Well, I'm happy to say that I've enjoyed quite a bit of this new batch. It didn't really start off the way I had envisioned, but I think it just needed to age a little longer. Specifically, it had some flavors (well, one in particular) that just weren't characteristic of an Oatmeal Stout (or Sweet Stout). The *one* to which I am referring is a seemingly present sparkle of black licorice. Don't ask me how it got in there - don't. I have no clue. My guess is it either has something to do with the lactose I used, or my paranoia associated with the scenario surrounding the brew session was apparently not unfounded. In other words, it was an off-flavor, as a result of something going awry, that coincidentally tastes like black licorice. I'm not really sure, though. Not that I'm incapable of making a mistake (but who are we kidding, right?), but there is a rather ester-y aroma in the head too. The more and more I think about it, the more and more I feel like the lactose had something to do with it. We may never know for sure, though. Pity.
At any rate, come, join me now on a marvelous journey, exploring and glorifying the attributes of Buncha Oats. So, couple of things right off the bat (aside from the esters in the aroma and the licorice flavor), I've got a little more sediment in the bottle this time than I would have preferred (*light* sediment, if that makes sense - as in, it doesn't stay at the bottom as easily and has a thing for floating up as I pour). It's also not nearly as heavy as I had envisioned (you'd think 1 lb. of oats and 1/2 lb. of lactose would have given me an opportunity to sprout a bit more hair on my chest, but alas...). The head is bit "bubbly" too (perhaps from my lack of finishing hops?).
Okay, so all of that aside, this is still a damn good beer. The lighter body makes it more drinkable and less prone to replace current trends in hair-growth treatment. The head, although maybe a tad effervescent, retains very nicely, and definitely captures the roasted character of the stout. The carbonation is also right on, as well as the color. The sediment situation is a little bit annoying, but I think maybe it is a sign that I need to start thinking about switching over to kegging; it also might fall-out a little more over time too (that head might thicken up as well). The mouthfeel is nice and creamy, with a silky texture, and the bitterness is perfectly in check.
UPDATE: THE SEDIMENT HAS SEEMINGLY GAINED WEIGHT AND IS NOW STAYING AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE DURING THE POUR!
But as I was saying, it started off with a little bit of a fruity character and a black licorice flavor that shouldn't be in either of these two beer styles. While this wasn't necessarily a problem for me (although, it did make me consider renaming it...again), I believe it was problematic in the Sunshine Challenge; I entered it into both the Oatmeal and Sweet Stout categories, but I wonder if I should have thrown it into the Specialty Beer category instead - under the guise of a stout flavored with licorice. I didn't place in either category, and I believe it was because the batch just wasn't ready quite yet and still had the off-flavors. I think I'll hold on to a few bottles and try again at another competition (assuming the scoresheets, when I receive them, indicate that was the issue).
Speaking of Sunshine Challenge, I also entered the last of Fuzzie Berr and Gizmo Gold, and neither of them placed. No big deal, though. I get more pleasure out of my friends and family enjoying the beer I brew than about maintaining the guidelines for a style and doing well in a competition (but don't get me wrong, winning a medal feels marvelous). But, right before we left for the meeting (and to submit the entries), I had the bottles on the counter in our kitchen. They had been in the fridge, so I had set them on a towel in order for the condensation to collect without a mess (I needed them to be dry so that the ID forms wouldn't get ruined). Well, never underestimate a puppy's persistence in pulling a towel down off of a counter barely in reach. Two of the bottles came crashing down - one Gizmo Gold and one Fuzzie Berr. Gizmo Gold survived...Fuzzie Berr didn't. Let me just say that we spent the next 30 minutes bathing Dylan (our new pup), cleaning the kitchen floor and his crate, and throwing out his glass-infused bed/plush toys that were caught in the maelstrom - instead of getting to the meeting early. Fortunately, I found out later that I was still able to enter Fuzzie Berr, even though I was short a bottle (I just wouldn't be able to progress on to Best of Show if I had placed 1st in the category).
So, good story, huh? Dylan was fine too...by the way ;-)
Alright, so let's get to the nitty gritty before wrapping this up:
Final Gravity: 1.025
I've got a new batch fermenting as I type. I didn't post an entry documenting it because it is going to be a surprise (but don't worry, I'll post something as soon as the the mystery batch is no longer a mystery). It's coming along great - no perceived issues thus far. And let me just say...I'm really looking forward to this one :-)
Peace and Love!