A rendition of the oatmeal stout is available from the Great Dane in Fitchburg.
With St. Patrick's Day upon us, what better time to talk about Irish stout? In terms of local brewers, however, there are few options on tap. But if you are willing to compromise on the Guinness tradition of the dry and lightly bitter flavors, you'll find choices in a close cousin: oatmeal stout, with looks like Irish stout yet has a distinctive sweetness and body.
Renditions of the oatmeal stout are available from the Great Dane, Ale Asylum, Gray's Tied House and JT Whitney's. Actually, the sweeter chocolate tones of the oatmeal stout are a much better match with these remaining days of winter.
What is it? John Stoner's Oatmeal Stout from the Great Dane Fitchburg
Style: The oatmeal stout has its origins in Britain. It is medium- to full-bodied, with a smooth silkiness. The color ranges from very dark brown to black. The flavors emphasize a sweet maltiness, with some roastedness evident in the background and finish. The use of oats can add a nutty, grainy or earthy flavor, in addition to body. Oatmeal stout is, generally speaking, sweeter than its dry Irish stout cousin.
Background: Great Dane's oatmeal stout is named in honor of Fitchburg's first farmer, John Stoner, who in 1837 began planting near the southern portion of Seminole Highway, in the area now referred to as Stoner Prairie Park. The beer is made with a high percentage of oats, which add body, texture and a slight sweetness. There are chocolate and coffee tones in the flavor profile.
When served on a nitrogen tap, the stout's smooth body is accentuated by a silky, creamy texture and a soft tan head, with the consistency of an ice cream float. This is a seasonal beer at the Great Dane in Fitchburg and costs $4.50 per pint or $13 per growler.
- Aroma: Firm, medium maltiness.
- Appearance: Very dark. Looks heavier than it feels. A thick, soft, tan head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and silky (it's served from a nitrogen tap line, which enhances the soft texture).
- Taste: The initial caramel flavor transitions to a smooth, roasted-chocolate maltiness.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Sweet chocolate maltiness with hints of roasted coffee that build over the course of a pint.
Glassware: The English pint glass will highlight the color and soft, creamy tan head of this beer.
Pairs well with: This is a sweet stout that will go well with Friday fish. But from the Great Dane's menu, you might find a wonderful pairing with the grilled salmon, which is topped with a chive buerre blanc and served with French country hash browns.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers.
(I am using a one to four bottle opener scale: four is a great beer, distinctive, you'll have this over others; three is a beer you enjoy, reliable, close to its described style; two is problematic, lacks distinction, but worth having again; one is a beer that isn't true to its style, you would not recommend it to a friend.)
The Verdict: You'll find a handful of local oatmeal stouts out just in time for St. Patrick's Day. I tried all of the local brewpubs and rank this the best for its color, body, and smooth, sweet tones of chocolate. There also is a firm -- yet controlled -- roasted coffee background that transcends in the finish. Sláinte!