Barrel-aged Six Grain, a milk stout made with oats from Austin Street Brewery. Photos by Caitlin Enz

Malted barley, hops, water and yeast are the basic beer ingredients, but brewers can get creative by adding virtually anything to that recipe. Since January is National Oatmeal Month, I wanted to look at how oats are used in beer.

I most frequently see oats in oatmeal stouts and IPAs, however, oats can be used in any beer for a fuller, creamier mouthfeel. Taste an IPA made with oats and one without; don’t pay attention to the hop flavors, but simply roll the beer around in your mouth, swallow and focus on how it feels. The same properties of oats that add texture to a beer also make them difficult to brew with, so when oats are added to a beer, they usually only account for 10% of the grain in the recipe.

Terribly Misleading is an American IPA made with oats form Hi-Fidelity Brewing in Portland.

I visited a few breweries in Portland to see how they’re incorporating oats into their beers. Hi-Fidelity Brewing in East Bayside (behind Urban Farm Fermentory) had two beers made with oats on tap: Terribly Misleading, an American IPA; and Just Sound, a British ordinary bitter.

Hi-Fidelity’s focus is on low-ABV beers (under 6% alcohol by volume). Dante Maderal, co-owner and head brewer who was behind the bar during my visit, said that low ABV beers sometimes have a watery body, and using oats in the recipe is a way to give them a fuller one. While he currently sources his grains from a large distributor, Maderal said that Hi-Fidelty is ready to start working with local grains. I’ll drink to that!

My next stop was Belleflower Brewing, which often includes oats in their IPAs, but there was nowhere to sit in the taproom, so later in the day, I stopped by Old Port Spirits and Cigars to pick up a can of Scruggsy to try at home.

But before that, I hit up Austin Street Brewery, which had had barrel-aged Six Grain on tap – a milk stout, smooth and round thanks to oats and lactose sugar, both of which contribute to the full body. I also took home a four-pack of Neverender, a double IPA, now made with oats. An earlier version of the beer didn’t use oats, the bartenders told me, and they thought it was a little too astringent (that dry puckering feeling similar to when you drink tea that’s been steeped too long). The brewers added oats to the recipe to create a smoother beer.


I was surprised by the range of beers made with oats on tap in Portland (and I barely scratched the surface here). Find my tasting notes for the beers I tried on tap below.

Austin Street’s Neverender wasn’t initially made with oats, but they’ve since been added to make it a smoother beer.


Style: American IPA

ABV: 4.3%

Tasting Notes: Straw colored with a white head. Smells fruity, floral and like white bread. Tastes like citrus and grapefruit. High bitterness. Smooth and round mouthfeel.



Style: British ordinary bitter

ABV: 3.4%

Tasting notes: Light brown with a white head. Smells like bread crusts, nutty with a hint of caramel. Tastes like bread crusts, nutty with a hint of caramel. Medium bitterness. Medium, smooth body.


Style: Milk stout

ABV: 7.4%


Tasting notes: Dark brown with a light brown head. Smells like toasted bread, bourbon, vanilla with a hint of coffee. Tastes boozy, like toasted bread, with a hint of coffee. Sweet with a round and smooth mouthfeel.


Style: Double IPA

ABV: 8%

Tasting notes: Straw with a white head. Smells like tropical fruit, dank, pineapple and mango. Tastes like orange and tropical fruit, dank. Higher bitterness and smooth mouthfeel.

Caitlin Enz is a Certified Cicerone® who lives in Portland. Follow her on Instagram at @hops_and_brains.

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