Raising the Quality Ceiling
A Review of Oak Barrel Stout by Old Dominion Brewing Co.
Posted on 10/4/2012 by Chops
                   
Exquisite
Every once in a while, beer enthusiasts will come across a brew that challenges their perceived notions of quality. After all, the sum of our experiences informs us. The more beers we sample, the more informed we become. You discover what works, what doesn't, and grade everything in between. Consequently, every better beer fan has a perceived quality ceiling for every beer style. And for beer fans with extensive experience, those ceilings rarely get raised. But, those ceilings have to be raised every now and then because there is always a better beer to discover. I had once such experience recently with the Oak Barrel Stout by the Old Dominion Brewing Company. This, my beer loving friends, is my new gold standard for baseline stouts.

In the glass, this beer has a deep dark brown coloration that is almost black but not quite. It comes with a creamy copper-tan head that has good retention. The aroma is where things start to get interesting. This beer smells incredibly clean, so much so that I had to second guess my nostrils. Oak Barrel Stout has one of the purest roasted aromas I have ever experienced. There is no coffee or chocolate sway whatsoever, just a flawless roast with faint hints of vanilla and caramel. I spent a lot of time on the aroma because I honestly couldn't figure out how Old Dominion balanced it so perfectly. It's truly exemplary.

Much to my surprise, that delectable aroma translates note-for-note into the mouthfeel and flavor. The mouthfeel is amazing clean with absolutely no harshness or grittiness, only a gentle and balanced hop sting complimenting a savory roast. This beer is silky smooth with a solid body, resulting an easy drinking and highly accessible brew. As with the aroma, the core flavor is an elegant roast with hints of vanilla and caramel sweetness. There is also an earthy oaky vibe that wraps everything up in a savory bow. The beer exits with a rich charred oaky aftertaste.

Overall, the Oak Barrel Stout from Old Dominion is an exquisite brew. In all honestly, this is the perfect baseline stout. Don't think imperials, oatmeals, chocolate, any of that. This is what a stout, a true stout, tastes like. It's not glamorous or aggressive. It's not meaty or powerful. It's just... perfect. Consequently, I can recommend this beer to any and all beer fans. Seasoned drinkers cannot deny the perfection that is the Oak Barrel Stout. Novices will be blown away by the clean flavors and high accessibility. This beer is a powerful tool for the craft beer movement and I suspect it has ushered in countless new faces. I have to tip my drinking hat to the Old Dominion Brewing Company. My stout ceiling hasn't been raised in quite some time. Today I feel privileged to do so.

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Oak Barrel Stout by Old Dominion Brewing Co.
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