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Brewing Birds: The Poet Oatmeal Stout

November 19, 2010
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In the comments of my first foray into this less-than-birdy-but-still-kinda-related side project, I was given a bit of trouble by those who questioned my allegiance to beer as opposed to that other, no doubt more refined potable, wine.  After all, they claimed, there are surely no shortage of bird labeled wines to sample as well.  And they’re surely right.  In fact even I, partisan porter pusher that I am, enjoyed the sweet essence of grape in my young and careless days.  I was a big fan of the stuff in boxes because when you drained the last of it you could blow the bladder up and use it as a pillow.  That, friends, is what is known as backwoods knowledge.

No, I have nothing particularly against wine.  I fully admit it has its place.  Ship christenings, for instance, would no doubt be far less enjoyable, and without wine where would barbers disinfect their tools? It’s just that I love beer.  I love the options.  Wine only has three ingredients; water, grapes and yeast.  That’s it.  Sure there are lots of types of grapes to choose from, but still there’s only so many places you can go.

Beer, on the other hand, has four ingredients.  Water, hops, malted barley, and yeast, which doesn’t sound like much better but within that extra ingredient there are worlds of varieties.  You can use one or any any of the dozen or so different varietals of hops. You can malt the barley in different ways, drying it at various temperatures to different ends.  There are more types of yeasts than you can imagine, broken down essentially into two groups based on the temperature at which they ferment, top-fermenting for ales and bottom for lagers.  And best you’re not bound by these constraints, you can mix and match creating a smorgasbord of options for the adventurous beer drinkers.  So let’s see wine do that, huh?

Forgive me my digressions, but it’s beer for the foreseeable future for me.  Besides, my wife isn’t much of a drinker so if I went to wine I’d end up with half-full bottles of wine lying around.  From a purely practical perspective, the single serving beer is a space saver.

So I’m getting way off here.  You don’t come here for a full-throated defense of the gustatory charm of ale and lager .  That’s a soapbox for another time and place and one I’d likely topple off of anyway given the subject matter.  I can say, however, I’ll almost certainly cover wine before I get to Wild Turkey.

I picked up The Poet Oatmeal Stout from Michigan’s New Holland Brewing Company exclusively by virtue of the Common Raven front and center on the bottle.  It’s obviously a reference to Edgar Allen Poe, he of the famed mono-conversational corvid, rather than any appreciation for jays and crows and the like, but the fact that the bird itself takes up a significant portion of the label is good enough for me.  As far as ornithological accuracy, well, it’s hard to screw up a Raven, but the legs and feet look a little dainty and it would have been nice to see the “beard” of loose feathers at the throat.  These are small complaints though. the image of the the Raven silhouetted against a full moon is a really nice one.  Certainly nice enough to draw my eye at the beer store.

As for the beer itself, Oatmeal Stout is an interesting variety, so named because a significant percentage of oats are mixed in with the malt during the brewing process.  It gives the final product a little heft and a slightly tangy flavor as opposed to conventional stouts and because of the higher content of proteins in oats the viscosity, usually described by beer drinkers as “mouthfeel” or smoothness, is increased.  In short, it’s a pretty interesting variety for people who like a rich-tasting beer or who drink dark roast coffee.

I poured this beer fairly aggressively into a conventional pint glass but the head was still less than impressive, rising only about half a finger in height.  That said, it still lingered till the last sip, leaving a film on the surface that filled my nose with pleasant hints of chocolate and roasted malt throughout.  Color appear uniformly black, but in brighter light it showed deep red around the edges.  The taste was pleasant and balanced, with all of the sense of smoothness that you’d expect from an oatmeal stout.  There’s little in the way of a lingering hop bite, par for the course for the style and whose absence is nothing more than personal preference alone.  In fact, the persisting flavor is sweet more than anything (not as sweet as a Milk Stout or anything), which is an appeal for some drinkers.

Though this isn’t a style I drink on a regular basis, this is a tasty beer.  Especially for people who like the additional zing that oats bring.  I’m definitely one of those people and I often throw a handful of oats in bread I’m baking because of the earthy taste and texture they add.  It’s definitely an underrated dry good.  And it makes an underrated beer too.  Check it out.

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7 Comments
  1. Christine permalink
    November 19, 2010 8:43 am

    Mike should have been there as your official taster 🙂 Glad you have another excuse to buy good beer.

  2. Nate permalink*
    November 19, 2010 11:24 am

    @Christine- Mike’s loss cut me deep, but I never lack for excuses to buy good beer. 🙂

  3. November 19, 2010 4:15 pm

    I’ll have to try an oatmeal stout. That sounds like something I would enjoy.

  4. November 19, 2010 7:36 pm

    I agree, it’s hard to resist a bottle with a good picture of a bird!

  5. November 20, 2010 1:00 am

    I’ll be searching the LCBO for Ravens this weekend. Forget about the Black Scoters, Surf Scoters and Red-throated Loons spotted on Lake Ontario.

  6. November 22, 2010 2:30 pm

    Always good to promote the Michigan Economy!!!!!!! Thanks!

  7. November 28, 2010 11:46 pm

    You gave a very poetic and convincing defense of beer’s merits!

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