St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout: Thank You, Canada

April 06 2011 - 10:36 AM

I’ve been compiling a “favorite beers” list for a couple of years now to help me keep track of  the brews I like and inform me of my own tastes.  When I try a new beer, I sometimes think of how it stacks up against my favorites and whether it will ever be something I might consider an all-time fave.  Of course, most beers don’t really distinguish themselves.  One that does that is quickly shooting up my list is made by this little brewery in Canada, McAuslan Brewing in Montreal, and goes by the name of St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout.  I highly recommend that you drink one.   It’s worth the effort to find it.

I’ve had this several times before, most recently at the Twisted Spoke, a bar noted for its terrific beer selections which are handled with the best of care.  I met some friends over there for a brew – actually, I went there desperately seeking Kentucky Breakfast Stout but the keg died half an hour before we arrived.  Dejected but aufblasbarer wasserpark obviously in a stout mood, I settled for a St. Ambroise to salve my disappointment.  My decision was quickly rewarded.

It’s unfair to compare St. Ambroise with the legendary KBS – they’re completely different entities.  KBS is bold, jarring, polarizing, and is like a Manny Pacquiao jab to the craw.  St. Ambroise’s talent, if you will, lies in its presentation and how it sneaks up on you with a more subtle, deceptive, but no less wonderful flavor.  St. Ambroise is visually alluring.  It’s body is black as a crow but has a startling white, thick head with large creamy bubbles like a vanilla shake.  The head emits a bit of fresh baked bread and nuttiness.

And that’s the flavor.   The first thing you taste is silky cream, then, gradually, the flavors unfold:  nuttiness, bitter chocolate, toffee, wheat bread, and oatmeal.   Although this beer will remind one of a Guinness, especially with the way it cascades in the glass,  it’s got far more in common with a Left Hand Milk Stout on nitro pour in that its body is denser than the Irish icon.  Yet, it’s pleasantly drier than the Left Hand with just enough sugar to round it out more than Guinness or Murphy’s.  It forces you to sip it and enjoy it; you cannot comfortably slam a beer of this density and creaminess.

I haven’t had a lot of beers on this level.  Yet I need to investigate how it drinks out of a bottle.  I’m curious how much of that creaminess and beautiful presentation will be lost.  I will rarely pass this up on tap.  It’s the type of beer that could eventually make my top 10.   Brilliantly done.

–Mark Sheppard