Sunday, 11 December 2011

Southern Tier Oats Warm the Winter Chills

As a fan of oatmeal stouts generally, I couldn't resist the allure of Southern Tier's Oat (Imperial Oatmeal Stout) while recently shopping South of the border, especially since the LCBO only carries two of their products in Ontario regularly and this is not one of them.

At 11% ABV and, once again, in a 650 ml bottle, this beer either makes for one hell of a night or is otherwise better shared with a friend or two.  On this occasion, I went with the latter option and my review will probably benefit from this decision!

The head poured more thinly than I'd expected and receded nearly as quickly, a quality I find unappealing in a stout of any sort, though its mocha-brown colour alongside the deep, dark brown opacity of the beer itself were more reflective of the style.

Aroma-wise, I was happily greeted with the standard oats and grainy goodness typical of such ales.  The aroma itself was faint, but inviting.  The notes of deeply roasted malts covered (and facilitated) its more subtle chocolate and coffee traces, and its strength was also hinted at by a slight whiff of alcohol.

There truly is a triple part (at least) to this beer's taste.  First, coffee comes through before the malted oats take over while the finish is dominated by a drying combined with the warmness of the high alcohol percentage.  You truly can taste this beer's many strengths (yes, alcohol, but also oats and deeply roasted malts) though it is balanced enough to dry out in closure and warm you up towards your next sip.  At times its strength left me almost thinking I was drinking a barley wine in its place.

As far as the mouthfeel goes, it had a moderate carbonation and body alongside a healthy winter-warming, but seemed a bit syrupy or perhaps chewy.  While chewiness is desirable, the syrup sensation (in combination with the alcohol) in ways evoked a slight resemblance to some sort of dry liqueur.  In a sense this was unique and a bit different from most other stouts/imperial stouts/oatmeal stouts, yet it also took me away from appreciating the oats that drew me to this beer initially and slightly turned me off... yet, as noted in the flavour, its balanced drying kept me desiring 'just another sip.'

While I do enjoy both standard and imperial stouts, I do prefer the oatmeal variety and for that this beer draws me in, but (being the first imperial oatmeal stout I have ever seen, let alone tasted) I am not sure that they work entirely in conjunction.  Something about it kept me coming back for more, and I am glad Southern Tier did this for it makes me believe it is the dual-style variance more than the brewing that makes me a bit ambivalent.  Perhaps it is the super-high alcohol content that complicates what is otherwise a more appealing chewy meal for me, though not so much that I would say I didn't enjoy it!  Its strengths are wonderful and rich, but it may take its extremes a touch too far - at least for me.  B

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