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Bigwig is a systems administrator at a public university
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September 08, 2003

Old Engine Oil

Beer of the night. No, I tell a lie. It's actually the beer of the night before, but I didn't have time to turn my notes into something resembling coherent prose, what with all the conspiracy mongering going on.

I can you that Old Engine Oil goes well with conspiracymongery, though presumably it would complement ironmongery to an even higher degree, given its name. Coming as it does from the Harviestoun Brewery, which was founded by a former Ford worker, the moniker makes a sort of sense.

Given the name, as well as the impenetrable darkness of the OEO, (Oh-wee-oh-wee-oh), at first glance one could be forgiven for thinking it a stout, and a damn thick stout at that, spooned into the glass rather than poured.

Mmmmmm, chunky beer.

The Old Engine Oil is not in fact a stout, but rather an old or owd ale, an English style of which Theakston's Old Peculier is perhaps the best known example, though Young's Winter Warmer is also widely available on this side of the pond. Typically owd ales are dark, maltily sweet and full of fruit notes--complex brews indeed. They're also typically stronger than other beers, ranging from 4.5% to over 8.5% abv.

The above description makes it sound like an old ale isn't a beer for the faint of heart. Names like "Old Peculier", "Old Engine Oil" and "Owd Rodger" if anything make the thought of downing an old ale even more forbidding. I avoided the Old Peculier for a long while when I was younger, on the theory that it was some sort of poisonous stout.

Fear not. It's just a beer, for god's sake. Just order one, appreciate it for what it is, and nod whenever a beer geek like myself starts to blather on about mouthfeel and lacing. It makes us happy, and makes you look wise. Look wise enough, and we'll probably buy the next round. Or the next two.

Now, with that in mind;

Old Engine Oil, at 6% abv, just barely squeaks in as legal under the antiquated and classist North Carolina beer law. It pours as dark as one would expect it to with a string like "Oil" in its name. Before I even tasted it I walked from room to room in an attempt to find an light source strong enough to shine through it.

Once I did, the OEO revealed itself to be dark red rather than black, as a deep ruby glimmer shown through the glass, revealed at last by the lights above the mirror in my downstairs bathroom.

I remarked at length upon the beauty of the hue to my wife

"Yes, honey. It's very nice," she agreed. "Now will you please get out and give me some damn privacy?"

Women.

I repaired to the dining room table and studied the head at length, as I felt that I had somewhat remiss in not describing the head quality in the previous beers of the night. To me, the foam is what one impatiently waits for to disappear, not something to wax rhetorical over. However, humble creature that I am, I have always been aware of the possibility that this position could be mistaken.

So, in short, OEO pours out a thick brownish head, though one that thankfully does not overstay its welcome. The brew itself is rich-textured yet very smooth, almost like a spiced countertop laminate, if such a thing existed. There's a hint of the Hershey's special dark chocolate I always try to con the daughter out of each Halloween, with a hint of citrus; a elderly orange, perhaps. The malty sweetness one would expect of an old ale is there as well, as is a nice hoppy note.

As the OEO warms up the the sweetness of the malt and the bitterness of the hops both become more pronounced, though neither ever overpowers the other. It's a well balanced brew throughout. The increasing warmth also gives the ale more of a porter character, revealing a smoky note that wasn't there before, as well as adding hints of cherry and vanilla to the finish.

I would have poured another, had I more than the one bottle. As it was I bought the last in the store, which doesn't augure well for locating another anytime soon. The brewery that produces OEO, Harviestoun, doesn't have a large annual output to begin with, so the Old Engine Oil will likely remain hard to find for the near future.

Not that "hard to find" means "impossible to find." Yanks can find it on the web at Internet wines and Spirits, and those in the U.K are advised to try the Beers of Scotland site. I've also found two places in the U.S. where the OEO can be found on tap. New Jersey's Ship Inn and Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia.

Posted by Bigwig at September 8, 2003 10:30 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.
Comments

So when are you going to start brewing your own?

Posted by: eli at September 9, 2003 12:41 PM

So, when are you going to brew your own?

Posted by: eli at September 9, 2003 12:46 PM

Need money and space. I've tried before, with the "Mr.Beer" kit, but was less than pleased with the results, in that it tasted like there was no alcohol in the resultant brew at all.

So i'll try a more professional setup next time, and see how that works.

Posted by: bigwig at September 9, 2003 03:12 PM

Perhaps you could get experienced home brewers to send you samples for review? That might be an interesting experiment.

Posted by: eli at September 10, 2003 01:12 PM
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