Stone Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

Stone are celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2016 by releasing an "Encore Series" of brews. Today's Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout is a rerelease of their 12th anniversary beer which was created during the hop shortage of 2008.

Founded in 1996 by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, Stone is among the top ten largest craft brewers in the United States. With several locations in California, Stone are now embarking upon eastern expansion with a brewery in Richmond, VA and another in Berlin, Germany.

Stone Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, 9.2% alc., 22 oz. bottle

C: Black with a foamy caramel head and decent lacing

N: Dark roasted malt with dark chocolate presence and just a hint of drip coffee

P: Soft entry but bitter across the palate with dark chocolate and roasted grains, slight barnyard funk to the back of the palate

F: Lingering dark chocolate bitterness with just a hint of raisin

In conclusion: A very solid stout but I would have preferred a touch more oatmeal influence and just a touch less bitter chocolate. The Xocoveza stands head and shoulders above it.

Ommegang Oatmeal Stout Winter Ale

Home to more than just the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY, is also home to a farmstead brewery that has occupied 136 acres since 1997. Ommegang is known for its big Belgian beers and has earned quite a reputation over the years. Annual outturn currently runs at 35,000 barrels.

Behind door #9: Ommegang Oatmeal Stout Winter Ale, 5.3% alc., 12 oz. bottle

C: Black with a caramel colored foamy head

N: Belgian yeast twang (that beery fruitiness with sweet spice behind) with roasted coffee and dark chocolate notes around the edges 

P: The Belgian yeast twang from the nose is unmistakable across the palate, some dark malt notes behind

F: Short to moderate with lingering fruitiness and some sweetness

In conclusion: Much more of a winter ale than an oatmeal stout. I think this would be disappointing coming from another distillery but Ommegang is well known for its house style and a Belgian twist isn't that much of a surprise. Still needs more Oatmeal Stout notes, though.

Great Lakes Brewing Co Ohio City Oatmeal Stout

Founded in 1988, Great Lakes Brewing Company produces a vast range of brews. When in the northern states I enjoy drinking their Edmund Fitzgerald porter on draft. I haven't had the opportunity to taste anything else from their range so I'm excited for today's offering from Midtowne Bottle Shop's "Twelve Beers of Christmas" dark beer box. 

Behind door #5: Great Lakes Brewing Co Ohio City Oatmeal Stout, 5.4% alc., 12oz. bottle

C: Black with wisps of a white head

N: Leads with coffee notes, a little bready

P: Thin across the palate with some roast malt and hints of oatmeal 

F: Short with hints of coffee and dark chocolate

In conclusion: Light in both texture and flavor. A very underwhelming oatmeal stout. I'll stick with their Edmund Fitzgerald porter.

Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin

I'm fortunate to have an excellent privately owned beer retailer near me. Midtowne Bottle Shop in Harrisonburg, Virginia has only been on the scene for a year and a half but it offers a wonderful selection from session IPAs in cans to sour Belgians in 750ml bottles to growler fills of some of the best beer currently available in the United States. At this time of year Lauren, the owner, builds "Twelve Beers of Christmas" boxes. This year's boxed offerings are sour, IPA, and dark. I bought a dark pack for $35. Now I plan to kick off this blog's beer reviews by reviewing one a day from now till Christmas.

First up is California's Firestone Walker with Velvet Merlin, their oatmeal stout. Firestone Walker, a collaboration between two brothers-in-law, was founded in 1996. While the majority of their distribution is in California that's set to change with this summer's acquisition by Belgian brewer Duvel Moortgat. Firestone Walker are known for their hoppy beers and barrel aged program.

Behind door #1: Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin, Oatmeal Stout, 5.5% alc., 12 oz. bottle

C: Black

N: Dark malt to the fore with hints of cappuccino 

P: Quite velvety on entry, robust dark malt notes with coffee and bitter dark chocolate

F: Good length with lingering chocolate notes

In conclusion: Despite the lack of head retention this is a tasty enough oatmeal stout from Firestone Walker. It's not up to the epic standards of Wookey Jack, their black IPA, but it's still a lovely beer for the season.