Tasting the St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

The St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout by McAuslan Brewing is proof that beer does not have to be the stereotyped fizzy yellow drink that too many people assume that it is. This is an Oatmeal Stout. To some this may seem very appealing, and to others, not. This is  richly black beer with flavors of cocoa, espresso, roast and rich malt. But is is smooth, creamy, and surprisingly refreshing.

In 1994 at the World Beer Championship this Oatmeal Stout received the second highest rating of over 200 beers at the festival, it was awarded a platinum medal, and has been brewed with passion and expertise ever since. Today is has spread across all of Canada, and is making its way into the United States. It is at every well stocked LCBO in 6 packs of 341ml bottles, and is also available relatively widely on draught – and that is where this beer really shines. Or, maybe not shines, but you get the idea

It called an oatmeal stout because it has been brewed with oatmeal. Oatmeal is used typically to add smooth creamy body characteristics, aid in head retention, and it also imparts a nutty and cereal like flavor to beer. This is a smooth and creamy stout that proves all this, but shows magnificent refreshing capabilities at the same time, so serving temperature is an interesting question. It is 5% abv, so you could easily serve is cool at 8C (45F) to enjoy the creamy and silky waves of cooling roasty beer. But at the same time you could enjoy it at cellar temperature around 14C (57) where is becomes creamy and lush. So essentially what you should so is pour it cool and enjoy it as it warms in your glass to cellar temperature – may as well enjoy the best of both worlds.

The pour from the bottle is terrifically smooth and silky. It will pour out as black as the night with an unassuming gentle flow building a richly back beverage in my stemmed beer glass. Zero light gets through, and only the slightest hints of amber brown will peer in the sides. With a slow and tall pour a nice two inch frothy, and generously dense medium brown, almost almond colored head will build proudly atop the beer. It is resilient and has great strength – the creamy and milk chocolaty foam will remain there until you drink it.

The nose is smooth roast with a complex range of dark malt flavors. You get everything here from biscuit, roast coffee beans, espresso and toast to bakers dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and dark fruits. It is smooth and elegant with rich aromas but no trace of booze or alcohol. So far the smooth and creamy appearance of the beer is reflected in its nose perfectly.

Tilt the glass to you and let a generous and smooth rush of roasted black beer flow into your mouth and fill your palate. Keep in mind that this is not an 8% imperial, it is 5% with much to show you. The overwhelming sensation here is creamy and silky roast – it flows through in the way of espresso beans, cocoa powder, and gentle milk chocolate. This is an alluring beer with amazing qualities.

Malts are easily noticeable and provide every inch of this beers flavor. Dark, roast and chocolate malts come though in a perfectly harmonious and sublime complexity – notes of brown sugar, dried cherries, plums and vanilla softly flow through your cheeks, under your tongue, and glide off the back of your throat. The oatmeal used in the brewing process not only gives this beer its remarkable creamy and silky mouthfeel, but also adds a cookie like flavor and soft earthy notes that balance in with only soft herbal touches of hops.

Now the Oatmeal Stout is warmer, and softer creamier flavors of nuts, chocolate and coffee are pouring out of it. Vanilla becomes cleaner and softer in the center of the beer as it gets even smoother and silkier. This beer shows are great balance between smooth dry roast and silky soft sweetness. The finish is dry and roasty with an earthy and lightly hopped end. It has gentle bitterness gliding in the back, but is absolutely satisfying.

On draught it is probably the best oatmeal stout I have ever had. The head is so lush and creamy that you could scoop it with a fork. But bottle or tap, this beer rocks. Try it with sausages, roast beef, smooth cheeses, cheesecake, chocolates, or fruit deserts.

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