How To Brew Milk Stout | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Updated: November 21, 2020

Milk Stouts, otherwise known as Sweet Stouts, have enticed our palates since the 1800s. This was when milk was blended with dark beer in an effort to make these ales more nutritious.

These sweet libations became popular among the English labors as a pick-me-up during the middle of the day.

Healthy Beer

Adding lactose to beers began in 1875 from a brewer by the name John Henry Johnson. He actually patented the idea of making a beer with barley, hops, whey, and lactose.

Unfortunately, he did not see his idea to fruition. Many brewers adopted this idea as a “restorative treatment” for people in poor health. Even doctors, until the 1950s, believed this to be true. 

The First Sweet Stout

The first commercial example of Milk Stouts was brewed by Mackeson Brewery in 1907 in Hythe, Kent. Their label even recognized that a pint of this beer contained 10 ounces of “pure dairy milk.” This label is now owned by InBev.

Not to So Fast

The claim that sweet stouts had any nutritional value was of course unfounded. British authorities passed a law of 1946 forbidding the use of milk in beer labels because of the false perception it gave people. There are no restrictions elsewhere, so labels contain the word “milk” on many sweet stouts in America and other parts of the world. 

Style Profile for Milk Stouts 

Appearance

The color should be very dark brown to black..  A creamy-soft, long-lasting tan to brown head is expected for this style. Clarity should also be good. 

Aroma

Aroma often has a sweetness to it, almost cream-like. A malt aroma that is filled with coffee and chocolate notes is common. Hop aroma, if present at all, should be floral and/or earthy. Fruity aromas are common in the low to medium range. Diacetyl is acceptable. 

Mouthfeel

Low to medium carbonation. Body is moderately full to full, which is enhanced by the high amounts of unfermented sugars. 

Taste

The taste is usually centered around dark roasted malt with some coffee and/or chocolate notes. The unfermented sugars cause a medium or high sweetness to this beer; which balances out the roastiness. Hop bitterness is medium. Low to medium fruity esters are acceptable, as is diacetyl. 

Food Pairing

Sweet stouts can be paired best with desserts. Anything chocolate will work; fudge brownies, German chocolate cake, pudding. It is perfect when making beer floats with ice cream and possibly some vanilla and coffee. As for cheese pairings, thnk aged cheddar, Swiss, Brie, or Chevre. As a main course pairing, any game meats will pair well. Also, sweet stouts are great with gravies, hardy soups, roasts, barbeque, Mexican, or Asian dishes. 

Tips for Brewing your own Milk Stouts 

Grain

Since the style is a traditional English style, British pale malt would be appropriate. Add anywhere from 60-80% of the grain to the grist. Like any stout, the specialty malts used are very important to a good recipe. Black malt and roasted barley is almost always used in a combination of 10% or slightly more of the grist. 10-15% of caramel/crystal malts is also needed for this style.

As the Lovidond of caramel/crystal malts go up, the malt becomes less sweet and more nutty and roasty. Usually a mid-range caramel/crystal malts is used. If you are relying on lactose to obtain that sweetness to your beer, 5 to 12% is used in a recipe.

Flaked oats or barley can be added for increased mouthfeel. Lactose can be added at any time during the boil. Adding it prior to packaging will allow you to taste it more in the finished beer.

It is possible to obtain the sweetness with only grains. Look to mid Lovibond caramel/crystal malts. Also, pay attention to the mash temperature and yeast selection (lower attenuating yeast). 

Hops

English hops, such as Fuggle and East Kent Goldings (EKG) should be considered when brewing a sweet stout, with Fuggles at bittering and EKG for aroma and flavor. The main objective when hopping a sweet stout is to find that balance between the roasty malt and the bitterness of the hops.

If American hops are your thing, then Cascade, Nugget and Cluster are commonly used in sweet stouts. 

Yeast

An English yeast with a lower attenuation, below 75 is what you are looking for in this beer. White Labs WLP004 Irish Ale or British Ale WLP005, Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale or Whitebread Ale 1099, and Fementis Safale S-04 or Danstar Nottingham Ale are all good choices. Follow the temperature recommendations with any yeast that you pick. 

Mash Temperature

Mash temperature is very important to achieve a good sweet stout. A mash temperature between 152°F and 156°F (66°C – 68°C) will work just fine. A higher mash temperature will leave more unfermentable sugar.

You will want a higher temperature if you have a low starting gravity and using a higher attenuating yeast or perhaps using only malt to make the stout sweet. A lower temperature range is better with a higher starting gravity and a lower attenuating yeast.

Milk Stout the By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 30 – 40 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.044 – 1.060 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.024 FG
  • IBU Range: 20 – 50
  • ABV Range: 4.0 – 6.0%

Martin Keen’s Milk Sweet Stout Recipe

Grain

70%        7 lbs     Maris Otter

10%        1 lb       Pale Chocolate

  5%        8 oz      Flaked Oats    

  5%        8 oz      Roasted Barley

 10%       1 lb       Lactose at 15 min left in the boil

 Hops

2 oz          Fuggles – Boil 60 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg   Ringwood Ale Yeast Wyeast 1187

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins 

Transcript: What do you get when you combine this, with this? Why milk+stout of course. Well, no, no, no, you don’t. But milk stout is what I’m going to brew today and I’m going to be having some fun with combination caps.

Hi, I’m Martin Keen taking the Homebrew challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. This week is milk stout, a style that dates back to the 1800’s where the style became popular because of its potentially more nutritious benefits. It was good for sales to say that this beer has got milk in it.

Now milk stout doesn’t actually have milk in it, it has lactose. And there’s something quite interesting about lactose when it comes to brewing beer. Now, normally when you add sugar into the boil during beer, I’ve got some corn sugar here. I might add in what it does, is it bumps up the ABV. Essentially the sugar becomes yeast food. The yeast consumes it, and therefore makes more alcohol in the beer. But the finished product is not any sweeter. That yeast has eaten all of those sugars.

But with lactose, well yeast lack of the enzyme to consume lactose. So any lactose that you add in will be in the finished product.

There’s a really nice experiment that really illustrates this on biology corner. So what they did is they filled up a bunch of flasks with different types of sugar. Glucose, Sucrose, and lactose added some yeast and let it ferment. And then added little balloons on the top. So you could see if any CO2 is getting generated, which means fermentation was happening. And the lactose sample, unlike the glucose and sucrose as well, they didn’t ferment at all. And that’s because the yeast does not have the lactide enzyme. If you add the lactides enzyme in with the lactose, then fermentation does happen.

So what that all means for us as brewers is that we need to really carefully consider how much lactose to add in our beer, because it will definitely affect the perceived sweetness of the beer in the finished product.

But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves talking about lactose because lactose in the boil, let’s talk about what goes in the mash. So I’m building a beer here with an original gravity of 1.054 that will give us about a 5.6% beer.

Now the base malt for this beer is Maris Otter, and that will make up about 70% of the total grist. In addition to that, I have 10% of pale chocolate malt, 5% of roasted barley. And then for the mouthfeel, I have 5% of flaked oats.

Mashing this one at 152 Fahrenheit or 67 Celsius.

Now I wanted to quickly show a cool little thing I learned from ki at keg land. And that’s how to turn a regular soda bottle into like a mini keg. And it’s actually pretty simple if you, if you have the right gear. So this is the stuff that I’m using. What I’ve got is I’ve got this T piece here and it’s designed to screw on to a bottle. So I can screw this on here. And now I’ve got this little T piece connected and it works with sort of any standard size soda bottle. Now, the other thing I’ve got these carbonation caps. Now these are really cool. I use these with my fermzilla for example, and they can be used as gas posts or liquid posts. And what you can do with two of these is basically make a little keg.

So what I’ve done is I’ve added a little bit of line to the bottom of this one here and then this other one I’m just going to use as a gas post. And what I’m going to do is put this in through the T and screw it on and then put this other one here to act as my gas post. And what I’m going to be able to do now is to send beer into this keg and regulate the pressure that it is under using the gas post. So let’s fill this guy up with some beer. So I’ve got a keg down here and this is the little lead to it. And I’m just going to hook this up into my bottle. And beer is now flowing in.

All right, that’s filled up now and it’s under pressure. So now I need a way to serve it. What I’ve got here is a little picnic tap assembly, and I just took a regular picnics happening, just cut off the end of this to make it super, super short. And then I can hook up onto this a beer post. So I’ve got a liquid post here, which I can just screw in and tighten up. And now I’ve got a little mini serving accessory. You could just use a regular picnic tap, but I quite liked making everything really, really small here.

So now it’s a case of, uh, you know, I I’ve taken this and I’m ready to serve it at a party. So I’ll just hook this up. There we go and get ready to pour some bee,r actually seems to be working quite well. Now, of course we are losing pressure in this bottle. I think if you, if you pressurize this enough, you can probably get pretty much a, the whole thing emptied out without having to top it back up with CO2. But yeah, just, just take a look at that. That’s a pretty nice poor, and it’s served straight from a soda bottle.

Now to balance the sweetness of this beer, we do need to bump up the bitterness a little bit. So there’s only one hop addition in this beer and that is fuggles. And we’re going to add enough fuggles to get to 34 IBU, which in a five gallon batch is two bags of fuggles. So yeah, these go in at the start of the boil.

Now the lactose goes in with 15 minutes left in the boil. If you bring a five gallon batch, you’ll need about one pound of lactose and this can go straight in it doesn’t need to go in the hotp filter. We want this just to dissolve into the beer.

Yeast for this beer I’m using Wyesast 1187 that’s Ringwood ale. I’m going to admit that at 68 Fahrenheit or 20 Celsius. And original gravity came in at 10 54. So on the money, I got to tell you pretty excited to try this beer.

It’s time to try this milk stout. And I have brought along Oliver’s as my volunteer. Yep. So Oliver, the first thing we do is always look at the visuals with our drinks and my milk stout is not quite looking at the same as your milk stout.

Mine looks a lot lighter than yours.

Have you any idea what we could do about this? What do you think? Chocolate syrup, chocolates? Well, I just happened to have some chocolate syrup here, so let’s stick that in. You tell me when I’ve put enough in, um, more, more, okay. Okay. Now a lot of it did tell me that we should keep this brand less. Right. Cause they’re not sponsoring us. So this is generic chocolate syrup. Yeah. See if we can give it a stir and make it look like my drinking thing.

Okay. So we’ve got milk stout, right? So let’s have a look at, well, let’s have a smell of the aroma next. See what we think about this… Milky and chocolaty. That sounds like a winner to me. That’s for my one getting a little bit of sweetness in the aroma. Not, not too much. Um, and also a little bit of the roasty as well. Oh, you got lactose? Yeah. I’m not really smelling the lactose in my beer, but it does have like taste too. Yeah. Okay. Well we need to put this to the test. So let’s give this a taste.

Now this one, this one is a little bit sweet, a little bit Milky, but not overly sweet. I was quite concerned that you can overdo milk stout and it just becomes a bit of a sickly mess. But this is a real nice balance I think of the roastieness of, of the beer, but also that, that lactose or that sweet, just sort of more in the aftertaste. It makes it very pleasant.

And he just sat there thinking I’m just going to drink more of the sugary milk. Right? What the hell is he talking about? Now, let’s just have a quick sniff only of each other’s beverage. Oh yeah. Your smells like straight up chocolate. Does that smell like regular beer to you? Or does it sound like? No, of course not. You’ve never smelled beer before, even though there’s beer on this house every week. Yeah, yeah. That’s right. He can’t tell the smell of brewing. I keep telling you it smells like cereal. Nope.

All right. Well that is it. I’m actually very pleased at how this has turned out and we are going to continue on in the stout theme. Um, and even, you know, milk is something you might have for breakfast, right? This next beer is also something you might have for breakfast. But for now, Oliver, I appreciate you doing this tasting with me and cheers.

Okay. Can I recommend this, this channel called the Homebrew challenge?

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.