This winter sees the release of Mendocino’s Oatmeal Stout, the final beer in this year’s seasonal array. Dark and robust, with the heartiness typical of oatmeal-laced beers, it’s a great complement to the colder days and longer nights of winter. But this rich, satisfying beer (and one of my favorite styles) was almost lost to history—twice!
Brewing with oats in beer was very popular in medieval Europe, but overuse of oats can make a beer quite bitter, and the style had largely died out by the 16th century. The Oatmeal Stout was re-discovered in the late 19th century, when oats began to be associated with health and nutrition (it was sometimes prescribed to ailing children), but the style had again faded into memory by the 1950’s. In 1977, beer-writer Michael Jackson observed that the style was no longer being produced. Fortunately, Samuel Smith of Yorkshire, England was persuaded to brew a batch for the US market, reinvigorating the style in the early 80s. Now we can find Oatmeal Stout in the repertoire of many breweries.
Mendocino Brewing’s Oatmeal Stout has been so popular, it is returning again in this year’s seasonal lineup. Mendocino brewing supervisor Ben Wilkinson lets us in on some of the brewing techniques that go into making this dark, rich beer.
What inspired this year’s Oatmeal Stout?
Ben-The Oatmeal Stout is the only beer to remain from our 2012 seasonal line in our revamped 2013 seasonal selections. It remained because we couldn’t imagine going through a year without brewing one of our old favorites. People have been pestering me about its release since September this year, so I’m pleased to see it finally released. It is the same recipe we have been using since we started releasing the Oatmeal stout as a seasonal offering 4 years ago.
What are some of the challenges or specifics of making an Oatmeal Stout?
Ben-The difference between an oatmeal stout and a regular stout is the use of oats in the brewing process. We use both unmalted oat flakes and malted oats which get added to the mash tun along with all of the malted barley. This helps to contribute a rich and creamy character to the beer that is unique to the style. The oats create a beer that is literally thicker than other beers. This can create problems during the lautering and filtering processes. So our brewers and cellarmen just have to make sure to take extra time and care during those steps to ensure the beer comes out just like we want it to.
What varieties of hops and malts did you use?
Ben-The hops we use are Apollo hops for bittering to balance out the malt sweetness, and
Hops on the Vine
Kent Golding hops for aroma. That particular hop variety is British in origin, and since the stout has origins in the British Isles we try to use that particular hop variety to produce an authentic stout flavor. As for the malts we use 8 different varieties, so I won’t name them all, but I will say we use a variety of pale, caramel, and roasted malts in addition to the aforementioned oats.
Where do the chocolate and coffee notes come from?
Ben-The chocolate and coffee flavors come from the roasted malts. We use both roasted barley and pale chocolate malt in this beer so that the characteristic coffee and chocolate flavors of the stout feature prominently in the beer. The roasted malts are added during the mash process along with all of the other malts and oats.
What food would you recommend pairing with this beer?
Ben- It is a good winter beer that pairs well with red meats, strong cheeses, stews, and chili. As for desserts, I would recommend it be paired with anything chocolaty!
What’s your winter warmer?
What sort of beers do you turn to in the winter months? Where are you pouring your Mendocino Oatmeal Stout? Let us know in the comments below!
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