ll be serving homemade chili and over 40 kinds of home-brewed beer. It’s going to be a deliciously good time! Hope to see you there.