Mar 2, 2007

The Session 1: Wolaver's Oatmeal Stout

Beer Blogging Friday: The SessionThis here is the inaugural Beer Blogging Friday, and our theme today is Not Your Father's Irish Stout. Lots of beer bloggers are doing reviews, and that's great (here's a list of links to explore—just scroll to the comments). I'm not.

In fact, I'm cheating a little (because I've had a particularly hard one, and it's Friday, and I don't do much by the rules). Wolaver's Oatmeal Stout weighs in at 5.9% ABV, which is a hair more than your typical session that generally hovers around 5% or less. A few of these on an empty stomach and I'll be singing shanty songs (although I may do that dry if you catch me in the right mood). So what of it? Why take on Wolaver's? It's not just the name—a name that conjurs up bearded men in layers of canvas and flannel working a thresher or combine or some sort of other giant machine that spits grain down your throat as you struggle to control it. Furrows and topsoil and the like. What, farming's not your thing? Alright, I give.

Actually, my plan was to whip up some ice cream with this beast, but I'm on the West Coast. This means that after knocking off work, whipping up the custard, letting it cool and then churning it by hand (I lie), it would end up about midnight before I got around to writing about the damn experience. You'll get that post in the near future.

Instead, I'm just going to ramble; I hope you don't mind (feel free to browse the link lists to the right if you do). Since today's theme is Not Your Father's Irish Stout, the very first thing I though of was my pop. His stout of choice is, if I recall correctly, Guinness. I have very clear memories of him grabbing a salt shaker and sending a few good flicks into that notoriously thick head (how appropriate, I have to think, as my pop has the world's wildest mop of hair). A lot of beer geeks turn their noses up at Guinness, but a properly poured pint is really quite delicious.

But this Wolaver's is a different animal. It's got that thinner body that I love about these dark beers—I can get real flavor without feeling like I need to stick a pin in my belly to let the air out. Flavor! We're talking coffee, of course (yes, I'm drinking beer); sweeter roasted coffee, almost a toffee flavor. And chocolate. Didn't know there was chocolate in beer? In this case
it's chocolate malts that do it—oddly, it's an unsweetened, slightly bitter taste (bitter is usually associated with hops). But that's stout's strength—a smooth contradiction of dark but not heavy and sweetly smooth but slightly bitter.

Now, lest you're curious: oatmeal stout is, indeed, brewed with oatmeal (that's the smoothness) [edit: um, that would be oats not oatmeal!] and Wolaver's' oatmeal happens to be organic. This means I can crack open a pint of this stuff knowing that there's no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers and no genetically engineered grains coursing through my veins as I drink. Me, I like that.

This one's also brewed in Vermont, hence my initial ravings about farmboys and threshers. Ma and Pa Wolaver still own the joint—in fact, they purchased Otter Creek Brewing some years ago and kept everybody on to help with the beer. What they've come up with for an oatmeal stout may not be definitive, but it sure is good drinking. And it's good to know that organic beers can more than hold their own with conventional ones.

The bottom of my pint is nigh, and my stomach's growling for some real food now. Next session I promise to actually make it a session, but that's it for this round. Keep an eye on Stan Hieronymus' Appellation Beer for next month's installment.


kahealani said...

What can you say about the flavor of the beer. Bitter, dry, sweet?

Jessie Jane said...

And a whole lot more, as the Wolaver's can attest. Different ingredients influence the beer's final flavor in lots of ways. Different strains of yeast, malted grains, hops, water and other additions all play a big role.

Also, different beer styles will typically display different types of flavors. Stouts and porters, for example, often have hints of chocolate, coffee, toffee or caramel. Pale ales and IPAs, on the other hand, might lean more towards citrus or floral flavors.

Why is this? Well, the first group gets its chocolate-coffee flavors from particular malts while the latter's floral or citrus notes are due to the focus on hops during production.

Beer is a beautifully complex beverage. Most folks who venture beyond the macros (Bud-Miller-Coors) get a kick out of the huge variety of flavors out there.

Maybe I'll do a future post on the various styles and flavors of beer...


Anonymous said...

Wolaver's Oatmeal Stout is excellent! I just tried it for the first time August,2009. I'm not an expert, I just like organic, great tasting beer & wine! Great job!