Left Hand Brewing
This is a bit of a cheat, because I’m pretty sure I’ve reviewed a version of this beer before — under the name “Nitro.” I thought that was what Left Hand called their nitro Milk Stout, but my friendly neighborhood liquor store guys steered me straight today. The milk stout is called “Milk Stout,” and they sell a VERSION of it on nitro. The nitro version is in a completely different style of label, with only the word “Nitro” obvious on it. Confused? Me too, but the nitro version is good so let’s drink.
The Brewer’s Pitch:
Left Hand tells us that “milk sugar in your stout is like cream in your coffee.” One might assume that it would be like SUGAR in your coffee, but I’m not the advertising expert. A strong basis of roasted malt with strong coffee flavors are the foundation of the beer, with lactose giving it a creamy texture and adding sweet notes to make a thoroughly enjoyable, easy to drink beer. Full bodied and strong but with limited bitterness, it challenges preconceived notions about what exactly defines an American stout.
Milk Stout is as dark as regular milk is white, with a thin but solid caramel brown head. The nose is darkly sweet like burnt sugar and French-press coffee. The beer itself is quite smooth and full on the tongue without being extremely heavy. There’s a strong coffee flavor — something with a bit of nuttiness or even cinnamon to it. The lactose adds smooth sweetness that blunts the bitter edges of the coffee. This allows the roast flavor to slowly emerge and bring a dark, almost charred element to counterbalance the more acrid and sharper flavor of the coffee. The aftertaste of the beer is remarkably similar to the aftertaste of coffee with milk and sugar, lingering pleasantly without feeling stale or too bitter.
The whole time I was drinking this I was comparing it in my mind to the nitro version, which I prefer. Considering they are the same beer at their hearts the two are remarkably different — putting Milk Stout on nitro makes it feel much fluffier and creamier on the tongue and highlights the milky and chocolatey elements. In its natural form it has much more coffee and pure lactose sweetness. While I prefer the former, they’re both quite good — and your mileage between the two may vary based on your own beer preferences. No matter which version you’re getting a tasty stout that brings the full, hearty elements of a stout without the super-aggressive roast or bitterness that many stouts have. A pleasant, easy drink that isn’t just a watery light beer.
The Bottom Line:
Many breweries give their beers overly cute names that I feel silly writing about. Left hand has gone the other way with this one… does it still count as craft beer if the name isn’t witty?