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Monday, March 25, 2013

New Holland Brewing's The Poet

  • Style: Oatmeal Stout
  • ABV: 5.2%
  • Season: Year round
  • Ease to locate: In many liquor and some grocery stores in the Midwest and East coast.  The brewery is located in Michigan so consider the Mighty Mississippi as your dividing line.  Here's their beer finder
  • Color: rich dark brown with amber edging
  • Head: 2 fingers with good lacing (look to the left and see for yourself!)
  • Aroma: Chocolate, coffee, date & raisin with a bit of cereal & grains on the end of the nose
  • Mouthfeel: Medium and a little chewy & creamy
  • Finish: Smooth and moderate
  • Food friendly: Mushrooms, beef and chocolate (but separately, please.  Chocolate covered mushrooms are an acquired taste)  Pair it with earthy cheeses such as Fontina.   

I'm not a poet and I certainly know it.  In college (many moons ago during those tragic years when flannel and Michel Bolton were both equally popular) all creative writing majors at my university had to take an Intro to Poetry writing course.  I've always believed that it was the frustrated poets of the English Department's way to knock the smug prose writing majors down a peg or two.  It was general knowledge that prose writers had a slightly better chance of actually being able to make a living from their writing than the poets (and by slightly, I mean that I'm 100% certain that more former classmates of mine have been struck by lightning at least twice than are able to list "Writer" as their occupation on their tax return.)    Sure, every Creative Writing major starts out full of dreams that one day they'd be spending their Friday nights sitting behind a  long oak table at a book store, scribbling their Non De Plume into copies of their best selling book.  The reality is that most of us end up with the equivalent of standing behind a desk for eight hours on a Friday selling some illiterate hack's (because everyone but YOU of course is an illiterate hack) book.   But of course, when you're 20, you never think that the future may not turn out as cinematic as you might imagine.  And when you  put those same young, ambitious, the world is still my oyster, prose writers into a poetry class, you'll soon get a really good idea of what mass produced flop sweat actually smells like.  Now, I love certain poets.  William Yeats.  Emily Dickinson.  Jewel (no, not really.  Relax.)  Dr. Seuss (yes, really.  Green Eggs and Ham is a work of genius.)  But write it?  Well, I'd probably need a drink or three to make it happen.

New Holland Brewing has just the thing for the frustrated writer in all of us.  An oatmeal stout named, appropriately enough, The Poet.  New Holland Brewery is located in the town of New Holland, MI, set along the gorgeously scenic banks of Lake Michigan.  When I spent a long weekend just south of New Holland last Summer, you couldn't swing a cat and not hit someone drinking a New Holland beer (not that I spent my getaway swinging small, furry, family pets around.  I did see someone walking their cockatoo on a leash there, however.)  This brewery is better known for some of their other offerings, most famously for their Dragons Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout.

Dark and creamy like dish washing soap bubbling up from a college fountain during haze week.  I told you I wasn't good at this.  I mean, that didn't even rhyme.

My bottle of The Poet Oatmeal Stout poured a dark, rich brown color.  When held to the light, I could see hints of orange glowing around the edges.  A very generous two finger head rose in the glass, forming a true tan color layer of foam.  Lovely, thick lacing crept up the pint glass and lingered for all of the drink.  The head itself settled to a thick, creamy, spongy layer until the very final drop.  I could smell the chocolate and coffee notes immediately.  A bit softer were the sweet scents of raisins and dates along with the grainy aroma of cereal.  When I took a sip, I noticed that the chocolate taste was much lighter than what I was expecting from the smell.  The roasted bitterness of the coffee flavor helped to balance the sweetness of the chocolate and malts.  Following on the sip was the almost chewy flavor of the raisins, dates and other dark fruits.  Also mixed in was a bit of the cereal/oatmeal grain note.  Like many stouts, moderate to soft hops were present.  According to the New Holland website's spec sheet for this beer, Glacier and Nugget hops were used when brewing.  Glacier hops are a relatively new variety of hops having been bred in America in 2000.  They're sometimes  referred to as American Fuggles because of their light bitterness and slightly citrus scent (I didn't notice any citrus qualities on the note or taste for this beer.)  My best guess is that The Poet used the Nugget hops as the bittering element.  Nugget is a mild sort of hop noted for a soft spiciness.  The mouthfeel was medium with a wonderful chewy creaminess to it.  Just how I like my oatmeal stouts.  The finish was smooth and slightly carbonated.

I think that I shall never see a site as lovely as a 2 inch head of foam.  Of course, trees are nice too.
The center holds very well here.  Somebody inform Mr. Yeats we found one.

I would pair my New Holland The Poet with an earthy and robust sort of meal.  Beef Stroganoff with mushrooms and a pint of this beer on a cool early Spring night sounds very appealing to me.  If you're feeling a bit vegetarian one night, Fontal Polenta with Mushroom Ragu would be a delicious option as well.  And if the overwhelming urge to wax poetic before you indulge, here's a ditty from one of my favorite American poets, Shel Silverstein.  Here was a man who understood that poetry wasn't just about sounding important or flowery.  It was all about the chewiness of life.