Inspired by the video of Matt Van Wyk at the GABF, I decided to go buy a couple of bottles of Oakshire's beer and do a proper review. I had--and was impressed by--the Overcast Espresso Stout at the Organic fest, but I've never done more than nod at it in passing. Time to rectify old oversights.
Oakshire, at least in the greater Portland area, is not a well-known brewery, and yet in my little IPA poll a few weeks past, Watershed IPA did surprisingly strongly. (I think pollsters would say it "overperformed.") I see why people liked it. The IPA style is actually a pretty broad one--brewers have fair latitude to interpret it in a personal style. Matt's beer is in what I consider to be the traditional style--a hefty beer that you eye with some respect (weighing in at 7.1%) A deep golden in the glass with amazing head retention, it is a beguiling beer. The malt base is a pure, clean sweetness, with just a bit of biscuit, which allows the hopping to shine through. Matt's interpretation is rich with pine, both in the nose and on the palate. The pine tails off at the end to grapefruit. It's a very clean beer--none of the notes are murky or muted. Although the alcohol is evident, the overall presentation of the beer is not overly aggressive. It's not an IPA that pushes you around. The flavors are clean and saturated, but not punishing. A lovely beer. An A- on the patented ratings scale, with room to ascend after I have a few more.
Overcast Espresso Stout
Coffee and espresso are now becoming pretty common combo--and popular, at least in Beervana, where we like our java only marginally less than we like our ales. (Except for breakfast, where we like the java marginally more.) It's not the easiest combo to manage, though. Coffee can either disappear or overwhelm. Perhaps because of my overactive imagination, I think I can identify the coffee character; Kona's coffee porter, for example, really tastes like Kona coffee to me.
And so it is with Overcast: it tastes like espresso, not just coffee generically. Good espresso should not be bitter. It should be intense, but the final note shouldn't grind or strafe--it should end with an almost berry-like sweetness. Oakshire's gets this part right. The espresso is a major note--like John Philip Sousa major. You get it in the nose and it suffuses the palate. Matt's gone for a relatively light beer (5.8%), so the espresso has room to to toot its horn. (Getting tired of that metaphor yet?) The effect is more like a mocha than a beer. I personally love it, and as a mid-afternoon tipple on a nasty Oregon day, I would find it perfect. Whether you'll like it or not will depend heavily on your relationship to espresso. I'm rating it a B+ (a bit more heft in the body would raise the score), but if you hate coffee, don't go near.