Milly’s Oatmeal Stout
Nearly a decade ago, I was living in the downtown area of the tiny New Hampshire city that is Manchester. At 23-years-old, I would naturally find myself gravitating towards the nightlife strip that is Elm Street, in search of drinks, unusual encounters and of course, the hilarity and drama of other twenty-somethings as they filed out of the bars at last call, in search of their own meager sustenance or a cab. Of the few dive bars and night clubs the city had to offer at the time, a new brewpub had opened up, just off the beaten path down by the waterline of the Merrimack River.
Called “Milly’s” (presumably as it was situated in the lower level of a converted mill building) the dimly lit and somewhat out of the way dive offered a selection of in-house brews made in great copper vats behind the bar, as well as a less than stellar menu, befitting a start-up bar and restaurant inhabiting a building once home to Manchester’s only rave-club. At the time, I wasn’t much of a beer drinker and upon sipping the Monarch Ale – named for the still relatively new semi-professional hockey team that represented the town – I immediately came to realize why for a few dollars one could procure a handle-laden bucket of mystery beer without much in the way of price or problem.
I was, to say it kindly, less than impressed at the time. Perhaps partially due to a more pedestrian sensibility regarding beer rooted in a limited experience of watery domestics, or perhaps because at the time, the brewery still had a considerable amount of work and refinement left ahead of it, my first experiences all that time ago left me with a less than favorable opinion of Milly’s brews. It is for this reason however that some decade later, upon taking up my new role in the state’s largest craft beer shop, that I was somewhat hesitant to take a pull of the Milly’s Oatmeal Stout which arrived as part of the weekly order. Packaged in a squat and standard 12 oz. can, I was initially surprised to see a world beer award logo emblazoned along the side. When finally, the brew was brought home and tested, an even greater surprise was the fact that, beyond defying expectations, this oatmeal stout actually managed to set a new standard for me in my experiments with stouts going forward.
To begin with, this is an exceptionally rich oatmeal stout. Unlike many English variants on what Samuel Smith’s claims to be their original recipe, the Milly’s Oatmeal Stout went beyond the general silky smoothness and subtle hints of weight and body, but rather provided a rich and robust flavor that tip-toed up to the line of heavier imperial stouts. Still very smooth, the oatmeal flavor didn’t merely complement the substantial gravity of the stout itself, but actually seemed to embolden it. In this departure from the norm, where the presence of oatmeal generally serves to smooth out the typical smoky or malty flavor and lighten the overall feel and taste of the brew, Milly’s seems to have encouraged something of a dance between the flavors, granting to its creation a strange, almost dualistic quality where in balance and imbalance are offered up in equal measure.
The head is a pleasant and fluffy off -white, as to be expected with a stout. And thankfully, it was neither flat (often a sign that the brew itself will be lackluster) nor too thick (meaning you have to wait for it to subside before sipping, lest you end up slurping pure foam, which is annoying). The rich, well balanced and very robust overall flavor profile and thick, but not syrupy mouthfeel provides an excellent and highly satisfying drinking experience. Heavy enough in body that a single round can be lingered upon and savored, yet tasty enough to where a second, should one be so inclined, doesn’t feel like an over-indulgence. In this well-crafted and enjoyable oatmeal stout, Milly’s has proven that their brewmaster’s skill (or perhaps just my own palate) has come a long way from rather humble beginnings. Additionally, as seems to be a welcomed and growing trend, the brew and its packaging also serves to help further combat the common stereotype that one cannot get good beer from a can.
Though likely a difficult brew to obtain for those outside of New Hampshire or New England, Milly’s Oatmeal Stout is certainly a beer worth seeking out.
Nicholas Goroff is a beer lover, writer, actor, ex-political professional and devoted anti-ideologue. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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