Sunday, January 8, 2012

Back Road Stout, Millstream Brewing Company

"Back Road Stout", Millstream Brewery (Amana,IA). "A rich, thick, smooth Oatmeal stout". "A taste of the Amana Colonies". So says the label.

I'll admit I'd never heard either of this brewery or Amana Colonies for that matter. A little reasearch was in order...(thanks Wikipedia)....

The Amana Colonies are a group of settlements of radical German Pietists in Iowa, USA, comprising seven villages. Calling themselves the Ebenezer Society or the Community of True Inspiration (German: die Gemeinde der wahren Inspiration), they first settled in New York state near Buffalo in what is now the Town of West Seneca. However, in order to live out their beliefs in more isolated surroundings they moved west, to east-central Iowa (near present-day Iowa City) in 1855. They lived a communal life until the mid 1930s. Due to this, the Amanas are sometimes mistaken for Amish.

I find this fascinating, especially given today's vitriolic political climate, that this was a society that existed on socialistic principles and survived for almost 80 years. Here's a link if you would like to read more :

The name "Amana" of course is also synonymous with the appliance giant of the same name...again, I was not aware of it's origins....

The Amana Corporation is an American brand of household appliances. It was founded in 1934 by George Foerstner as The Electrical Equipment Co. in Middle Amana, Iowa to manufacture commercial walk-in coolers. The business was later owned by the Amana Society and became known as Amana Refrigeration, Inc..[1] It is now owned by Whirlpool Corporation.

Millstream Brewing Company is Iowa's oldest micro-brewery, having opened it's doors way back in 1982. Impressive. First noticed it on the shelves a few months ago, it having just recently been distributed in Minnesota by Clear River Beverage Company (Rush City, MN). Despite my reservations - brought on by the rather amateurish, cartoonish and kitschy label that didn't exactly say "pick me up" - my thriftiness got the better of me and I picked up a sixer at Zipp's for a paltry $5.99. Would it be money well spent? Read on.....

Initial impression upon pouring - promising. Looked the part - jet black with a nice mocha head and decent carbonization. Now the real test - tasting.

Surprised by the light mouthfeel. Definite taste of bitter chocolate with a licquorish (or aniseed?) finish. I was expecting it to be creamier and certainly a little sweet from the oatmeal (apparently they add 5% oatmeal to the grist) but if it was there I didn't notice it. Fairly dry. Smooth and easy to drink. Light bodied. Decent. Apparently 6.7% ABV but it's barely noticeable, drinks like a 4% beer. I was told by the sales rep that this stout was unique because they used a lager yeast, rather than an ale yeast, for this stout and that is what gives it such drinkability. Makes sense, however my inner beer geek got the better of me and I emailed the brewer and was informed that they now use an American Ale II strain of yeast. So much for that theory!

Better than expected but not remarkable. I was expecting a heavy, creamy somewhat chewy beer but this is a bit too thin for my liking. I would recommend this beer as a good intro to the "darkside" - a starting point for someone looking to try something more substantial than Summit EPA for instance.

Apparently this beer won a Gold Medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival, obviously the judges rated it a little higher than I did!

About the beer :

Label proclaims it to be "A rich, thick, smooth Oatmeal Stout". "A taste of the Amana Colonies".
O.G 15.5 degrees Plato
F.G. 6.3 Degrees Plato
22 IBU's
48 SRM
6.7% ABV
The fine print :
2 row brewers malt, black, Munich 20L, Carame 80L, Chocolate, flaked oats, roasted barley, white wheat.
Hops - US Magnum, Mt. Hood, Saaz.

About the brewery (the recipient of 18 National and One International Awards). It's about a 5 hour drive from the Twin Cities.

Millstream Brewing Company
835 48th Avenue
PO Box 284
Amana, IA 52203
'PH : (319) 622-3672 FAX : (319) 622-6516

PS I was once at a party, shortly after coming to Minnesota and a guy asked me where I was from. I replied "Northern Ireland" (Norn Iron). He thought I said "Northern Iowa" (WTF?)! After that if anyone asked I just said "Ireland".

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