Milk stouts originated in Europe in the 1800s. The style emphasizes a malty sweetness with hints of chocolate and caramel. They are sometimes called cream stouts or sweet stouts. Brewers intensified the dark, chocolaty malt body with lactose, the sugar in cow’s milk, hence why they’re more often called milk stouts. Brewer’s yeast can’t ferment lactose into alcohol, so it hangs around to give you a rich mouthfeel and a soft, creamy sweetness, balancing out the bitter and roasted qualities typical of its cousin stouts. Makes sense. Heating milk to very high temperatures, which also has the effect of caramelizing some of the milk’s sugar, makes evaporated milk. That sugar is the same lactose found in milk stout, and is subjected to similarly high temperatures during the brewing process. We also detected an interesting tang, and we can’t help but wonder if this is attributable to the lactose as well, as lactose will ferment into lactic acid in the right conditions. Whatever. Done right, you can be extraordinary, like the five milk stouts in today’s beer flight, Craft Beer Crosscut 1.26.18: A Flight of Milk Stout.
Olympia’s Firefly Coffee Roaster developed a roast specifically for Triceratops Brewing’s Hawthorne Milk Stout. The Hawthorne roast is cold brewed into a toddy that is rich and velvety. This is a very easy-drinking medium-bodied stout. We enjoy it for its subtle chocolate and caramel flavors from the malts, which are complemented by the subtle sweetness and softness of the lactose. This milk stout is very approachable. It’s a great example of how not all black beers are thick and filling. It’s a pleasant stout that is flavorful and inviting of a second glass.
6% ABV, 25 IBU
Without going into the chemical physics of solubility and gas diffusion, let’s just say that nitrogen has a silkifying effect on beer. Nitrogenated brews, as opposed to carbonated ones, have a softer mouthfeel, taste less acidic and boast a creamier, more stable head. Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout was no bore before, and on nitro, it’s even better. Cocoa and burnt flavors from its dark roasted grains come forward first, followed by a wave of sweet cream thanks to the use of lactose sugar. Magnum hops help give the 6 percent-alcohol brew a bitter finish that entices the next sip. Throughout, the beer’s ultra-smooth texture inches it closer to chocolate milk than you thought a beer could get.
5% ABV, 30 IBU
The milk stout, also known as an English sweet stout, emphasizes a malty sweetness with hints of chocolate and caramel. Some versions, like Paradise Creek Brewing’s MooJoe, add lactose for more body and softness. The Pullman, Washington brewery takes its beer one step further by cold conditioning it with fresh ground coffee from Bucer’s Coffee House across the border in Moscow, Idaho. The result is a smooth, light stout with coffee and chocolate notes and slightly bitter on the end.
Ultracreamy and dangerously drinkable, Elysian’s Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout adds a pound per barrel of cold-infused, Seattle-produced Lighthouse coffee to the mix. Having the honor of being the official 2012 Seattle Beer Week beer, it pours dark black (but not opaque) with a thick creamy tan head and a pretty freaking amazing nose of coffee grinds and, well, more coffee grinds. Split Shot is thinner in body than we expected, but it’s anything but thin on flavor. Roasted malt that takes on a slightly bitter edge, mild carbonation, and then the addition of coffee with cream and brown sugar that turns back toward bitter in a long, satisfying finish.
Puyallup River Brewing Mud Mountain Milk Stout grabbed a silver medal at the 2015 Washington Beers Awards. It grabbed a bronze at the 2016 Washington Beer Awards. It grabs every drinker when they taste its smooth as chocolate silk self. Fresh vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, oats, and six different specialty malts make this milk stout one of the easiest drinking dark beers on the planet.