Oatmeal stouts, those creamy dark beers that carry a weighty waft of Quaker Oats, date back to the 1800s. But they had been long abandoned by the time Samuel Smith reintroduced them to the beer-drinking public in 1980. The resurgence has spread like wildfire among brewers big and small since, but the Samuel Smith version remains the unbeatable example of the style. And with good reason: The beer pours an opaque black with a creamy tan head and the oat additions figure prominently in the aroma, but once you sip they take a backseat to roasted and chocolate malt flavors. Don't expect to be clobbered by oatmeal. The genius of this beer is its restraint and balance. The only remaining hints of oats comes in the silky mouthfeel they provide while the roasted malt does the heavy lifting and effortlessly toes the line between between dry and sweet. [$3/bottle; halftimebeverage.com]
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