Left-Handed Behavior

Friday, April 16, 2010

About 3 years ago, I tried and failed miserably at brewing a milk stout. By adding lactose, a milk-derived sugar, a beer gains a creamy feel and a residual sugary sweetness (lactose is unfermentable by beer yeast). On an especially roasty stout, the addition of lactose gives a coffee-and-cream impression that is just astounding when done right. This is what I failed to do!


That said, a brewery that has been quite successful at a milk stout is the Left Hand Brewing Company about 30 miles outside of Denver, CO, in the town of Longmont. I am generally quite happy with many of their selections, but my favorite one overall is their delicious Milk Stout. I don't think I'm alone in my enjoyment of their offering; they won the World Beer Cup in 2006 and 2008 for this delicious selection.

To the tasting.

Oh look! Another really dark beer in my fridge! Unsurprisingly, Left Hand Milk Stout pours a brown dark enough to be mistaken for black in my pint glass. Even in my basement's modest lighting, I saw lovely ruby-red highlights in the beer around the edges of the brown-black concoction. It was capped with a thick finger of creamy cappuccino foam. The beer as a whole could have been a glass of high-end latte as much as a fine beer. And as I drank, it left rivulets of lovely lace down the sides of my glass; sticky-sweet reminders of my too-quick progress through this pint!

So the beer looks, so the beer smells. The first aroma that hit my nose are coffee and cream. Left Hand gave me a big, bold roasted malt character topped with unmistakable sweet cream and chocolate. The sweetness didn't compete with the generous roasted character as much as cut it just enough to not be overwhelming. The aromas finished chocolaty and even just a little bready. But my nose can only play with beer for so long before my mouth wants a piece of the action (was that maybe a little dirty?).

While the roasted-coffee aromas played the dominant role on the nose, it's the cream and chocolate that play prominently on the taste. Beautiful sweet cream and chocolate malt play on top of the roasted coffee flavor like a cappuccino sprinkled with dark chocolate. Left Hand Milk Stout becomes a beery mocha latte; my tongue rejoices in its two favorite drinks becoming one! The stout finishes with hints of bready yeast and malts and a bitterness that comes from dark roasted malts more than from hops. I dare say that I didn't really detect much in the way of hops (there must be some in there somewhere!), but I didn't want them and I didn't miss them. The bitterness is like the kind you get from coffee; it comes from the roast and not some other foreign ingredient.

The silky, milky creaminess added a ton of body to this beer, making it borderline heavy, but without a heavy impression. Thick and creamy, not heavy and syrupy. The higher carbonation in this stout backs the body off just enough that this beer becomes easily sessionable without being too filling.

Everything in this beer just works right. Nothing seems out of balance and the shift from coffee aroma to creamy-sweet taste is pleasant enough that people hesitant to drink "dark beer" actually enjoy this one because it's not a huge challenge to the taste buds. Even novice beer drinkers are impressed with Left Hand Milk Stout's recognizable flavors and aromas. Pro drinkers (you know, everyone on this blog) love it for its complexity and adherence to a classic British style of beer so "nutritious" that it was historically given to nursing mothers. It has milk in it after all!

12 comments:

Bob 9:11 AM  

I am a pro-drinker? Wooo hoo.

Wait. Why did I get so sick a week ago when out for a wedding? Oh yeah, it was the shots.

"The bitterness is like the kind you get from coffee; it comes from the roast and not some other foreign ingredient."

Sounds like I will like this bad boy. I assume this one wasn't delivered to you via special delivery and is available in Mich?

Smitty 11:57 AM  

assume this one wasn't delivered to you via special delivery and is available in Mich?

Correct. Left Hand Milk Stout is widely available. Oades Big 10 has it in droves, Dusty's Taproom carries it and it pops up in restaurants around here from time to time.

Bob 12:15 PM  

droves:

Is taht a measure of beer volume? Like a pint?

Smitty 12:18 PM  

No, I mean the last time I was in there, they had a shitload of it.

Bob 12:58 PM  

That was a joke.

Smitty 12:59 PM  

Yeah. I get it. Now.

steves 9:23 PM  

Had this the other night at Greg's house and really liked it.

Bob 10:25 PM  

Stopped at Oadies and bought a couple singles. Not bad. I will have it again.

Monk-in-Training 12:14 PM  

Thought you guys would like this quote from a post Heretics and Their Beers:

“For the time will come when they will not endure soundly crafted beer; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves imitations, having itching mouths;
And they shall turn away their tongues from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables, light beers and illusions.”

Smitty 12:55 PM  

Monk:

I am printing and framing that quote. I love it.

Mrs. Smitty 10:58 AM  

Old Chicago has this on tap right now too as their featured beer from Left Hand.

George 12:22 PM  

Great write-up of a great beer, Smitty.

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