Beer Review: Swamp Head Midnight Oil

photo by Kevin Gibson

photo by Kevin Gibson

This oatmeal stout is the perfect sipper to usher in autumn

Sustainability is a big thing in small businesses these days. Swamp Head Brewery in Gainesville, Fla. is one that you might say goes above and beyond the call of duty in terms of sustainability.

Founded in 2008 by Luke Kemper, Swamp Head is the city’s first brewery. Not only has it planted 100,000 trees in its community, it has solar panels on the roof of the building. Last year, the release of a beer called Buggin’ Out donated some of the sales to the efforts to preserve the coral reef. A couple of years ago, the brewery worked with Lubee Bat Conservancy to build a bat house near the brewery’s taproom (which is known as “the Wetlands”). A bat house. Like, a place where Mexican free-tailed bats can make their home.

Other initiatives include focuses on carbon neutrality, local sourcing of ingredients, and reuse and reclamation of materials when possible. That’s caring about your environment.

But the brewery is also making some pretty solid beer, if my recent encounter with Midnight Oil Oatmeal Stout is evidence. It was gifted to me from a Florida-based friend, and a fine gift it was, immediately spiking my interest with a can emblazoned with a beautiful full moon over a bay.

When I poured the contents into a pint glass, the creamy, tan and persistent head unleashed plenty more beauty in the form of rich aromas of chocolate and coffee, with a hint of nuttiness. So far, so good, as the black, hinting at very dark brown, beer settled in. The up-front flavor conjures more coffee than chocolate, bringing with it more bitterness than expected, no doubt a combo from the roasted barley, locally-sourced coffee and Fuggle hops.

The oats add more earthy nuttiness, along with a familiar smooth body, one that has a much drier mouthfeel than I was braced for. No surprise, given that oatmeal stouts are well known for containing almost nil when it comes to the Diacetyl-induced buttery-ness found in some beers.

As the chocolate flavors opened up, thanks to chocolate malt and chocolate wheat, the beer settled into to being a pleasant and easy drinker, with plenty of flavor, medium carbonation and an overall clean feel on the palate. Midnight Oil is a satisfying glass of beer, one that reminded me of something a friend said years ago, after having a similar pleasant flavor experience: “That tasted like ‘more.’”

I wouldn’t have turned down a second, especially at just 5.0 percent alcohol by volume. If you manage to find a sixer of this, consider it a nice complement to your autumn Saturday or Sunday while watching your favorite football team.

Other core beers include Stump Knocker Pale Ale, Big Nose India Pale Ale and Wild Night Honey Cream Ale.