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Friday, January 25, 2013

Belfast Bay Brewing's McGovern Oatmeal Stout

  • Style: Oatmeal Stout
  • ABV:  5.10%
  • Season: Year Round
  • Ease to locate: Hit or miss.  Distributed east of the Mississippi (Florida was only recently added.) Check this beer finder to see if any are near you 
  • Color: Very dark black brown color with hints of orange when held to a light
  • Head: Three fingers with great lacing
  • Aroma: Milk chocolate, roasted malts and a hint of bitter coffee.  Not overly sweet
  • Mouthfeel: Medium (I wish it was a bit creamier)
  • Finish: Short with bitter, burnt coffee taste at the very end
  • Food friendly: Hearty stews mainly.  Cheese plate selection leans towards  nutty and earthy such as Camembert or Fontina

I'm used to most breweries having a line of at least three year round beers rounded out nicely by a few seasonal offerings.  As of last Sunday evening, or as I called it Big Bad Brewing Day, my own little homebrewing bar will have three separate beers under it's belt (a scotch ale, a Saison and a Stout.)  So it's a little surprising to me that as of Monday morning, little old Second Story Brewing will have more beer styles available than Maine's Belfast Bay Brewing Co.  Suck that, you Brady loving, Sam Addams swilling New Englanders  Color me shocked, fellow lovers of the pigskins and fermented grains.  

I may brew more beers, but none of them have this fancy dancy tap handle

Belfast Bay Brewing Co. is a brewery  on the Maine/Canadian boarder town of Belfast Bay.  It's considered the sixth largest brewery in Maine, but let's also consider that the state of Maine could fit comfortably in Illinois' top right pocket.   According to the brewery's website, at one time the owner would bottle all of the beer himself.   I've got to tell you, I think that sort of volume alone would settle the "to keg or bottle" debate once and for all for most homebrewers.  It took my brother, P, and I about two hours to just bottle 45 of our Scotch Ale last May.  Now multiply that by one hundred quadrillion (give or take.)  Out of a total of eleven former beer offerings once produced by the brewery, they currently only distribute two beers that are available east of the Mississippi.  Lobster Ale is a scaled back version of a New Brusnwick red ale.  The other brew is McGovern's Oatmeal Stout.  I recently slipped a bottle of the oatmeal stout into a make your own six pack because I'm always up for trying out a new stout or porter.  And, um, maybe because I also kind of  liked the boat on the label.

Looks creamier than it tastes

 McGovern's Oatmeal Stout poured a dark, dark blackish brown color.  It looked sort of like spent motor oil.  When held to the light, I could see faint hints of orange glow back from the pint glass  It produced an almost alarming three finger head, which luckily settled to two, then one finger relatively quickly.  The foam was delicious looking, thick and tan, but with only minimal lacing.  How something that produced so much foam could have so little staying power was beyond me (OK, I could again insert a Tom Brady joke here, but I'll restrain myself., Well, I'll restrain myself until the end of this post, at least.)  The first sniff was very heavy on the dark chocolate aroma, backed up with roasted malts and bitter coffee.  As I expected, it tasted pretty similar to the smell.  Bitter chocolate upfront layered with softly sweet roasted malts and more bitterness from the coffee flavors.   There was also an ever so slight wood-like flavor, which I could only assume was due to the oatmeal, and a hint of orange citrus.  I would have liked bit more sweetness as a way to balance out the bitterness.  Oatmeal is traditional added to stout recipes to contribute to the creaminess and smoothness of the drink.  I guess because of the dankness of the color and the thickness of the foam, I expected more from McGovern's by the way of creaminess. 
Looks thick enough to hold a spoon, huh?

The finish was also shorter than I expected.  There was a some what unpleasant taste of burnt coffee on the back of the finish.  Not the sort of taste that I personally want lingering in my mouth.  It wasn't strong enough to make me recoil in horror, but it also wasn't tasty.  Over all, I couldn't help but wish that this beer presented a sweeter profile and creamier feel.

I would serve this beer with normal stout friendly dishes, such as stew made with beef or game.  The lingering bitterness on the finish and shallowness of the mouthfeel can make pairing the beer with anything delicate or complex very difficult.  It wasn't a terrible beer by any means, but with so many other oatmeal stouts out there, why settle with a brew that is just OK?  

And on that note,  here's the Tom Brady joke I promised you earlier. 

God is eating dinner alone. Peyton Manning approaches the table and God asks "What do you believe?"
Peyton says, "I believe in hard work, and in staying true to family and friends.”
God sees the goodness of Peyton and offers him a seat to his left.

Eli Manning walks up and God says, "What do you believe?"
Eli says, "I believe in your total goodness, love and generosity and that you have given all to mankind.”
God is greatly moved by Eli's eloquence, and offers him a seat to his right.
Finally, Tom Brady comes over to the table: "And you, Tom, what do you believe?"
Tom replies, "I believe you're in my seat.”