Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout; A Selection from the Liquid Folio

Fat bottomed beers, you make the rockin’ world go ’round.

We’re fast approaching the winter solstice here in New England.  That means short, cold days and longer and colder nights which give you the overall feeling that you’re on an unplanned vacation to Hoth.  If there is a big positive to the cold weather months, however, it’s that this is the time of year where hearty and heavy stouts really stand out.  For many people, stout means big, bland offerings like Guinness or Murphy’s.  They hit you with showpiece quality head, an easily marketable “cascade,” and little in the way of taste and complexity other than a boatload of malt with the sweet sucked out of it.  There is so much more to stout than that, and it’s a crime that some people never venture beyond the traditional heavyweights in the genre.  There is so much more to be found off the beaten path and away from the slick ad campaigns.

Rogue Brewing, a favourite label of mine from Oregon, US and A, has a truly spectacular offering called Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout.  It’s not a beer that’s new to me, but my last sampling was long enough ago that renewing the acquaintance would most definitely be an educational experience.  Whenever posting a review, I find it important to steer way from beers I’ve had last week or last month, and sometimes even last year.  Absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder, and the longer it’s been since I tasted a beer, the less likely I am to take any segment of its flavour profile for granted.

Shakespeare pours coffee dark with a big, thick head the colour of frothy and slightly milky hot chocolate.  As stouts tend to be less carbonated than other kinds of beer, the head is not persistent and disspates rather quickly.  This also precludes extensive lacing on the glass, something I’d consider a crime from an IPA but is easily forgivable in a fine stout or porter.  Immediately upon approaching the glass for a first sip, my nose is hit with a wallop of sweet, earthy malt aroma that is so pungent, yet not cloying.  The first sip is deceiving, especially after getting a noseful of malt, as you’re expecting sticky, viscous sweetness that never arrives.  While the malt is pronounced and assertive, it is silky smooth and does not overwhelm your palate.  The body of this beer is fat, fat, fat and sooo rich…like Oprah when she’s off her diet.  The velvety thickness spreads around your entire mouth without hitting any dry, bitter or  off-key notes.  If you could drink a John Coltrane solo, this is what it would taste like.  Just when you’ve washed your entire mouth in the rich fatness of it all and are about to cast that sip down your gullet, Shakespeare shines with its finest moment; a remarkable flare of chocolate.  We’re not talking a hint of “ooh, this reminds me of chocolate.”  This is the perfect combination of richness, sweetness and silky smoothness that actually convinces your taste buds you’ve presented it with a morsel of fine milk chocolate.  I can’t think of a more rewarding or pleasing final touch for a stout to leave on the tongue than that.

I cannot rate this beer highly enough.  Most stouts are a one and done phenomenon; you can drink one bottle before some aspect of it becomes overwhelming and you need to stop.  I could easily empty one bottle of Shakespeare after another.  It never becomes too thick or sweet or filling to handle.  If there can be such thing as a “session stout” this baby is it.  It’s truly not a case of Much Ado about Nothing.  Overall, I have to give it 6 stars or an A+++ or whatever other superfluous notation I can use to urge to run out and buy this, immediately.

~ by schlippo on December 13, 2010.

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