Highland Oatmeal Porter is the only example of the style Iíve ever run across. Itís not even an officially recognized style by the Beer Judge Certification Program or the Great American Beer Festival. But oatmeal stout is a recognized style, and porters are very close to stouts in flavor and appearance, so Iím a little surprised that more breweries havenít run with the idea of putting oats in porters.
Beers brewed with oats do not taste like oatmeal. Rather, the oats increase the body of the beer and give it a smooth, silky mouth feel due to their high content of proteins, lipids and gums. Highland does not advertise what percentage of Oatmeal Porterís grain bill is made up of oats, but I suspect itís less than the amount common in oatmeal stouts, since itís a little lighter beer. Iíd be surprised if it was more than 5 percent, but a little can go a long way.
Highland Oatmeal Porter is 5.8 percent ABV and hopped with Chinook, Willamette and Cascade. But the hops sit very much in the background on this one. The beer is a very dark brown, with just a bit of translucence that results in a ruby glow as light passes through. Thatís when you can be sure youíre dealing with a porter, not a stout. The flavor is rich with a roasted character and some bittersweet, dark chocolate. Thereís a little burnt-sugar caramel character underneath. Itís grounded with a solid bitterness and finishes dry with notes of dark chocolate. And this is all carried by that oatmeal smoothness.
Porter is a great style that sits in a gray area between brown ales and stouts. Some brown ales could pass for porters, and many porters could pass for stouts. Itís all very subjective, and brewers have a lot of leeway to classify their beers however they want. Highland Oatmeal Porter sits right in the middle of the style and pretty skillfully exemplifies the porter corner of the beer world. It would be fun (and educational) to pour this up next to a Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout and compare and contrast them.
Oatmeal Porter would be perfect with some dark chocolate, but I also think it would go well with some mild smoked sausage.
ďHopped UpĒ is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to email@example.com