Beer Review 0239: Sierra Nevada Oatmeal Stout (Beer Camp #45)

Each year, Sierra Nevada put on what they call “Beer Camp,” which is where craft beer enthusiasts, with brewing experience or not, can go to the Chico, California brewery and learn everything there is to know about Sierra. They also brew beer that potentially could find its way into the yearly Beer Camp mixed twelve-pack that comes out in the Summer.

In order to attend Beer Camp, you have to submit a video of yourself at the Beer Camp website (sierrabeercamp.com). Ten finalists are selected by popular public vote, while ten more are picked by employees of Sierra Nevada.

As mentioned, in addition to touring Sierra Nevada, winners get to brew beer. A debate is had amongst winners about what kind of beer they want to make, and nothing is off limits, whether it be beer styles or ingredients. The best of the brews go into the Beer Camp variety pack, which for 2012, was released in August and contains these four beers: Oatmeal Stout, Imperial Pilsner, Floral IPA, and Imperial Red Ale.

Oatmeal Stout, which came from Beer Camp #45 and was originally named “Snowed In Stout,” was brewed in honor of Chico’s only snow day in 2011. This Imperial-strength beer comes in at 9% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 51 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). The hops used were Brewer’s Gold, UK Challenger, Willamette, and Styrian Golding; the malts are Pale 2-row, Caramel, Rolled Oats, Chocolate, Black, and Roasted Barley.

This beer poured with a small, creamy, tan colored head that quickly diminished. As I poured, I noticed the body of the beer was clear (although dark) and seemed to be free of particles and sediment. The color was solid black, opaque; there was a tiny amount of a ruby red highlight at the very bottom of the glass. Lacing was sparse, only leaving a few soap suds here and there on my glass.

The aromatics immediately greeted the nose with a nice combination of coffee and chocolate. Along with those malts, there were touches of smoke, and a general toasted scent. There was a light hop presence with some sharp grapefruit, and when coupled with a presence of some dark fruit (prune and raisin), these two aromas complimented each other nicely. And while this isn’t a barrel aged brew, I noticed a very subtle whiff of vanilla in there, too. This was pleasant and well-rounded.

On the taste, there is an initial surprise when the dark fruits burst to the front; some nice raisin and a dark cherry, before the drink settles into layers of soft chocolate that eventually transitions into sweet coffee. A hint of smoke brings on the finish, which rides a bittersweet note of black coffee and dark chocolate. The mouthfeel matches the taste, giving your tongue a velvety treat; this beer is creamy with a medium feel, and the bitterness at the end of the taste does dry your mouth out, but in a good way. Honestly, this Oatmeal Stout reminded me very much of a Little Debbie Fudge Round! (excluding any bitterness)

Ahh, Sierra Nevada. Or, ahhh, Beer Camp attendees. A great beer was created here. Without question the best of the 2012 Beer Camp pack — this makes you wish Sierra Nevada did more Stouts. If I can hold on to a bottle of this to see how it ages, I will. Delicious flavors and a wonderful mouthfeel — this beer is exceptionally drinkable. TASTY!

Sierra Nevada Oatmeal Stout (Beer Camp #45), 93 points. Price: $18.99 US for the Beer Camp twelve pack, where you get three bottles of four different beers.

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