Lancaster Milk Stout

Review Date 5/11/2006  By John Staradumsky


As everybody knows, Lancaster, Pennsylvania is Amish country. But there’s more to these Pennsylvania Dutch environs than horse drawn buggies and shoo-fly pie. There is, of course, beer, brewed locally by the Lancaster Brewing Company. Renowned by beer geeks far and wide (at least the ones I know), Lancaster makes several very interesting beers, some of which are sold in bottles, some which you can only on draft at the brewery.

But if you were to play a word association game with a learned beer geek and mention the words, “Lancaster Brewing Company”, chances are his or her response would be “Milk Stout”. That’s because Lancaster Milk Stout is a rare example of a style that is little known in the United States.

Milk stouts (sometimes called cream stouts or sweet stouts) aren’t actually made with milk, mind you. But they are brewed with lactose, a sugar derived from milk and one that can’t be digested by yeast during the fermentation process. As a result, the finished beer is decidedly on the sweet side.

Lancaster’s version takes a poke at the dairy allusion of the style by featuring a cow upon the label. They also make it clear that the beer is “not pasteurized”, and in fact like milk some beers actually are. Their Milk stout uses two-row barley malt with chocolate, black, caramel, and roasted barley thrown in for good measure.

This is not a heavily hopped beer, weighing in at only 22 IBUs. But it doesn’t need to be, since sweetness is a virtue here and the roasted barley will actually balance some of that off anyway, imparting an astringent, almost burnt bitterness that can replace that which hops would otherwise provide. There are hops here, though, of the Styrian Golding and Cascade varieties.

Lancaster Milk Stout pours to a jet black color with a creamy tan head formation and a sweet dark malt nose that is heavily laden with licorice notes. The licorice becomes much more apparent in the palate, which is coffeeish, chocolaty, and very roasty with just a hint of raisiny fruit and a touch of butter.

What makes the style unique is the sweetness imparted by the milk sugars, and you definitely get that here. It is balanced though in the finish by the intense roasty notes and even a gentle sourness. All of these flavors combine to make this a very complex beer indeed.

As such, it’s a perfect match for a plate of fried oysters or with dessert, perhaps with the aforementioned shoo-fly pie? Either way, don’t miss out on this rare and wonderful treat.

Glad I tried it?  T

Would I rebuy it??


*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.

(B)=Bottled, Canned