Although oats have long been used in brewing, they only found their way into stouts in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries when tastes were tending toward sweet (rather than dry) stouts. The style was all but gone by 1970, but was revived by Samuel Smith Brewing in 1980. The use of oats is supposed to make a stout sweeter, with a smoother more viscous body.
Mayflower Brewing, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, brews an oatmeal stout as its winter seasonal beer. The beer pours deep black with a moderately-sized brown head. The head fizzle out fairly quickly. The body is actually a bit on the thin side, with prickly carbonation, despite the oats which are supposed to add to the body. The first scent is a hint of chocolate. Though the chocolate is still present, different flavors stand out on the tongue. There’s dark fruit flavors like figs and raisins as well as a molasses flavor that comes out more strongly as the beer warms up. There’s a very strong roasted coffee flavor in the finish. This adds a lot of bitterness (think of drinking cheap coffee black). Thankfully, the balance tilts towards the sweet and away from that bitterness with warmth. The finish remains dry, however. Hopping is fairly minimal, adding a bit of grassiness.
Although Mayflower certainly makes some good beers, this one seems a bit unbalanced. Although the flavor is fairly complex, the black-coffee bitterness is too overpowering, at least to this reviewer. Fans of dry stouts may still like this one. Oatmeal stouts, however, are supposed to be sweet and smooth, which this one was not.