Thursday, March 21, 2013

Oatmeal Stout Aging - Revisited

I have been given a rare gift by a good friend, a bottle of oatmeal stout that we brewed together three years ago.  My friend, Tres, possesses an amazing ability to resist the urge to drink well-aged beer.  We visited his family several weeks ago and before we left, he presented me with a bottle labeled "Oatmeal Stout March 2010."  I had assumed that all of the beer was polished off, but now have an opportunity to taste it again and see how it has aged.  I last posted about this beer almost two years ago, when I was able to taste it next to a much younger version of the same recipe.  At that point, I preferred the younger beer, as it tasted more in line with what an oatmeal stout should taste like.  This time I do not have a comparison beer, other than having brewed this recipe, originally from Brewing Classic Styles, with some variations, at least half a dozen times.

The aged oatmeal stout pours midnight black, with no highlights at all.  I put it up to a strong light, but did not get ruby highlights as I expected.  After the initial pour, the beer produced a thick off-white head comprised of tiny bubbles.  The initial head volume decreased rapidly, but left a thin layer of foam on the surface of the beer that lasted throughout the session.

The stout delivered a strong aroma of unsweetened bakers chocolate.  This was supplemented with an oxidized sherry character, with sour cherry notes.  The beer also had some alcohol notes to it, but lacked the coffee smell that younger versions of this beer often possess.

The beer initially tasted of unsweetened bakers chocolate, reinforcing that element detected in the nose.  This character moved towards a slight tartness in the middle of the flavor.  I did not detect a sour note, so I doubt the bottle had an infection, but the tartness was more in line with that from a cherry or raspberry.  The flavor then moved to an oxidized sherry character that was rather pleasant.  The beer was appropriately carbonated, but the middle of the taste was flat, missing some of the mouthfeel I find in younger versions of the recipe.  It did have a very long finish, over 30 seconds, that I rather enjoyed.

Overall, I would say the oatmeal stout held its age very well.  There was no real evidence of infection or beer degradation, but the stout had obviously changed over time.  Younger versions of this beer clearly have more coffee and roast character, but this has faded leaving a well-blended chocolate flavor.  The younger versions also have the slickness in mouthfeel that I so like about the style.  But, the older version was more complex in some ways and the finish was fantastic.  Like I mentioned in the last post, I think I prefer the younger version, but would love to age a few bottles again to see what they do.  Perhaps I should just give them to my friend, as he has better luck doing so than me.

Have you ever conducted aging experiments with your homebrewed beer?  If so, leave a comment and tell us what you found.



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