Beer Style of the Month
To best understand the beers you enjoy and also those next beer decisions to what you are likely to enjoy a helpful bit of knowledge is a better understanding of the recognized beer styles.
There are two primary bodies, The Brewers Association and The Beer Judge Certification Program that have devised systems for describing and categorizing beer from around the world and indeed history. And then online beer nerve centers like Beer Advocate have developed a tangential system for beer styles based largely, but not entirely on these other two systems. So, depending on what your reading, a beer can be classified as more than one beer style. When describing beer style for the purpose of this writing, we will be using the Beer Judge Certification Program styles, which are also the official styles of the Cicerone Certification Program.
Why is an oatmeal stout a good beer for January? For several reasons, one it is a beer that is just better when allowed to warm up a bit. Many people don't prefer a very cold beer in the winter months. Some sources state the best serving temperature is 45-50 degrees F. Test this for yourself, the flavors will change as the beer warms up. Another good reason is that heavy and smooth mouthfeel (texture) and the roasty notes of this beer just suites a winter setting.
Comments from the BJCP guide: Generally between sweet and dry stouts in sweetness. Variations exist, from fairly sweet to quite dry. The level of bitterness also varies, as does the oatmeal impression. Light use of oatmeal may give a certain silkiness of body and richness of flavor, while heavy use of oatmeal can be fairly intense in flavor with an almost oily mouthfeel. When judging, allow for differences in interpretation.
History: An English seasonal variant of sweet stout that is usually less sweet than the original, and relies on oatmeal for body and complexity rather than lactose for body and sweetness.
Ingredients: Pale, caramel and dark roasted malts and grains. Oatmeal (5-10%+) used to enhance fullness of body and complexity of flavor. Hops primarily for bittering. Ale yeast. Water source should have some carbonate hardness.
Four To Try
The problem with a national beer review of a particular style along with recommendations is that you can't always find all or perhaps any of the beers being reviewed. So, these four recommendations are for beers available right now (2016-01-31) at The Winery, Chester MD.
- Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout - the classic beer for the style. Available year round. Rated at 94 points on Beer Advocate.
- Ninkaski Oatis - this brewer is from Oregon and a new comer to Maryland. It is available year round. Rated 87 point on Beer Advocate.
- Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin - available in the fall, you can find some lingering on the shelve for a few months. It is rated at 89 points on Beer Advocate.
- Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout - available year round. Brewed in Colorado. Rated 83 points on Beer Advocate.
I like to suggest to people when they are deciding on their next beer or want to learn more about beer options, there are generally three things to think about.
First, be aware of what you like about a beer. Take the time to look up what beer style of the drink in front of you.
Second, notice the brewery of that beer. You will often find that that brewery makes a bit more effort when crafting a beer. If you like this one, chances are you'll enjoy other beers they offer.
And third, take a photo or keep a beer journal. If you frequent The Winery or any particular store, they can help lead you to similar beers that may expand your palate and beer knowledge. I have favorite beer styles and favorite brewers. I know I enjoy oatmeal stouts and beers by Samuel Smith. Now I can try other beers of that style and by that brewer and usually be safe with my choice.
One last note about beer ratings. You can use them as a general rule and not as a definitive guide in deciding your beers to buy. I have found some beers that are my favorite to be rated much lower than my palate would dictate. Choose wisely grasshopper!
The February 2016 Beer Style of the Month will be barleywine.
Other journal entries on oatmeal stout