The Hops: Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout

My original plan for February was to tap into Valentine’s Day tradition and recommend a beer reminiscent of the chocolate-covered cherries and dark fruit given to sweethearts across the world. However, the chocolate/fruit brews I sampled were downright awful. So I decided to substitute cherry with caramel.

The coupling of chocolate and caramel not only makes for a delicious candy combination, it provides a perfect malt backbone for many dark ales. This month’s recommendation is a testament to that divine union: Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout.

When poured into a pint glass, it is a creamy, deep brown color that is leaning toward black. A couple fingers of tanned head develop and dissipate to leave a lacing of thick spots and a ring around the edge.

The aroma is a harmonization of sweet caramel, slightly roasted dark chocolate, oatmeal, brown sugar, black licorice and butterscotch. Though this is obviously much darker, the sweet caramel reminded me of Fuller’s London Pride. The oats used in its brewing give the beer a creamy and smooth mouthfeel, and the taste is an enticing blend that mirrors the smell. The roasted dark chocolate is most prominent, and it leaves a nice bitterness; added to that backbone are flavors of oatmeal, brown sugar, and butterscotch. The sweet caramel is there, too, keeping the roasted bitterness in check, but it doesn’t announce itself as much as it does in the smell.

For brave souls who want chocolate-covered cherries in liquid form, I suggest trying O’Fallon Cherry Chocolate and Bell’s Cherry Stout. Both are only winter seasonal offerings, so the local stock may run out soon.

  • Brewer: Samuel Smith Old Brewery of Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England.
  • Style: Oatmeal stout
  • Alcohol content: 5 percent ABV.
  • Food pairings: The “serving suggestions” from Samuel Smith are “pizza and salad; pasta and other Italian foods; lobster with drawn butter; steak and kidney pie; ploughman’s lunch; dark flavourful bread; British and French cheeses.”
  • Where to buy: John’s Grocery, New Pioneer Food Co-op, and most area Hy-Vee stores.
  • Price: $10 per four-pack, $3.50 per 12-ounce bottle, $4 per 500 ml bottle.

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