Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tasting: Oat Wine

This beer is really what got my blog started. It was only my second sour beer, and one that I put quite a bit of thought into. When I first conceived the idea, it started with a simple twist on a barley wine. Only a couple other brewers out there are making oat wines commercially (an outgrowth of barley wine, which wheat wines are under as well), and I thought I could make a pretty tasty one. I also was interested by (at the time) Wyeasts' new strain designed to make traditional old/stock ales from England that would often have a light brettanomyces character to them. Beyond that, I added some Hungarian Oak cubes and bottle dregs to ensure some light sourness. Because it was such a large beer (OG 1.090) and attenuated quickly, I knew there wasn't going to be much sourness and/or funk happening. What resulted was one of my best beers to date.
Aroma: This beer really opens up with lots of fruity (cherry and apricot dominated) notes, a light vanilla oak character, some sweet caramel, little to no hops, and a big dose of alcohol. The brett is really the dominant character of this beer's bouquet, giving it a combination of fruit, damp hay, barnyard, and a light rubbery phenol. Acid isn't evident in the aroma (as it is rarely outside of tart Flanders and Lambic).
Appearance: Just a touch of light peaks through this richly dark mahogany colored beer. An off-white fluffy head of a half inch loses a bit over time but keeps a nice tracing. The flaked adjunct really helps in this case as does a fairly high level of carbonation.
Flavor: This beer just really coats, I mean saturates your mouth with flavor. Spicy, peppery phenols, vanilla and caramel, toasty oak, butterscotch, and some heat from the alcohol. The level of brett is very much in balance with the rest of the beers contributing flavors, more like a well aged old ale with some barnyard like funk to it. It's nowhere the level of a Flanders or Lambic, just a well integrated flavor along with the rest of the beer. Given all the oats I used in this beer, it's really not something I taste. Understandably, oats are rarely used in beer for their flavor, mostly for their contribution to body, mouthfeel and possible head retention problems (due to their moderate fat content). Ryan recently asked me if he though the Fawcett Malted Oats added much to this beer, and I have to say, not really. There's quite a bit of darker roasted and caramel malts here to cover up and subtlety oats could offer.
Mouthfeel: Despite it's incredibly low FG, this oat wine brings plenty of malty heft to it. I wish it had a bigger body (my biggest complaint), but I'm happy where it is. Carbonation is medium low, in the ballpark of 1.75 to 2 vols. Warming is quite evident, but alcohol spiciness in the mouth isn't overbearing or hot.
Overall: Seriously, I can't get enough of these funky beers, I really can't. And the fact that they cost so much in stores and bars, I'm thrilled I can make something of such quality at home. I would stack this up against so many of the beers I had at Night of The Funk, and would prefer it over many. I'm not gloating, I'm just really proud of my brewing with this beer. To date, the longest aged bottled beer I've made (the Belgian Stout, however, is nearing a year, but no bottling soon). I can't say I would really change anything to this beer, period. The amount of oak is perfect, the malt profile has depth and complexity, and the brett is right where it should be. I really hope Wyeast re releases this yeast strain again, I'd love to use it many more times.
Recipe and Notes

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