Here's a romance tip for the beer drinker just in time for Valentine's Day. Try pairing a dark beer rich with chocolate and caramel malts alongside an assortment of treats from your favorite chocolatier, and conduct a little pairing comparison. At the Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest a couple of weeks back, Fiddler Oatmeal Stout from Potosi Brewing struck me as a beer well suited for such a passionate match of flavors.
What is it? Fiddler Oatmeal Stout from the Potosi Brewing Company of Potosi, Wis.
Style: Oatmeal stout has a modest malty flavor, often with hints of caramel and chocolate. Overall the maltiness should be smooth and not bitter. While commonly deep black in color, they can be either medium- or full-bodied beers. As the name indicates, brewers often add oats to the grist, which provide some softness to the mouthfeel. They range from 3.8% to 6.0% ABV.
Background: Potosi brewmaster Steven Bruszka makes Fiddler Oatmeal Stout with about 10% of the overall grist being oats. That gives it a wonderfully smooth and rich mouthfeel. It also has plenty of caramel malt within its overall sweetness. All that malt balances the Northern Brewer and Cascade hops.
The beer gets the name "Fiddler" because Potosi is the self-proclaimed catfish capital of Wisconsin. Local fishermen call a young catfish that doesn't actually take the bait a fiddler, because it seems to "fiddle" with it. That naturally leaves the fisherman wanting a catch even more.
Fiddle is a seasonal beer for Potosi, and it's expected to be around through March. It takes about three weeks to make, and it finishes at 8% ABV. While you can get it at the brewpub in growlers for around $10 (refill), it is bottled by the Stevens Point Brewery and sells for about $9/six-pack.
- Aroma: Malty with light hints of roastedness in the beginning.
- Appearance: Dark color and bronze tints, a medium thick and tan head.
- Texture: Medium bodied with a round mouthfeel.
- Taste: Smooth chocolate maltiness.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Lingering chocolate maltiness.
Glassware: The tall, heavy clear beer stein will show off the beautiful deep black color of this beer, while the heavy glass enhances its hearty appearance.
Pairs well with: Sweet malts in many dark brews blend really well with similar qualities in certain chocolate candies. Grab a six-pack of Fiddler and your favorite box of dark chocolates. My choice includes truffles, or dark semi-sweet chocolates with a hint of raspberry coating. Actually, any good-quality smooth, dark chocolate will blend the sweetness of both, while subtly bringing out the hints of roastedness from the stout's black malt.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Fiddler is a wonderfully smooth and chocolately stout. It has a smooth mouthfeel and great warmth -- especially if you are able to pick it up in a growler from the brew pub in Potosi. I rank the growler version slightly above the bottled version because it had a bolder flavor -- almost a hint of licorice -- and a bit more body.
Bruszka resports that the bottle version is pasteurized when it's produced in greater qualities than he can make at the brewery in Potosi. The pasteurization process involves heating the beer to stop the fermentation in the bottle, which stabilizes the beer for longer shelf life. It can also rob the beer of some body and flavor. That said, the bottle version of this beer is still worthy, and is easier to find around Madison.
However, a trip to Potosi might just be the total package for your Valentine's, a gift that could include a meal at the historic brewpub and a visit to the National Brewery Museum. No matter how you get it, Fiddler Oatmeal Stout is a good companion for chocolate, and a great choice for Valentine's Day.