As a community of beer drinkers, we’ve come to believe that more is better. Screw dry-hopping; I want my IPA to be dry-hopped fourteen times before it’s bottled. Don’t just make a 10% alcohol by volume stout; Put that shit in barrels, too. Oh, and throw some coconut, almonds, sage, some plum pits, and a used carburetor in the tanks.
This attitude is pretty uniquely American and, in fact, there’s nothing wrong with that. If we’re looking for aggressive, over-the-top things, we look to American made products. It’s why we drive Cadillac Escalades; It’s why we watch WWE. In beer, we use terms like “aggressively-hopped.” We look at ABV’s on labels then the price then do the math. “I could get this six-pack of a 6% pale ale or I could go for the 8% double IPA. Same price.” It’s a no-brainer. We want our beers to be assertive and distinct.
In a way, this makes sense. For many years, we were so used to have just a few options, many of which tasted similarly. The beer world now has more options that ever and those options, especially the operations that are well-run and craft great beer, look to be here for the long haul. While the number of breweries that are open will – and have begun to – plateau a bit, that’s okay. We can still peruse the shelves at the local store and come away satisfied with our choice. But, in a sense, we’re still getting used to it all.
Assertive and distinct, though, doesn’t necessarily mean complex or even good. It just means assertive and distinct. The adjuncts and the additional dry-hopping runs certainly make a beer more interesting, but it’s begun to present itself as beer for people who don’t really like beer all that much. Long gone as the days when a well-made, low-ABV stout will appeal to consumers strictly because it was a deviation from the light, low ABV lagers advertised during Sunday football.
This is a no frills stout: roasted malts, a touch of chocolate, and a tiny hint of hop bitterness and coffee.”
Which brings me to Ipswich Oatmeal Stout, a beer that even pairs well with running. This is a beer that I’d had multiple times, but not recently, and sometimes revisiting old favorites is a greater reward.
The Oatmeal Stouts pours an oil black with a thin head that settles nicely, carbonation running up the side of the pint glass. What a good looking beer. There are big chocolate notes with hints of a little sweetness followed by a roasted coffee aroma. But there’s also a dryness to me. The sharp bitterness of the English influence gives it a nice balance.
I like to abstain from taking a sip for as a long as I can with this beer. I cradle it in my hands to assist the warming just a little bit. The effect is to not drink it too cold, but a little bit warmer so as to experience the whole beer. This is a no frills stout: roasted malts, a touch of chocolate, and a tiny hint of hop bitterness and coffee. It’s reminiscent of a classic, early craft beer stout.
At 7%, it’s a stout you can drink multiples of and not be overwhelmed by an extravagantly high alcohol content, too much heat from that bourbon barrel, or rust from that damn carburetor.