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Soft and Round.

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Youngs Oatmeal Stout is a Silky Smooth Sweet Treat!
by Belly Buddy Mark Stevens

At A Glance
Young's Oatmeal Stout
The Bottom Line:
Dark and full-flavored with a smooth, silky soft body, and a complex sweet flavor. Thoroughly satisfying whether you usually love stouts or not. A "must try" brew!

Big, black, and beautiful! No, I'm not talking about Oprah. I'm talking about some of my favorite beers -- those wonderful dark ales we call "stouts". While most people are familiar with the dry, roasty flavor of Guinness -- the classic Irish style stout -- fewer know about the wonderful stout styles brewed in England, especially my personal favorite, the classic silky smooth body of a sweet flavored oatmeal stout. In my opinion, the best oatmeal stout you can find is Young's Oatmeal Stout, brewed at the Ram Brewery in London. Here's why it's such a favorite of mine...

What a Stout!
Thick and black and silky soft as a moonless midnight. The beer pours with a nice thick rocky head. And that fine lace clings to the glass all the way to the last drop. What a beautiful glass of beer!

Wow! When I first pass the glass under my nose I get a lot of complexity, but mostly it reminds me of the smell of black molasses. It's a very satisfying, rich, robust smell. As I let the beer sit for a while the aroma becomes softer and more distinctively roast barley.

If ever a beer could be described as "soft and round," it is this beer. Youngs Oatmeal Stout has a wonderfully silky smooth body and mouthfeel that just glides across the tongue like no other beer. The flavor is sweet with an unmistakable softly roasted edge like having just a hint of lightly roasted coffee. In some ways it reminds me of dark chocolate. Although it's definitely a malty beer, it's remarkably well balanced -- never cloying and never with so much as a hint of hops bitterness. Although I think most people would call this a full-bodied beer, it's really fairly light and quaffable. In fact, I think I'll have another right now!

One of the remarkable things about Youngs Oatmeal Stout is that people who claim not to like stout often do like Youngs. Although it has a roast barley element to it, it doesn't taste overwhelmingly roasted. It's also not strongly bitter, nor does it have the sharp edge of some of the finer Irish dry stouts (like Guinness). It's less cloying and more balanced than typical sweet English stouts (like Mackeson), and it's lower in density than most American craft-brewed stouts. In short, the beer is very un-stout-like -- at least when stacked up next to its cousins. Sure, Youngs is still a stout, but it is a kinder, gentler stout.

In my opinion, Youngs Oatmeal Stout is the finest example of the style you can buy. It not only exemplifies every quality that I think a good beer critic expects to find in a beer of this style, it actually defines the style. Few beers are perfect benchmarks, but this is one of the few.

About Youngs
Young's Ram Brewery is one of my favorite breweries in all of England, and not just because they brew some great beers. They are devoutly traditional with a strong sense of historical self.

I was lucky to be able to tour the brewery a couple years back. The tour gave me a much deeper appreciation for the beers once I knew how they were made and how they fit into the greater world of English beers.

As I said, Youngs is a brewery where tradition lives. That sense of tradition and history is found everywhere in the brewery, from the cooper shop where Tom Wood (yes, that's his real name) is one of the last traditional coopers, building wood barrels by hand. Mr. Wood says that most of his work today is keeping the older barrels in repair. Youngs still ages some of their beers in natural wood -- it's a difficult process to manage because of the challenges of sanitation, but wood imparts a natural complexity to the beer that can't be done with modern stainless steel and glass containers.

Although Youngs brews with modern stainless steel vessels and sanitation processes that are second to none, the brewers never forgets their past. How could they when they walk past old equipment every day of the year? Although Youngs underwent an extensive renovation in 1984, they did not just discard their old equipment. They left it in place, turning the old brewhouse into a small brewing museum that serves as a shrine to their past.

The old brewhouse contains the towering gleaming copper kettles that were built for Youngs in 1867. They also have an old steam-powered lift that is still operable, and that is the oldest example of this type of equipment in England.

Fermentation is still done the way it has been done at Youngs for longer than anyone can remember. Vast shallow open fermenters fill an enormous tile-lined clean room. Thick brown carpets of yeast covers the actively fermenting beer. The product of all this care and tradition can be tasted at the brewery's wonderful old tap room, or at pubs throughout London. Fortunately for those of us outside the U.K., Youngs beers are also bottled and exported widely.

I highly recommend all Youngs beers, especially their silky smooth Oatmeal Stout, which is one of the finest stouts money can buy. I hope you enjoy this beer as much as I do, and I'd love to hear your comments on this tasty bit of London in a glass. Cheers!

For more information about the Youngs Brewery, see their web site.

This review first appeared on Epinions.

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