This is the first episode in a series that we’re going to be running over the course of the next few months, and each instalment is going to take a closer look at a certain style of beer and find out what makes it unique. We’re also going to look into the history of each style as well, because many beers have a quirky or unique history that's very interesting; to beer nerds like us at least. After all, beer is around 9000 years old! There has gotta be some good stories hidden in there somewhere! Without further ado lets get into it.
The addition of oats to the mash gives these stouts an almost unreal smoothness and a subtle touch of sweetness that makes them exceptionally (almost dangerously) easy to drink. It also gives them a fullness and complexity that is hard to compare to other beers, even to other stouts. It makes them unlike almost every other stout and because of this uniqueness, they are really starting to grow in popularity throughout the craft beer world.
This exceptionally unique profile comes from the high levels of proteins, lipids (fats and waxes) and gums released by the oat grain during the brewing process. It is the gum that gives the beer its velvety texture and the lipids that add that unique sweetness to the glass. The maximum level of oats usually added to a batch is around 30%, anything higher and the oats can start to impart an unwanted bitter taste.
Stouts come from porters, with the original term being “stout porter”, meaning a stronger porter i.e. a higher level of alcohol. Porters originate from London in the early 1720’s and gained popularity because they had a strong flavour and took longer to spoil than other lighter styles of beers and were not affected by the heat.
Stout was first used across the board to describe any beers that were strong, so, for example, you could get a “stout pale ale”, but this eventually died out and stout was associated only with porter and then eventually because synonymous with dark beer. It is still debated whether stout should or shouldn’t be its own classification of beer or whether it is still too close to porter to really be classified differently. Usually, the deciding factor on whether or not to call a beer a stout or not is its strength. Although some people make the case that it should be based on the gravity of the beer.
Oats are a staple grain and during the medieval period they were a common ingredient found in beer, often making up up to 35% of the mash. This was because of the abundance and availability of oats. Oat is more robust than other grains and is more commonly found in Northern England, Scotland and in Maritime areas where things tend to get a bit nippier.
Throughout history, oats have fallen in and out of favour with brewers and the drinking public, and currently we are seeing a revival of this unique style of beer. The name has been used as a marketing ploy in the past and, like milk stout and Guinness, oatmeal stouts have often been touted for their health benefits although any proof of this lies thin on the ground.
If this article has whet your appetite to try an oatmeal stout then you’re in luck! We’ve had a go at this style ourselves and for a limited time, we’re serving our very own Tumut Oatmeal Stout over the bar down here at the brewery. It runs in at 5% ABV and is the perfect beer to introduce you to this unique style of beer. Perfectly heavy for the winter yet perfectly sweet and smooth for the summer, trust us when we say that once you’ve tried one you’ll be seeking out oatmeal stouts and their uniqueness wherever you go.