Gritty McDuff’s is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and to mark the event, the company has released its Special Oatmeal Stout in 22-ounce bottles as well as at its pubs in Portland, Freeport and Auburn. Some non-Gritty’s pubs are also likely to have this beer.

It is not a totally new beer. It has been a semi-regular feature at the company’s Freeport pub for a while, and the Portland location served its version of the beer last year. But it is the first time it has been available in bottles.

Gritty’s was the first brewpub in Maine since Prohibition. Ed Stebbins and Richard Pfeffer opened it in 1988, two years after David Geary opened the first brewery since Prohibition.

I remember walking down from the Press Herald building with two other copy editors during a half-hour break on Gritty’s opening night, having one quick beer and heading back to work, just to be part of the history.

I don’t think copy editors could do that now, even though Gritty’s specializes in English-style session beers: Low-alcohol ales that people could have one of with lunch and then go back to work.

The Special Oatmeal Stout, however, is an exception, as the other beers in the 25th anniversary will be.

“These anniversary beers will be anything but ‘session,’” Stebbins said. “They’ll each be bigger beers: Higher in ABV (alcohol by volume) with rich, complex, full flavors that take each beer’s specific style to a new level.”

The Special Oatmeal Stout, nicknamed “SOS,” is 7 percent alcohol and, according to a press release, “contains seven barley malts, torrified and malted wheat, 10 percent flake oats, and it’s hopped with three varieties of Goldings hops.”

Wife Nancy, son-in-law Christian and I tasted this on Sunday. We all liked it, but it was not what we would expect from an oatmeal stout — probably the new level Stebbins was talking about.

Oatmeal in a beer usually provides a silkiness and a creaminess that this beer did not have. (Maybe it was hidden, because the beer has a higher alcohol content than most oatmeal stouts.) It had a bit of a graininess at the finish, which I found pleasant, and a good body.

The flavor was rich and chocolatey, with a bit of a hops bite. It was wonderfully dark in the glass and had a good head that dissipated fairly quickly. I will be happy to drink this beer again, and I might do it at the Portland pub.

“We will be pouring our SOS on cask at the pub next week,” Stebbins said.

That would definitely give the beer a new texture and probably a new flavor.

The specialty beers will be brewed at Gritty’s Freeport brewery, where all of its beers in 22-ounce bottles are brewed. There will be only about 340 cases of bottles and 96 quarter kegs brewed, so you should grab some when you get a chance.

Just for comparison, I bought some Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout and Geary’s Cooledge Oatmeal Stout, the latter of which was coincidentally the first beer of Geary’s 25th anniversary series.

The Samuel Smith’s had a lot more molasses in the flavor, which I had not noticed as much when I had the beer just for enjoyment. This was 5 percent alcohol, and it had the creamiest texture of the three.

The Geary’s was a traditional oatmeal stout, with 5.8 percent alcohol and the silkiness I expect to go along with the rich flavor.

While stopping by the Gritty’s brewtique store on Fore Street to pick up the SOS, I dropped in at the pub next door to taste the test batch for the next beer in the 25th anniversary series.

Gritty’s Big “A” Blonde is a hybrid American pale/blonde ale featuring a big hop profile and 6.2 percent ABV, Stebbins said.

“The batch we are pouring at the Portland pub is the test batch for the next installment of our 25th anniversary series,” he said.

The big blonde is a strawberry blonde because there is a lot of reddish tint. It was lightly carbonated, as is expected from a cask ale, and slightly cloudy. And despite being heavily hopped, it was well balanced with a big, malty sweetness.

I will be looking forward to this beer when it is officially released, as well as the two other beers coming in the series.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

[email protected]


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