brown to Black / 22 – 40 SRM
moderate / 25 – 40 IBU
Balanced toward malty
For years now, a popular perception about drinking habits and diet holds that “healthy” people drink wine. While it isn’t often stated explicitly, that carries the implication that beer is conversely less healthy. That perception may have begun with a piece on 60 Minutes in the early 90s, which outlined evidence that red wine could alleviate fatty buildup in arteries, thereby improving overall heart health. It’s common now to hear reporting on new studies that showcase a new health benefit to wine, but the same isn’t quite true for beer. While beer has been studied in similar ways with similarly positive health benefits recognized by researchers, our favorite beverage doesn’t seem to capture the public eye in the same way as wine when it comes to a healthy lifestyle.
This wasn’t always the case. As we mentioned in our post on sweet stouts, sweeter dark beer was thought to be a filling, healthy, and wholesome drink for all kinds of people in the late 1800s. Brewers add different kinds of sugar to beer for a wide variety of reasons. Most of those are molecules that yeast can use as a food source to create carbon dioxide and alcohol during fermentation. One in particular, lactose, cannot be used by saccharomyces yeast, and therefore remains in the finished beer after fermentation. This gives the finished pint a sweeter flavor and fuller body, both of which were prized during the dark beer boom.
Another way British brewers built body and richness in their beers during the nineteenth century was by adding oats to their grist. Oats contain a higher percentage of beta-glucans, water-soluble lipids, and proteins than barley. None of these compounds are fermentable either, so they all add to the body of the beer you’re drinking. The lipids are a particularly special addition from oats: being fatty substances, they lend a silkiness that, when combined with the fuller mouthfeel, create a uniquely creamy mouthfeel to this style. All of that means that when you drink one of these, it feels hearty, fulfilling, and warming…all associations we make with comfort foods as well.
Like most of the interesting styles, this beer fell out of fashion in the early and mid-twentieth century, even in its homeland. When the beer writer Michael Jackson mentioned oatmeal stout in his 1977 book The World Guide to Beer, it peaked the interest of an American importer, who commissioned a beer to fit the style from the brewers at Samuel Smith. That beer, which can still be found in bottles draped in gold foil all over the US, was one of my personal gateways into craft beer during college, and it’s a style we at Black Flannel continue to love as a hearty and approachable dark beer.
We’ve pushed the boundaries on the traditional English versions of the style to create our oatmeal stout, Avena Obscura. We boosted the ABV a bit, loaded the grain bill with oats, and gave it a rich bittersweet chocolate with carefully selected roasted malts. The result is a creamy, full-bodied, chocolaty and lightly roasty beer that we’re excited to share with you.
Aroma – Malty, lightly roasted, and with a creamy character from oats
Appearance – Dark brown to black with a full, lasting head.
Flavor – Malty in balance with varying levels of sweetness from different brewers and beers. Lightly roasted flavor with oatmeal gives a coffee-and-cream sensation.
Mouthfeel – Full bodied with lower carbonation for a creamy filling mouthfeel
Vitals – 4.2 – 5.9% ABV, 25 – 40 IBU
Serve fresh in a Munique pint at 40ºF
A very dark, full-bodied, roasty, malty ale with a complementary oatmeal flavor. The sweetness, balance, and oatmeal impression can vary considerably.
ild roasted grain aromas, generally with a coffeelike character. A light malty sweetness can suggest a coffee and-cream impression. Fruitiness should be low to medium-high. Diacetyl medium-low to none. Hop aroma medium-low to none, earthy or floral. A light grainy-nutty oatmeal aroma is optional.
Medium brown to black in color. Thick, creamy, persistent tan- to brown-colored head. Can be opaque (if not, it should be clear).
Similar to the aroma, with a mild roasted coffee to coffee-and-cream flavor, and low to moderately-high fruitiness. Oats and dark roasted grains provide some flavor complexity; the oats can add a nutty, grainy or earthy flavor. Dark grains can combine with malt sweetness to give the impression of milk chocolate or coffee with cream. Medium hop bitterness with the balance toward malt. Medium-sweet to medium-dry finish. Diacetyl medium-low to none. Hop flavor medium-low to none, typically earthy or floral.
Medium-full to full body, with a smooth, silky, velvety, sometimes an almost oily slickness from the oatmeal. Creamy. Medium to medium-high carbonation.
Generally between Sweet and Irish Stouts in sweetness. Variations exist, from fairly sweet to quite dry, as well as English and American versions (American versions tend to be more hoppy, less sweet, and less fruity). The level of bitterness also varies, as does the oatmeal impression. Light use of oatmeal may give a certain silkiness of body and richness of flavor, while heavy use of oatmeal can be fairly intense in flavor with an almost oily mouthfeel, dryish finish, and slight grainy astringency. When judging, allow for differences in interpretation.
A variant of nourishing or invalid stouts of the late 1800s using oatmeal in the grist, similar to the development of sweet stout that used lactose. An original Scottish version used a significant amount of oat malt. Later went through a shady phase where some English brewers would throw a handful of oats into their parti-gyled stouts in order to legally produce a ‘healthy’ Oatmeal Stout for marketing purposes. Most popular in England between the World Wars, was revived in the craft beer era for export, which helped lead to its adoption as a popular modern American craft beer style that uses a noticeable (not symbolic) quantity of oats.
Pale, caramel and dark roasted malts (often chocolate) and grains. Oatmeal or malted oats (5- 20% or more) used to enhance fullness of body and complexity of flavor. Hops primarily for bittering. Can use brewing sugars or syrups. English ale yeast.
Most are like a cross between an Irish Extra Stout and a Sweet Stout with oatmeal added. Several variations exist, with the sweeter versions more like a Sweet Stout with oatmeal instead of lactose, and the drier versions more like a more nutty, flavorful Irish Extra Stout. Both tend to emphasize the body and mouthfeel.
Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.038-1.056 (9.5-13.8 °Plato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.008-1.020 (2.1-5.1 °Plato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 3%-4.8% (3.8%-6.1%)
Bitterness (IBU) 20-40
Color SRM (EBC) 20+ (40+ EBC)
A single infusion mash is traditional, and hopping is traditionally only one addition for bitterness early in the boil. Traditional examples use about 10% flaked oats in the grist, but you can play with this number quite a bit as long as you leave enough pale malt to convert all of that starch. Plan to mash in the middle to upper range for a bigger body (152-154). Fermented with English or American yeast depending on desired profile.
AT THE BREWPUB: Bourbon Caramel Popcorn
BRUNCH DATE: Belgian Waffles with fresh whipped cream and strawberries
SWANKY DATE NIGHT: Chocolate Souffle
FROM BF DISTILLING CO: Vermont Grain (Vermont Common Whiskey)
ANY: Light Aged Rye Whiskey
Add the maple syrup and rye to a highball glass, then top with oatmeal stout. Drop two pieces of cooked bacon into glass, then place the waffle over the rim and garnish with whipped cream. Nap as needed.
We plan a grist with as much flaked oats as we can manage to lauter through. Then we layer in seven carefully selected specialty malts for rich flavor across the board. Light hopping balances all of that malt sweetness, and we use Chico yeast to allow those malts to shine.
As creamy as any oatmeal stout you’ll find, with just the right amount of bittersweet chocolate and light roast and background notes of cooked caramel and toffee, at 5.6% ABV this beer is a warmer that you can still drink a lot of.