Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Dark Horse Brewing’s Oatmeal Stout not as smooth as expected

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

Greetings, fellow craft beer lovers.

This week, I would like to review another stout. This one was by suggestion to me from a reader of this column, Pete. The beer is One Oatmeal Stout by Dark Horse Brewing Co. This is an oatmeal stout that I have tried some time ago, but am curious to revisit. Thanks for the suggestion, Pete!

Oatmeal stouts are generally medium- to full-bodied stouts that have an extra smoothness to them from the addition of oats to the mash. The oats not only add smoothness to the mouth feel, but give a touch of sweetness that is unlike any other type of stout. The levels of roasted flavor and hop character may vary.

Dark Horse Brewing Co. began in Marshall, Michigan, as a restaurant owned by Bill “Wacky” Morse. Aaron Morse, son of Bill Morse and current owner, suggested a redesign of the restaurant into a brewpub in 1997. Aaron turned his brewpub license into a microbrewery license in 1998 and moved to a new location in Marshall during 2000. The die-hard fan base of this brewery even has its own nickname: Dark Horse Nation. The History Channel aired a reality-based show about Dark Horse in late 2014. In August 2014, Bill passed away.

Dark Horse is available in 12 states, offering five year-round (full-timers), five seasonal (part-timers), two limited release (some-timers) and five holiday stouts. One Oatmeal Stout is part of the holiday stout series and is available in the fall weighing in with an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 7 percent.

For this review, I am using my FCB nonic pint glass and allowing this beer to warm to 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit for full flavor profile.

The pour is an opaque dark brown, almost black, color with some brown highlights. The head is dark mocha color of a minimal half finger tall that dissipates rather quickly to a small ring with virtually no lacing. Hmm, this is kind of a disappointing start for an oatmeal stout.

The aroma is earthy, consisting of roasted (almost burned) barley, a bit of chocolate, coffee and smoke or tobacco. There is neither hop presence nor alcohol. Nothing really stands out here.

The first sip reveals the intense roasted malt, which gives way to some dark fruit or maybe raisin, bitter chocolate and a bit of tobacco flavor. The finish continues with a bit of bitterness from the heavy dose of roasted malts and no sign of oatmeal that can be detected. There is slight alcohol warmth present also.

The mouth feel is medium and slightly dry. It manages to be sort of watery, yet fairly silky at the same time. The carbonation is below average. Not what I am looking for in an oatmeal stout.

Overall, this is not as smooth as I expected for oatmeal stout. This may be because of the higher ABV than what is normal for the style. There are lots of complex malt flavors, but it doesn’t have the character or softness that oatmeal stout should. There are some bold flavors, especially the tobacco character. Something is off; maybe this particular four-pack was not handled properly and stressed. Not a bad beer, but one I will not be in a rush to go back and get.

Prost!

Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Rockford Brewing Company, 200 Prairie St., on the Rock River. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to http://forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, contact Mike at rockfordcraftbeer@comcast.net.

From the Jan. 14-20, 2015, issue

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