The Gray Brewing Company of Janesville and its companion brewpub Gray's Tied House in Verona shouldn't be overlooked when you're searching for a heavier-bodied brew this time of year. One of my picks for relaxing at home with a good book in front of the fireplace is Gray's Oatmeal Stout.
This is a beer with plenty of flavor, but it's not overly filling. The brew is also perfect following a meal, or with a little chocolate for the adventuresome. Gray's Oatmeal Stout is in my fridge this week, and you can find it around Madison in bottles and six-packs, as well as on tap at the Tied House for consumption there or for taking home in growlers.
What is it? Gray's Oatmeal Stout from Gray Brewing of Janesville.
Style: This kind of stout includes oatmeal in its grist, which adds a smoothness or silkiness to the mouth feel. Color ranges from very dark brown to black, and the flavors emphasize a sweet maltiness, with some roastedness evident in the background and finish. Despite their dark and thick appearance, these beers range from 3.0 to 4.8% alcohol by volume. Oatmeal stout has its origins in Great Britain and is slightly sweeter than its cousin, the dry or Irish stout. It emerged under the pretense that adding oats to beer made it healthier, and was considered a table beer by the mid-1800s, even prescribed to nursing mothers and ailing children as a remedy for general sickness.
Background: Fred Gray is the fifth generation to run the family brewing business. As brewmaster, he describes Gray's Oatmeal Stout as rich in color with strong roasted flavor and a creamy texture. Gray uses fresh rolled oats in the recipe for body, along with additions of dark roasted barley that impart coffee-like tones in the flavor profile. If you look closely on packaging you'll see "56," which refers to when the Janesville brewery was founded by Joshua C. Gray in 1856.
Gray's Oatmeal Stout has won several awards at the World Beer Cup, most recently Gold in 2003, Silver in 2002 and Bronze in 2006. The brew sells for about $8.50 for a six-pack, or at the Tied House for $4/pint or $14/growler (and $10/refill).
- Aroma: Malty with a light roastedness.
- Appearance: Dark and clear with bronze highlights. A medium soft tan head.
- Texture: Medium bodied with a silkiness.
- Taste: Chocolate malt is up front, with a firm caramel maltiness in the background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Malty, with just a light coffee bitterness that lingers.
Glassware: The English pint glass with wide mouth and slight taper will offer great color and support its soft tan head.
Pairs well with: Meats with savory sauces that offer complimentary light sweet flavors. This is also be a great beer for pastas, particularly those with Alfredo sauce.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: This is a smooth and silky oatmeal stout. It pours dark and looks thick, but actually is more medium-bodied that it appears, and there is an emphasis on the chocolate malt that goes well with this soft texture. The light hints of roastedness in the finish are distinctive, yet held in check. Gray's Oatmeal Stout is a good food beer, but an even better sipping stout to appreciate its flavors.