Once marketed as a nutritious brew for nursing mothers, the milk stout beer style has a long history ranging back to the late 19th century.
Now making a resurgence in popularity, brewers are concocting their own spins on the classic lactose-infused beer. Cellarmaker Brewing of San Francisco recently released a double milk stout brewed with cacao nibs and vanilla beans; Belching Beaver Brewing of San Diego has a peanut butter milk stout; and the newest addition to the genre is Stone Brewing’s Coffee Milk Stout.
Unlike the typical alcohol heavy stout, Stone’s Coffee Milk Stout is a smoother take on the sweet beer, clocking in at 4.2 percent alcohol and 40 IBUs. Creamy and light while maintaing the traditional stout body, it takes more of the drinkable aspects from both coffee and stouts, while smoothing both out with milk sugar.
Brian Gallagher, assistant brewery trainer at Stone Brewing, is the mastermind behind their Coffee Milk Stout. Admittedly not a coffee drinker, Gallagher developed and refined the beer’s recipe after aiming for a balanced beer that blended the best tastes of the coffee and stout genres together.
We had the opportunity to ask Gallagher about his Coffee Milk Stout recipe; how he developed, refined, and described the beer.
On the inclusion of coffee to a milk stout:
“For this beer we used an Italian coffee from San Diego-based roaster Ryan Bros Coffee. We’ve worked with them on several beers in the last few years, and they did a great job on the coffee for this brew. When we were brewing Stone Coffee Milk Stout, the cooler we stored the beans was filled with a very potent, roasty aroma. It was wonderful! The bold flavor and aroma add a robust, roast flavor to the beer. It complements the chocolate malt, black malt, and roasted barley perfectly, without being overpowering or too subtle. The sweetness of the lactose (milk sugar) helps to round out those flavors and gives the beer more complexity.”
On developing the recipe:
“I think it’s a fantastic style for packing a lot of flavor into a smooth, easy drinking beer. After learning about the capabilities of brewer’s yeast while in Scotland for brewing school, I was intrigued by all the espresso stouts I tried and wanted to attempt to make my own. They were all great beers but I found them to be astringent or overloaded coffee bitterness. In class, I was learning about what types of sugars brewer’s yeast would ferment and which wouldn’t. When I found out that S. Cerevisiea couldn’t ferment lactose (milk sugar), a light bulb went off above my head. I started reading about lactose in beer, milk stouts and explored various recipes for inspiration.”
On blending the coffee flavors into the stout:
“Around [the] time I started developing this recipe, I learned how coffee is brewed with a French press. The French steep their coffee for a longer time and a lower temperature than most. By steeping the beans at a lower temperature, they are able to extract all of the flavor and body of a great cup of coffee without the bitterness and astringency. I tried to mimic this in a beer by adding coffee to the mash. Most brewers, when making a coffee beer, will add the beans to the whirlpool (post boil) or will even do a long cold steep on the finished beer (post fermentation). By using this new approach, I was able to extract all of the rich, roasty flavor and body minus the bitterness.”
On describing the finished product:
“When we first brewed it at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station we called it “After Dinner Stout,” because the beer mimics coffee you would drink after a big meal and the evening is unwinding. It is a complex beer showcasing a combination of roasted coffee and chocolate flavors with just a hint of sweetness to take off the bitter edge. Overall, it is a big-bodied, flavorful beer that won’t leave you wobbling when you stand up.”