Young’s Oatmeal StoutBy
Young’s Oatmeal Stout, with its ram horn logo, appears to have been put out to pasture. The “best before” date of its last production run silently slipped past us a week ago. And that’s a shame, because this is a tremendous beer with a storied history.
In 2006, Young’s was merged into its rival, the Wells Brewing Company, forming “Wells & Young’s Brewing Company“. Young’s historic Ram Brewery site — upon which brewing had taken place since 1581, but which in recent years suffered from outdated facilities, poor location, and political pressure to be repurposed — had reached the end of its usability. The site was sold to be renovated as business space and closed as a brewery in October 2006 — and all of Young’s brewing operations were transferred to Wells.
While business reasons (read money problems) are usually the biggest driver for such changes, one must also factor in the health of the brewery’s Chairman, John Young — the great-great-grandson of Charles Young, who purchased the Ram Brewery in 1831. “Mr John” was terminally ill with cancer and — according to the obituary penned by the great beer critic Michael Jackson — brokered the deal with Wells “like Captain Ahab lashed to the mast,” determined to the end to preserve his line of pubs and hotels while keeping the Young’s brands in production.
John Young died September 17th, 2006 — just days before his brewery closed. 500 years of brewing at the Ram location ended the week of his death. Fittingly, beer from that final run was served at his funeral.
Mostly Continuing the Young’s Tradition
Indeed, it does appear that Wells and Young’s has continued to brew most of the Young’s line, which are still served at Young’s Pubs, distributed around the UK, and exported nationally.
But the Oatmeal Stout is glaringly missing from the lineup.
My bottle lists “Wells and Young’s Brewing Company” but you’ll find no mention of the Oatmeal Stout on the Wells and Young’s website — except on the page discussing the historic timeline for the brewery. Indeed, the Oatmeal Stout is listed as discontinued on BeerAdvocate.
February 28, 2009 was the “best if consumed before” date on the final run of Young’s Oatmeal Stout, but if you act quickly you can still enjoy a bottle. I bought mine today, and I’m feeling lucky to have found it on the shelf.
With the best by date already one week past, I couldn’t possibly wait another day. I have two Young’s English Pint glasses at home. So while my wife drank iced hard cider from one glass, I poured all 500 ml of Oatmeal Stout into the second.
A Proper Stout Brimming With Confidence
Black and viscous, the silky beer eased from the bottle and elevated a frothy, bubbly head. I love the cascade effect that happens as a good stout settles, pushing the head higher as exhaust propels a rocket. The tan head had huge bubbles bursting and receding, looking more like a root beer float than beer.
The aroma is of roasted malt, but subdued. The Oatmeal Stout is a confident beer with no need to boast.
Upon first hitting your tongue, the beer is silky and quiet but no sweeter than milk. Strong roasted malts smoke through the flavor as you swallow. The sensation is the taste equivalent of what the beer looks like in the glass — silky and mellow beneath, but vibrant and alive above. The label on the neck of my bottle proudly proclaims “BREWED WITH ROASTED MALTS”, all caps obvious in both the font and the flavor.
As the silky blackness fell to the half-pint mark on my glass, I began to drink more slowly, savoring every sip of charcoal, coffee, and semi-sweet chocolate, admiring the transition between milky smoothness to roasty malt.
I hope Wells and Young’s brings this beer back. But if there’s a silver lining, it’s that Young’s Double Chocolate Stout is still readily available. That beer is already in my lineup for Sunday. Stay tuned!
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