#111: Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout – Otter Creek Brewing/Wolaver’s, Middlebury, Vermont
It’s time to take a look at one of my favorite new breweries. And by “new brewery” I mean “a brewery that has been around for a while, but that I just recently discovered.” Otter Creek Brewing opened in 1991 in Vermont, producing beers such as Copper Ale, which is still a fan-favorite today. Seven years later, a second line of beers was launched, Wolaver’s Certified Organic Ales. The Wolaver’s brands have gained a considerable following, and includes beers such as Alta Gracia Coffee Porter, Wildflower Wheat and Oatmeal Stout, which we’ll look at today. All of the Wolaver’s beers are certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers, featuring locally grown ingredients.
The beer poured with a thin, bubbly tan head, though the size of the head was likely a result of my cautious, non-aggressive pour. It receded at a moderate pace and left little lacing on the side of the glass. The color was dominantly black, but chestnut brown tints were hiding on the base and sides of the glass, making this a stout with a little mystique. The aroma of this beer was very unique as far as oatmeal stouts are concerned. It maintains the rich roasted malt and coffee scents, but there is a very evident smokiness to the aroma and it smells very much like an outdoor bonfire or charcoal.
The taste follows up on the uniqueness of the aroma. The hallmark of oatmeal stouts is smoothness of mouthfeel and flavor, but this one has a gentle bite, which breaks up any potential monotony. Rich, roasted malt flavor provides ample grainy sweetness, and is very complex and substantial unto itself. The complexity of the malt unlocks a bevy of delicious flavors, including velvety vanilla, buttery caramel, some slightly bitter coffee and some grassy notes. Above all of the sweet flavors is a wonderful smoky flavor. The best way I can describe its effect on the beer is that it makes it seem like all of the flavors have been heated over an open fire. This helps to achieve a seamless blend of the flavors, providing proper context for the beer’s complexity. The only minor issue I have with this beer is that the citrusy hops are a little more assertive than I prefer in an oatmeal stout, as the beer can sometimes fall out of balance. But this is a matter of personal preference, and I’m sure many people would enjoy the hoppy bite. The mouthfeel was light and smooth, with a lingering bitterness in the finish.
This is as unique an oatmeal stout as I’ve had and it’s certainly one of the most flavorful and complex. It goes beyond your typical smooth, dark, roasted oatmeal stout and adds a supporting cast of interesting flavors. The smokiness in particular was a pleasant addition to the beer’s range of flavor, and it really sets this oatmeal stout apart from others. I would prefer a little more balance, but eh. This beer is good, there’s no denying that.