sometimes Mom would come home from the grocery store with a package of oatmeal cookies - typically Archway and iced. While I was a devout chocolate chip kid, I welcomed the iced oatmeal changeup. Especially since they weren't too far removed from the Ivins' spiced wafers that were a real treat for the house, but also because they had wonderful texture, great brown sugar notes, and a definite but never overpowering sweetness.
Saint Arnold tried to capture the complexity of that deceptively simple oatmeal cookie in the newest entry in its Divine Reserve series, No. 19. These beers are some of Saint Arnold's most special attempts, annual celebrations of big and boozy flavors. The small batches come out and go away quickly, making them hard to find in the wild. Saint Arnold should still have Divine Reserve No. 19 at the taproom and beer garden, but will you grab it at the store? Hard to say.
As for the beer, it comes somewhat closer to that spiced wafer than an oatmeal cookie, and not that it's a bad thing. It pours a shimmering copper, the very color of those delectable cookies found in black-and-orange boxes across the Delaware Valley, and it gives off scents of oats, cinnamon, some raisins, a lingering bite of bitter chocolate, and just a touch of alcoholic heat. Immediately it introduces itself as a slow sipper, preferably when it's darker longer and good company is near.
On the taste I get more baking spices like allspice (the hop used is Perle, known for its spice character), hits of cherry and raisin, a good bit of caramel and other sugars, and even a hit of ginger. That's what reminded me of the spiced wafer, essentially a ginger snap (but oh so much better). No. 19 is labeled a spiced oatwine, and that clearly shows with its sugary character. But clocking in at 10.4 percent ABV, it plays like a sneaky beer than an upfront boozefest. So be careful.
I suggest stashing a couple bottles, if you have them, and letting them sit for a good while. The spice character should lessen and a rounder profile should develop. That'll make it a feast of a beer. For now, Divine Reserve No. 19 makes for a nice little snack.
Explanation of ratings: 9.5-10: as good as the best beer in America; 9-9.4: the best beer in Houston; 8-8.9: among the better beers in Houston; 7-7.9: really good beer; 6-6.9: try this beer at least once; 5-5.9: if you’re stuck, this won’t hurt; 3-4.9: among the lowest-quality beers in Houston; 0-2.9: as bad as the worst beer in America