This has been sitting around under the stairs since that crate of beer around Easter, I figured it was high time that I got round to it and had it of an evening. Darkness outside, lit by the glow of one of the last sodium burning lamps on the road, with a decidedly cool feeling in the air from a day of rain, the perfect time, one might suggest, for a stout. To be fair, though, nearly every time is the perfect time for a stout so that may not be indicative. Anyway, with no ABV (but I was told as I drank it by some nice people online) and no Best Before this was always going to be interesting. I present to you Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout from Rogue Ales based on Oregon.
It's a crap picture, for which I apologise, the light was bad and I wasn't anticipating getting a better shot. I was already a bit late in getting a photo and the head had gone so I was in a hurry. And, sometimes, I am just that bad at taking a photo. Would you like to know more?
This opened with a definite whisp of carbonation as if blowing away the cobwebs and dust built up after inaction and, this being the first big stout I've had since the end of the marking, I suppose that is exactly what this is. A good, smooth pour left a full-bodied black of a beer poised in the glass. Oddly muted by the poor light of the evening, taking a smidge of ruby when held to the light rather than the brown dark caramel of a more treacle and licorice style of porter, say, and thus more of the stout family for certain. Still carbonation, still a skein of a head but it was a quick big toffee one, easily gone between the kitchen where it was poured and the workstation where it was consumed.
The smell was roasted and smooth too, like a welcome bowl of something hot and porridge like on a morning when you have lots to do and a big hearty breakfast is desired. Something akin to what I remember from the mornings when I'd have Ready Brek as a child, this was always something of a treat but I do recall being somewhat unhappy that I did not gain the nuclear orange glow that the adverts showed, in that it was at once familiar and a treat. Exactly as one might expect an oatmeal stout to be, actually, good and thick on the nose and then into the taste it did what you'd expect. I had it watching the rather good All The Stations project on youtube and it fit the milieu rather nicely, being reassuring like a train and fitting the noise of the wheels on the rails in a hypnotic rhythm whilst listening to people talk and, well, have fun.
That taste then. Soft and full, a good round mouthfeel with no slack parts and no thinness. Despite the flat appearance there was enough carbonation to keep that flavour moving and to keep the malt mixing nicely with the overall feel of the oatmeal. Spilling down into the sides like floodwater carrying trees that have fallen into it from further upstream, allowing the detritus to gather and hold back the water until it has thickened and there is enough to flood the areas made available. In much the same way, this stout did not moved from one part of the mouth to another without being able to completely drench and flood it. Not the round and full hops of an IPA nor the thin but pleasant waterfall of a pale, this was the thick and velvet stylings of a decent stout tempered in the heat of the roasting of malts and oatmeal so that it maintained a certain burning edge, like well-made toast with the crispy bits from the ripped ends where one didn't use the knife fully.
Strong and dark like the evening, with a warmth that would be better placed in the cool of the winter or the evenings outside a summer in full swing. Still, this was a welcome experience and a happy return to the world of stouts and porters after what feels like forever! At 5.8% ABV, according to some nice people online, this is a dangerous ale in that it does not taste this strength. Despite the full and heavy body this could easily pass as a 4% or 3.5% ale and that is comforting, making the alcohol a useful support to the aftertaste and the malt rather than a suppression of it, but also having the effect of making it a stealth ale that will punish too much advantage being taken!
Enjoy this best on your own in a strange place as the night rolls in, gazing out at an unfamiliar landscape from behind a window. Behind you a room stretches and gathers shadow in the corners, strange noises emanate from the settling of bricks and mortar or wood and logs, before you pinpricks of light glow in the distance perhaps from streetlights or campfires, at this distance it is hard to tell. You open this, take a deep breath to be fortified by the sudden velvet in the air, pour carefully, admire the head and then take long slow draughts from the glass. Pausing regularly to wonder at the different details of that view for the first time, until it is all gone and, gratefully, you turn to bed and slumber til the morn.