Got milk… in your beer?

Milk in beer?? Well not quite, at least not anymore. The increasingly popular style of beer called ‘milk stout’ doesn’t literally contain milk but lactose, a sugar derived from milk that doesn’t break down into alcohol and therefore adds sweetness and a fuller body to the beer.

Many beer drinkers are put off by darker beers, whether it’s simply the colour or they didn’t enjoy the classic dry stout, Guinness. But the sweeter milk stout may be the perfect style to convert these drinkers to dark beer as it is often easier drinking, less astringent, and plays well with familiar flavours that people typically consume like chocolate, coffee, vanilla and sugar.

For some historical perspective, the style originates from the UK in the 1800s when milk was added to stouts for nutritional purposes and doctors even prescribed if for ailments and nursing mothers. The sweeter style of stout was also an way for brewers to combat the growing market of mild ales.

Eventually the use of the word ‘milk’ in the name of the beers was banned in the UK in 1946 to avoid this false association, but now milk stouts are another historical style being reinvented by craft brewers around the world including in Australia and it has to be one of my favourite beer styles. So here are some top class milk stouts brewed in Australia that I can highly recommend.

5 Australia Milk Stouts that are f’ing awesome

  1. Batch Brewing’s Elsie the Milk Stout – This beer blew me away when I had it on nitro at the great Sydney bar Keg & Brew. I’d never had such a flavoursome beer on nitro before that delivered such great chocolate aromas with a creamy mouthfeel to round it out. Definitely one of my perfect winter warmers.
  2. Thirsty Crow’s Vanilla Milk Stout – This brewery from Wagga Wagga built their reputation amongst beer aficionados for this award-winning brew and it’s no surprise. It’s an even sweeter version of the style with the Madagascan vanilla in there but has all the wonderful flavours and full body. I adored this beer when having from a cask at GABS and also enjoyed fresh on tap from the brewery. Tough to find outside of the brewery’s bar but worth seeking out.
  3. Brewcult’s Milk and Two Sugars – The winner of People’s Choice at GABS in 2015, this is a stronger milk stout than the others at just over 7% and benefited from a mega addition of coffee to create an ultra tasty beer that you could be forgiven for drinking at breakfast.
  4. Exit Milk Stout – Another addition to Exit Brewing’s core range, the milk stout exemplifies all that’s great about the style, the sweeter finish allowing the flavours from the chocolate malts to really sing and seems to make the beer more complex yet still drinkable so that it appeals to both beer geeks and novices alike.
  5. Kooinda Milk Porter – This beer goes under the radar a bit but it is another excellent example of the style. As a milk porter, it has a slightly lighter tinge to it and is not as full bodied as the others but for drinkability and flavour hits the sweet spot.

A milk stout from Castle in South Africa

For some international examples of the style, the UK’s Mackeson Stout is renowned as the classic example of the style, first brewed in 1907.

More recently in craft beer circles, Left Hand Brewing from Colorado are the best exemplars of the style, with their milk stout their number one seller.

The first time I enjoyed this style was actually when I had a Left Hand Milk Stout on nitro at a bar on Rainey Street in Austin, Texas. It has to be one of the coolest drinking spots in the world where old suburban homes have been transformed into kick-ass bars with lovely outdoor drinking areas, and on a perfect balmy Texas night, I parked myself on a wooden table under some fairy lights with this cult beer.

Even on a warm night, it proved to be a perfect choice of beer. The beer while restrained and well balanced, still had enough depth to delight with its dark chocolate aromas, creamy body and smooth slightly sweet finish.



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