Episode 78: Style Profile – Milk Stout

Our intrepid hosts walk us through one of our favorite styles, Milk Stout. We review the guidelines, history and have a “CRUCIBLE OF DOOooo0oOOOM!”

March 15, 2018 46:02
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Our intrepid hosts walk us through one of our favorite styles, Milk Stout. We review the guidelines, history and have a “CRUCIBLE OF DOOooo0oOOOM!”

Milk Stout

Style Overview

Our Impressions: A delicious concoction of sweet darkness.  The beer equivalent of chocolate milk. A sweet malty dark brew.

BJCP Guidelines: 16A Dark British Beer Sweet Stout

ABV: 4 – 6
IBU: 20 – 40
SRM: 30 – 40

Commercial Examples: Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout, Left Hand Milk Stout, Lancaster Milk Stout, Samuel Adams Cream Stout.

Style History

  1. Area of origin: England, late 19th and first half of 20th.
  2. Creation:Late 1800’s Brits were looking for a new sweeter version of old stale porters.  Brewers added lactose to create a sweeter fresher tasting beverage.
  3. Traditional/unique methods: Addition of lactose as a non-fermentable sugar creates an extra layer of sweetness.  Sometimes large amounts of crystal malt are used to create a similar effect with a very different taste profile.
  4. Evolution of styleThe idea of milk stout was proposed in 1875 by John Henry Johnson.. Though Johnson never saw his dream realized, the idea was taken up by others who saw its potential. In 1907, a lactose stout was brewed by Mackeson of Hythe, Kent, and sent to market in 1910, with the claim that “each pint contains the energizing carbohydrates of ten ounces of dairy milk.” Some patent infringement squabbles arose, but Mackeson licensed the beer-making to others, and within a few years, a dozen or more milk stouts were being brewed. Marketing sweet stouts as nutritional was a great way in the late 1800s to garner interest, but lactose did not provide the promised nutritive value. Eventually, this hollow claim fell under scrutiny of British authorities, who mandated in 1946 that milk had to be stricken from the label as misleading. But brewers, ever the cagey, gave their brews names suggesting images of cream, milkmaids and dairies. Brewers outside the English mainland are under no such restrictions today, and lactose-enhanced brews made elsewhere, including America and even some of the British maritime islands, can be called milk stouts. American brewers have been at the forefront of reviving them. 

    Milk stouts proved to be a very popular style of beer in the first half of the 20th century and energized a preference for sweeter stouts in England. Some are widely popular, as they uniquely present a full-bodied, roasted, sweet alternative that delivers all the rich flavor of their stronger brethren without overpowering the palate with hops or the mind with alcohol. Much of that is due to the lactose. Lactose also provides a bit of viscous mouthfeel. Other than this unusual and definitive ingredient, milk stouts are brewed like any other stout, with grain bills of base, black patent and chocolate malts, and roasted barley to the whim of the brewer. All are excellent as dessert beers, rich and complex enough to complement, but not too filling.

  5. Current status: A small wave of resurgence in American Craft beer culture, though not as widely popular as other stout and porter styles.
  6. Notable variations: served on nitro creates an extra creamy texture that yields an almost desert, milkshake like experience. Also known as sweet stout, london stout or cream stout.  As of 1946- it can no longer be called milk stout in England to prevent misleading claims of health benefits.

Beer Reviews

Beer #1: Samuel Adams Cream Stout

ABV: 4.9%
IBU’s: 28
Hops: Fuggles, E. Kent Goldings
Malts: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, malted wheat, roasted unmalted barley, chocolate malt, and caramel 60.
Color: Deep Black, 80 SRM


  • Mark: Bomber
  • Kevin: Bomber
  • Justin: Bomber

Beer #2: Left Hand Milk Stout

ABV: 6%
IBU’s: 25
Hops: Magnum and US Goldings
Malts: Pale 2-row, crystal, munich, roasted barley, flaked oats, flaked barley and chocolate.
Color: Black, 47 SRM


  • Mark: Growler
  • Kevin: Keg
  • Justin: Growler

Beer #3: Keegan Ales Mothers Milk

ABV: 5%
IBU’s: 18
Hops: UK Pilgrim
Malts: N/A
Color: 40 SRM


  • Mark: Growler
  • Kevin: Bomber
  • Justin: Growler


Best Tasting: Left Hand Milk Stout
Most Interesting: Sam Adam’s Cream Stout
Closest to Style: Left Hand Milk Stout