Ok, so maybe it’s not the strangest beer style out there, but have you really stopped to think about what a milk stout is? Does it have milk in it, or is it milky in texture? Is Guinness a milk stout? Come to think of it, what makes anything a milk stout? Admit it…You’ve been drinking these beers for years and you now realize that you’re not exactly sure just what you’re drinking. Well don’t worry, your thirst for knowledge is about to be satiated.
Welcome to What the Hell is a Milk Stout…
First off, as you may have guessed, Guinness is not a milk stout (it’s a dry stout), and milk stouts do in fact incorporate milk into their recipes through the addition of lactose, a sugar found in cow’s milk. Since lactose doesn’t get turned into alcohol by yeast during fermentation, it adds a considerable amount of body, smoothness, and sweetness to the final beer. So, if done correctly, you get a creamy, slightly sweet, and roasted flavor.
The style originated in the United Kingdom in the 19th century, when it was common for workers to add whole milk to their ‘stout porters’ to make them more nutritious and satisfying. Over time, stouts and porters split into separate styles, and brewers started adding lactose ahead of time during the brewing process.
As with most uncommon beer styles, milk stouts (also called sweet stouts or cream stouts) experienced a near-extinction before being revived by modern brewers. After World War II, the Brits banned brewers from using the term “Milk” to describe their sweet stouts, and the style almost went the way of the Dodo.
Well, lactose is certainly not the strangest thing to go into beer – and stouts seem to be a repository for atypical ingredients, such as chocolate, coffee, oatmeal, and even oyster shells. But a well-made milk stout can be very satisfying, smooth and flavorful without resembling a melted milkshake. So, you might not want to slam a milk stout after mowing the lawn or while at the beach, but when it starts to get cold or if you skipped dinner, it just might hit the spot.