Thursday, May 20, 2010

Beer Review: Left Hand Milk Stout

My beer review for today is Left Hand's Milk Stout. "Why Left Hand Milk Stout for your very first beer review?" you might ask. "What a fucking rude question" I might respond "I'm not charging you to read this blog". In reality, it's the only commercial beer I have in my fridge right now (aside from some Hop Slam I'm saving for a special occasion). Left Hand Milk Stout is probably the first (and best) milk stout I tried and it's one of the few beers that I can come back to time after time, and I'm never disappointed. In fact, there are few beers that I come back to after a while of not having any, where I think to myself 'this is even better than I remember'. Very rare indeed. The 'milk stout' style is actually a historical one with a slightly misleading name and past. In the 19th century, they were actually marketed as being healthy and having restorative properties. At some point this line of thought was shut down by the know-it-alls and the naysayers. "Milk isn't good for you", "babies shouldn't drink beer". "SHOVE OFF!", that's what I say. I could fill a bag of cats* with what the prohibitionists can tell you about beer.

Milk stouts today contain some amount of lactose, or milk sugar, rather than any actual milk (the combination of alcohol and milk is generally not an appealing one, for obvious reasons, but this style is no longer brewed with anything but milk sugar to my knowledge). Lactose is a sugar which is unfermentable by brewer's yeast so it remains in the beer and leaves some residual sweetness. Some sweetness is typical of the style. I've tried lactose on it's own and it does not taste sweet; it's a powder, and it tastes much like powdered coffee-creamer. Anyways, enough with the hypothetical/internal dialogue. I can imagine you want to read about someone else drinking beer already.

abv: 5.9%
IBUs: 25
OG: 1.062
Color: dark black

Initial Impressions: Dark, creamy and complex. Very drinkable.

Left Hand Milk Stout pours nice and dark and has a creamy, thick texture. The taste at first sip is very much one of pleasant, dark maltiness and earthy hops. There isn't much bitterness from the hops, though, nor is there any tartness that some expect from stouts a la Guinness. As you drink, the aroma builds as a mix of graininess, malt and some earthy, bright hop aroma. It's quite nice. This is a beer I find myself sipping, almost putting back on the bar, and then bringing it up for another sip, repeating as necessary. The beer is full and complex without being overpowering or exhausting to drink several pints of. This is the beer I give to people who tell me either they don't like beer, or they don't like dark beer. Rightfully so. When I met one of the brewers from Left Hand, he said that their Milk Stout is the highest selling beer they produce, which is unusual for a dark beer. I asked him briefly about the yeast they use, but he was somewhat reluctant to give any specifics. With the heat of summer encroaching you might think that something dark and slightly heavy would be less appealing, or out of place, but I don't think so. Despite it's moderate alcohol content, it is firstly a drinkable beer, and an enjoyable one.

*That is an expression, right?

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