Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tasting Notes: Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout

Brewery: Samuel Smith's Old Brewery
Style: Oatmeal Stout
ABV: 5%
Date Poured: April 2008
Samuel Smith's used to be one of my regulars. At least the Taddy Porter and the Oatmeal Stout. These were two beer that I cut my teeth on when I was getting into "better beer".
There was only one problem. Samuel Smith's insisted on sending their beer across the Atlantic in clear glass bottles. Perhaps this is not a problem in England. Maybe the turnover of stock is better and the stores know better how to treat beer. But over here, it wouldn't take too long before a bottle sitting out in the fluorescent light would get skunked. Nothing worse than dropping good money on beer only to have it tasting off when you got it home.

When I lived in Maine, I had a solution. I knew what day my local co-op got there beer shipments and I could go there on Wednesdays and pick my bottles straight from a sealed box. Down here in Georgia, it wasn't so easy and it was an even chance that I would get a sub-par sample when grabbing the Taddy Porter.

So I stopped buying Samuel Smith's products.

Many months (maybe more than a year now) ago, Samuel Smith's started bottling their beers in brown bottles for consumption on this side of the Atlantic. It took me a long time to give them a try (creature of habit) but I finally picked up a bottle of Oatmeal Stout to sample.

It pours opaque dark brown with a creamy light brown head. Smells of sweet chocolate and a grainy oat. Sweet and milky but lightly bitter aromas.

It fills the mouth with rich and creamy flavors. The oatmeal is there bringing a light bitterness and astringency to a sweet and creamy malt. There's a lightly sticky texture and it is quite full bodied.

It's as good as ever! Time to add these back to my regular rotation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Beer Travel: 19th Century Style

Since family issues and illness have cut down on my beer drinking/beer travel, I have been doing a bit of reading and have come across some beer related things here.

I found a book called "Europe Viewed Through American Spectacles" by Charles Carroll Fulton. Mr. Fulton was the editor of The Baltimore American and sent many letters home from his 1873 trip to Europe that were published in the American and eventually compiled in book form

Fulton and company were quite shocked by the pervasiveness of beer drinking in European cultures and surprised that in was enjoyed by all classes of people, not just drunken degenerates. He seemingly became a beer loving convert during his travels.

I'll post some selected passages that I find interesting.


Beer Drinking

Everybody in Germany drinks beer, it being part of the daily food, as much so as
coffee is in America. Mothers wean their infants on beer, and they are brought
up accustomed to drink it as freely as water. At all the stations on the road an
opportunity is given to the passengers to secure a supply, and it is more easily
obtained than water, and almost as cheap. The Germans attribute the absence of
dyspepsia to beer, and point to the rosy cheeks of their daughters as the result
of this wholesome beverage. Our party are all giving it a fair trial, and hope
to return home with a new lease of life and health. With all due respect to our
American brewers, we do not think that any of them come up to the quality of the
German article, which is of a bright and clear amber color and sparkles under a
heavy froth. The taste for it is an acquired one, and we are all getting quite
accustomed to its use. It seems to be free from all intoxicating effects, and if
it proves a cure for dyspepsia, as is claimed by our German friends, it will do
much more than the doctors have been able to accomplish in most cases of the

The "Dutch Treat"

The Germans in the United States, and those Americans who afîect a fondness
for lager-beer, don't drink it as it is drunk in Germany. They rush into a
restaurant and gulp down two or three glasses, and move on. Here a German never
thinks of finishing his glass of beer in less than ten minutes, or of drinking
it without eating something at the same time, even if it is only a crust of
brown bread. In fact, a German in the Fatherland is constitutionally opposed to
doing anything in a hurry, and especially to drinking beer with "rapid speed."
The consequence is, that we do not see men here with great, huge paunches, as at
home, capable of swallowing a keg of beer after supper. They never treat one
another, but sit down to the tables, and, though they drink together, each man
pays for what he consumes, whether it be beer or food. This of itself is a great
preventive of excess, as if a half-dozen or dozen were to sit down to drink, ae
with us, each man must treat in turn, and thus six or a dozen 35 glasses would
be guzzled, whether they wanted it or glasses would be guzzled, whether they
wanted it or not. If our temperance friends could institute what is called the
"Dutch treat" into our saloons, each man paying his own reckoning, it would be a
long step towards reform in drinking. In short, beer in Germany is a part of
each man's food. He takes it as a sustenance, and not as a stimulant.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Session #15: Seeing The Light

For this month's version of The Session, we were asked to write about when we knew we were hooked on beer. I know the exact night it happened. It's not an incredibly exciting story but here it is.

I was visiting one of my college roommates at his parent's place in Wilmington, Delaware. We were preparing for an evening in the basement, shooting pool, watching baseball and drinking beer. We were heading out for a beer run and Tom suggested we go to Total Beverage because they had this great feature where you could "create your own six-pack". This was the early 90's and while I had started drinking "better beer", I really hadn't explored that much. This new concept of a mixed sixer would allow me to do just that.

We went to Total Beverage. I got two mixed sixers. I still remember the beers.

Anchor Steam
Anchor Liberty Ale
Anchor Porter
Sam Adams Boston Lager
Sam Adams Cream Stout
Sam Adams Honey Porter
Orkney Skullsplitter
Rhino Chasers Amber Ale
Rhino Chasers American Ale
Sierra Nevada Stout
Pete's Wicked Ale
Guinness Extra Stout

I had no idea what I was buying. I was just making selections based on what were my favorite beers at the time (Sam Adams Boston Lager and Guinness Draft) and how cool the labels looked. but I lucked into a few really good ones and somewhere in the middle of all those beer that night, I knew I was hooked. It solidified my new found love of stouts and porters, gave me my first tastes of an IPA and introduced me to a whole new style of beer (Wee Heavy).

Outside of Pete's Wicked and Rhino Chasers American Ale, all of those beers became regulars in my drinking rotation and set the stage nicely for the beer journey to come.

All thanks to Tom, a huge corporate beverage entity and Wilmington, DE (one of the ugliest cities you've ever seen).
More entries for The Session can be found here on Boak and Bailey's UK Beer Blog.