He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it
- From Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Maybe the above passage from the great American novel is overstating it somewhat, but oatmeal stout has become my white whale of sorts, that is an impossible task doomed to failure that one embarks upon anyways, knowing full well the futility of the attempt. Whenever I've brewed this style, I've always been off the mark. Too astringent, body too thin, not enough roasted character, too much biscuit, and the constant problem, lack of complexity. Oatmeal stouts, and stouts in general (apart from Imperials), seem like one of the easiest styles to brew well and one of the hardest to brew with excellence. The biggest challenge, in my experience, is creating the necessary complexity to set your beer apart. I have tried many things, including toasted oats, biscuit malt, different types of crystal, cold steeping, etc. but I've never quite got it right. This time I went back to using toasted oats but included flaked barley to provide some body and changed the biscuit malt for victory malt to tone down the biscuit flavour and still provide a nutty toasted character to remind the senses of a bowl of hot oatmeal. Will I at last harpoon old Moby? I certainly hope I fare better than Ahab did.
*Note* Just finished kegging and carbonating this. The aroma is, if I do say so, perfect, lightly roasted and somehow hinting of oatmeal. The body is finally where I want it, nicely full in the mouth. The balance seems on, and the flavour is good, not overpowered with biscuit but with more complexity than in previous attempts. Am I finally there? I'll let the masses be the judge at the this weekend's BrewVic meetup.
Ingredients: British pale malt, locally malted oats, flaked oats (toasted), flaked oats (untoasted), flaked barley, crystal 60, crystal 40, chocolate malt, victory malt, roasted barley, East Kent golding hops, Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale yeast