Well, the temperature has definitely dropped here in Toronto, and winter has arrived after much delay. At this time of year, a look in my beer cellar has me seeking out the darker side of the spectrum. In particular, a nice dark stout. That would do the trick nicely to warm up my cold bones. Just so happens I have the Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout clone myself and fellow homebrewers David Thompson and Peter Caira brewed back in November.
Question is, is it any good?
As you will recall from the original post, we tried out WhiteLabs’ Platinum Series Yorkshire Square yeast which we had hoped would bring out a complex yeast character reminiscent of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. We also attempted to mimic the water from North Yorkshire (or at least our best estimate of it’s make up) with generous amount of chalk and gypsum.
This time around you won’t have to just rely on my opinion, Peter & David, both avid, award winning homebrewers in their own right, have given us their opinion on our collaboration brew.
Straight out of the gate it was evident that there was a massive yeast/chalky character. To me it was pretty overwhelming. My guess it’s from the water additions that we added to the boil and the unique character of the Yorkshire Square yeast. The original has a very subdued yeast presence compared to ours. There are so many factors affecting fermentation, that it would be incredibly difficult to get it exactly as Samuel Smith’s does; open fermentation in slate tubs, pitching rate, oxygenation rate, temperatures, etc. The reason I’m citing this is because yeast performance and the resulting flavour characteristics are dependent on these factors. Perhaps we aerated the wort too much, which brought out a greater amount of esters? Over pitched? Underpitched? Another thing I noticed is that it’s not as full tasting as the original, and it lacks the rich, chocolatey flavour. There is a touch behind the chalky/yeast character, but it pales in comparison to Samuel Smith’s. I thought for sure with all those oats and minerals in the water that it would have a much bigger mouthfeel, but it doesn’t. Then again, we did mash low at 150F. Next time I’d like to mash higher and see how much it changes things. The head didn’t last as long as I’d hoped for either.David Thompson:
I have found that the estery quality has subdued a bit; gone is the initial slight banana notes, but has developed into a pleasant fruityness. It’s nice drinker for sure, but misses the rich chocolately notes of the real deal. Not sure how to quite account for that; use some brown malt or pale chocolate? Either way it’s fine beer.
Everyone who’s tried it says something like “this is mild for a stout / I could drink that all day” and in one case, a well-informed friend of mine asked if it was a schwarzbier! When I let a pint warm up a bit I get some faint notes of raisin or fig but very subdued. Roastiness is also in the background there but again, very subdued. Mouthfeel is nice – I like the level of carbonation and the oatmeal certainly smooths things out. Aroma is mostly roast/nut quality but again, subdued.
All in all I’d like to try this one again. I’d omit the water additions, bump up the mash temperature, and try a more standard yeast like White Labs 002 – English Ale. Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on my assessment of this beer, as David & Peter enjoyed it. Although I thought we had made an honorable attempt at cloning Samuel Smith’s Original based on what we knew, I don’t think we succeeded this time around.