My recent raves over Rogue and Bells have left me feeling a little bit like a traitor to my California roots, especially since I developed a taste for stouts. I figured maybe California wasn't stout country; after all, stouts aren't generally considered a "warm weather" beverage, and California is significantly warmer than its northern sister states. But then I had the good fortune to stumble into Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, and that all changed.
Mattie has been good enough to review a couple of Anderson Valley brews, and I've had a couple others myself, so I already had some high hopes when I grabbed this one out of the fridge of the pizza place across the street from my apartment. But in retrospect, I didn't set the bar nearly high enough. Barney Flats is an exceptionally good stout. It pours out fairly dark, though with surprisingly little head. But whatever it lacks up top is more than made up for when you get down to the beer itself. A true-to-form oatmeal stout, Barney Flats hits you with a mouth-filling taste of roasted oats and malt. Combine the malty oats with a thick body and a subtle sweetness and you get what in my opinion amounts to an exquisitely crafted flavor. The taste of hops persists in the background, but can't even begin to compete with the oats and malts. Finally, slight notes of coffee and an indescribably tanginess just barely linger on the taste buds.
I have to give this one very high marks. Even if you aren't a big stout fan, I'd encourage you to give it a try. None of the flavors are overpowering, and it splits the difference between the bitter and the sweet with remarkable precision. If this brew won't convert you to a love of stouts, then I'm pretty sure nothing will.