Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Oatmeal Stout

Let’s travel down memory lane for a moment. Imagine that you’re a kid again. Everything was so carefree and simple. The days when time stood still you we were playing “king of the hill” on a brisk Fall day, and when we came back inside, Mom would be waiting with a hot, piping bowl of oatmeal. There was nothing more comforting than that warm, rich and smooth texture sliding down your throat as it stuck to the roof of your mouth. Even if those moments of childhood have long faded away, every once in a while we still harness a desperate longing for those experiences. After all, childhood is short. Adulthood is forever. And perhaps if you’re yearning for those types of memories, one might consider the Oatmeal Stout. It’s just like Mom used to make…..with beer! It’s a sweet, filling and full-bodied experience that has everything you love about a hot beverage. This eccentric stout features different blends of oatmeal brewed into beer that highlights an extraordinary amount of flavor and complexity. The Oatmeal Stout will most definitely hit the mark.

Unfortunately, this grand beverage wasn’t always held in high regard. The oatmeal stout started out, shall we say, in an “unpleasant” fashion. Forget about all of those fantastic imageries of remembering the good old days with mom for a moment, because traditionally, the oatmeal stout was a beverage intended for lactating mothers due to its nutritional values. During the medieval period in England, it was not uncommon for many breweries to add a substantial amount of oats into the brewing process. Thus, due to those high proportion additions (around 30 to 35%) of oats, the stout, although nutritious, unfortunately drew very astringent and bitter flavors which most people found to be quite repugnant. Heck, breweries couldn’t even give it away to thirsty Elizabethan sailors! Suffice it to say that the practice of adding oats into beer slowly died out and ultimately became extinct by the sixteenth century.

It was not until 1977 when the stout began to regain its popularity after Michael Jackson, (No, not the pop singer. Rather, the famous beer and whiskey author and journalist) had mentioned the defunct stout in his book The World Guide to Beer. It wasn’t long until the brewery Samuel Smith of Yorkshire took it upon themselves to reinvent and reproduce the oatmeal stout in 1980 at 5% ABV. The outcome was an amazing, complex beverage with silky textures and a bittersweet aftertaste. Soon other companies such as Young’s Brewery of London and the Anderson Valley Brewing Company of California followed suit and started producing their own version of the Oatmeal stout.

To produce, the Samuel Smith brand oatmeal stout includes a mixture of pale malt, flaked oats, crystal and chocolate malts, and roasted barley. The result is a sweet, smooth, superbly balanced, and full-bodied beer with a lasting impression leaving hints of bitter chocolate, dark fruits and molasses aromas and flavors. All in all, the Samuel Smith oatmeal stout is a beverage of superior drinkability, (and it’s good for you, too!).The trick is to never drink straight from the bottle. Otherwise, you might end up experiencing those dreaded bitter flavors mentioned above. Instead, slowly pour it into a pint glass, let it breathe for 2 to 3 minutes, and then slowly sip as you sit back, kick your feet up and let the good times roll.

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is also one of the most easily accessible brands to purchase. Grocery stores such as Whole Foods Market have them readily available in most of their beer and wine departments in the Atlanta area. This Whole Foods grocery store in particular carries them often:

Company: Whole Foods Market

Address: 5930 Roswell Road

Atlanta, GA 30329

Phone: 404.236.0810

Brand: Samuel Smith

Price: $3.99

Quantity: 1 Bottle

Bottle size: 18.7-ounce “Victorian Pint” bottle

Food pairings: Pizza, salad, Italian foods, steak, dark breads, steamed clams,

eggs Florentine, lobster, and shish kebabs

If you’re looking to go out on the town, you might want try the 5 Seasons Brewing Company’s version of the oatmeal stout in Sandy Springs on 5600 Roswell Road. They produce a wonderful Chocolate Imperial oatmeal stout.

What do you say? If you’re up for a unique palatal experience, give the oatmeal stout a go. Be a kid again….with a twist.