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Beer Reviews

One Oatmeal Stout Ale

Dark Horse Brewing Co.
Marshall, MI
USA
http://www.darkhorsebrewery.com

Style: Stout

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)


Comments:
As spring rolls along and Eddie Glick continues to crack my balls for not updating my beer fridge, I decided it was time clean up and organize my ample supply of craft beer. While doing this, I stumbled upon an unsuspected goodie: Dark Horse One Oatmeal Stout. Having weeks ago declared my winter brew days over, I feel a tad bit guilty for having lied to all of my loyal readers. I do in fact have a winter brew left to review, and the biting northeast wind blowing off of Lake Michigan has put me in the proper mood to remedy the situation.

Turns out this isn’t my first tango with the Dark Horse line of stouts. There are five versions in the fall/winter seasonal release lineup, all different and (so far) all quite tasty. I’ve already touched on Fore Smoked Stout and Eddie’s done Too Cream Stout (I’ve also had that, and I agree with his assessment). A recent trip to my local purveyor of fine beer turned up the fifth entry, Plead the 5th Imperial Stout, one that I hope to touch on in the near future. That leaves only number three, which is Tres Blueberry Stout, one that doesn’t really appeal to me and whose review may be best served in the hands of Jill, or perhaps Baby-boy, if he’s still alive (rumors of his death have been quite persistent around the office recently).

This line, in my opinion, is a brilliant strategy by Dark Horse to create many versions of the diverse stout (oatmeal, cream, fruit, smoked, and imperial) and market them as one. This type of idea is why Dark Horse has crafted a solid niche in a market that is heavily saturated by a number of phenomenal craft brewers, as the SE Wisconsin/NE Illinois/NW Indiana/SW Michigan corridor can go toe to toe with any other craft beer region in the country. What Dark Horse may lack in flashiness or marketing they make up for with good, quality, diverse, drinkable beer that appeals to all types.

One Oatmeal Stout falls right in line with that ideology. Is it flashy? Hell no. Is it dressed in a sexy package with a whacked-out marketing campaign behind it, making it well-known nationwide? Not even close. What it is is a solid, balanced, enjoyable stout that is perfect for the cold, snowy winter months the folks in southwest Michigan are all too familiar with.

One pours with a creamy light brown head of just under an inch, which quickly dissipates into a nominal lace that desperately clings to the side of the glass. Black as night, One looks so thick in the glass that any hint of sedimentation appears to be drowned out by the darkness. It’s a fine-looking stout, one of the darker ones I’ve seen recently.

Aromas are extremely pleasant. While the flavor reveals some smokiness, the aroma is a beautiful mix of roasted barley, creamy oatmeal, and sugary sweetness. It actually reminds me of the aroma of freshly heated oatmeal that’s been loaded with brown sugar (which, in my opinion, is the only way to eat oatmeal). Secondary aromas fall more along the lines of smoked peat and roasted coffee, but the dominant aroma is creamy oatmeal with dark sugar.

Flavor-wise, this is one of the better oatmeal stouts I’ve had. I typically find oatmeal stouts to be lagging when compared to some of their counterparts on the stout family tree, but One bucks that trend. To begin with, it’s more powerful (approximately 8 percent ABV) than most entries. While the alcohol is well hidden, its presence is felt as you finish off the first bottle and roll into the second. Also, rather than being a lighter, creamier stout, One is actually quite complex (though still creamy), with a variety of flavors making it as dark and thick as more powerful stout styles. Initial flavors of creamy oatmeal, roasted barley, and dark brown sugar give way gradually to more pronounced roasted notes of smoked peat and a touch of coffee and cocoa. The presence of dark sugar is the main constant, as its personality changes slightly (from molasses to toffee to caramel at various times) but it remains throughout. Before the smoky profile completely overtakes the initial oatmeal creaminess, there’s a touch of dark fruit present, as is the slightest hint of alcohol. One is a complex brew that takes on a variety of forms, all of which are enjoyable in their own right. Full-bodied and smooth on the palate, it’s a very drinkable stout, one that will go down well as long as the smoky end doesn’t bother you.

I’m extremely impressed with One Oatmeal Stout, though it does fall just short of a perfect five mug rating. Surprisingly complex and powerful for the style, it nonetheless retains all of the necessary characteristics and molds them into a fine, smooth, dark, tasty brew. Thus far it’s my favorite entry into the Dark Horse stout line, and has me giddy in anticipation of what they have in store for me in Plead the 5th. Very reasonably priced at around $7 for a four-pack, pick it up for sure should you see any late-season stragglers … you won’t be disappointed.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on May 4, 2009.
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