Stone Brewing Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

October 14 2010 - 9:13 AM

Stone Brewery hails from Escondido, CA, which is in the foothills just north of San Diego. They are most famous for making aggressively hoppy beers, such as their standard IPA, the highly respected Ruination, IPA, and their signature beer, The Arrogant Bastard. The surprising fact about Stone is that they might make the best dark beers in the country, yet they get far less "press" for these dark malt brews.  At their recent tap takeover at Small Bar, alongside their IPA and strong ale roster they featured most of their amazing dark brew lineup, including the Imperial Russian Stout, bourbon aged, a 6-year Imperial Russian, the delectable Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, which is a black IPA, and an unknown commodity (to me), the Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.

I had never seen this beer before nor was it on any of their many taps at their Escondido brewpub that I recently visited.  I tried it at Small Bar on Fullerton and it blew me away.  Coal black with a rich, brown head, this stout gives off a modest aroma of sweet malts, oats, and grainy malts.  The flavor is incredible.  Seamlessly, the bitter chocolate flavors, grainy hops, and a slight soapy or astringent flavor that keeps it in balance unite on your palate.  You get a rich, soothing finish with a nutty character.  This is an outstanding achievement by those arrogant bastards at Stone.  The bourbon aged version of this beer was also terrific, adding slight vanilla and sweet whiskey flavors and aromas to the mix. 

Let me add a word about Stone.  I was talking with a buddy of mine recently: most decent breweries, if they are lucky, make one or two outstanding beers.  Upper echelon breweries make perhaps 4-5, and they are often similar in their base hop or malt content; or they might make great ales and mediocre stouts, or vice versa.  As for Stone, not only do they make upwards of a dozen incredible beers, what is most surprising is that they consistently achieve greatness with beers that are nothing like each other.  It's hard not to rank Stone as the best brewery in the United States.