Nick Carr on April 18, 2017 1 Comment History of Sweet Stouts If you like your beer sweet, with little bitterness, and maybe some subtle (or not so subtle) hints of coffee and chocolate, you’ll find a perfect companion in a sweet stout. Also called a “milk” or “cream” stout, this beer is a traditional English style. It is often, but not always brewed with a portion of lactose (milk sugar), which is unfermentable and creates a beer with more sweetness and a fuller, richer body. It can also be made without adding lactose. Less popular with commercial and homebrewers, this version is created by using a larger portion of caramel/crystal malts. Though both are sweet stouts, the sweetness is noticeably different between the two versions. Today’s style guidelines for Sweet Stouts hearken back to an earlier time in the 1800s, when milk was actually blended with darker beer in an effort to make milder more nutritious ales. The family of beers we know as stouts evolved out of the porter style, which got its start in the early 1700s, likely in response to the increasingly fashionable pale ales. However the word “stout” as a descriptor was already being used back in the 1600s. Brewers attached “stout” to their beer to signify greater strength, as in a “stout porter.” Stout became a distinct style sometime in the early 1800s. In the late 1800s, it became common practice to blend milk with both stouts and porters to make a libation the brewers could advertise as healthy and nutritious. They became popular among the English labor force as a midday pick-me-up. One of the earliest references to milk stout, and the use of lactose, comes in 1875 from a brewer named John Henry Johnson. He patented the idea of a beer made with barley, hops, whey, and lactose, but did not see his idea come to full fruition. However, other brewers adopted the idea and by the beginning of the 20th century such beer was being touted as a restorative treatment for anyone of poor health. Interestingly, it was also enthusiastically advertised as a nourishing tonic for nursing mothers. It was even prescribed by doctors up until the 1950s. The first modern commercial example was brewed in 1907 by the Mackeson Brewery located in Hythe, Kent. The original label displayed a milk can and stated: “Each pint contains the energising Carbo-Hydrates of 10ozs. pure dairy milk. Invigorating and Stimulating an Ideal Beverage for the Rheumatic, Invalids and all Workers.” (source) Some of their ads even claimed a recommendation from the medical profession. Later, in the 1950s the catch phrase “Looks good, tastes good and, by golly, it does you good” became their main advertising slogan. Other brewing companies used words like “nourishing,” “ideal tonic,” and “invigorating” on their labels. The Mackeson label is now owned by InBev. There are two forms of the stout being brewed today. One, a 4.9%, brewed in Trinidad and Tobago and offered through Carib Brewing as Mackeson Triple XXX Milk Stout; the other, brewed in England and called simply Mackeson Stout sports a lower and more traditional ABV of 3%. The claims of sweet stouts being nutritive dynamos were of course wholly unfounded because, though perhaps not known at the time, milk sugar by itself did not have the nutrition of whole milk. British authorities even passed a law in 1946 forbidding the use of “milk” in beer labeling because of the largely false perceptions it gave customers. There are no such restrictions outside of England, so “milk” adorns the labels of many a sweet stout here in America and in other parts of the world. Style Profile & Characteristics Often referred to as a Milk Stout, the guidelines for the Sweet Stout are set by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Committee. The below details are a summary of what a Sweet Stout should represent. Quick Characteristics Color Range: 30-40 SRM Original Gravity: 1.044-1.060 OG Final Gravity: 1.012-1.024 FG IBU Range: 20-40 ABV Range: 4.0-6.0% Appearance: Dark brown to opaque black with creamy tan head. Aroma: Cream-like malty sweetness with notes of coffee or chocolate. Low hoppy aromas. Low to medium fruity aromas. Small amount of diacetyl possible. Flavor: Dark roasted maltiness with possible notes of coffee or chocolate. Medium to high sweetness. Medium hoppy bitterness. Low to medium fruity esters. Low diacetyl. Sweet, balanced and dry finish. Mouthfeel: Low to medium carbonation. Full body, with high amounts of unfermented sugars. Serving & Storage Temperature: 48-50°F Shelf Life: 9+ Months Suggested Glass: Mug or Nonic Pint Glass Food Pairings: Anything chocolate. Great for making beer floats. Aged cheddear, swiss or brie. Game meats, roast, spicy BBQ. The BJCP classifies the Sweet Stout beer style under category number 16, “Dark British Beer” and it can be found in the guidelines as sub-category (16A). Other beer styles under this category include: Oatmeal Stout (16B), Tropical Stout (16C), and Foreign Extra Stout (16D). Appearance: Creamy head, brown to tan in color. Color of beer should be very dark brown to black. Possibly opaque, if not, clarity should be good. Aroma: Often has a cream-like sweetness accompanying a malt aroma that is slightly roasty with coffee and/or chocolate notes. Hop aroma, if present at all, should have floral and/or earthy qualities and remain low. Fruity aromas are common in the low to medium-high range. Small amounts of diacetyl are acceptable. Mouthfeel: Low to medium carbonation. Body ranges from moderately full to full; enhanced by the high amounts of unfermented sugars left behind in the finished beer. Taste: Dark roasted malt along with possible coffee and/or chocolate notes will be the most dominate flavors. The unfermented sugars create a medium to high sweetness, providing some balance to the roasty backbone. Hop bitterness is medium. Low to medium fruity esters is common. Low diacetyl is acceptable. Sweetness can last into the finish and aftertaste. Balance can either be quite sweet, or dryer, with more of a roasty quality. Pairing: Ok, we’ll start with dessert and work backwards on this one, because, well, dessert is this beer’s best friend. Anything with chocolate is likely to make your mouth sing when paired with the silky smooth whisperings of a sweet stout. Try fudge brownies, German chocolate cake, and pudding; or bake any of these using a sweet stout in place of other liquids. Another perfect marriage, build a beer float with vanilla, coffee, or chocolate ice cream. You’ll never look at floats the same. Sweet stouts pair well with cheeses that have a buttery or creamy taste. Try aged cheddars, Swiss, Brie, or Chevré. For the main course sweet stouts find fast friends in rich game meats such as venison, rabbit, wild duck with its buttery fat, or pheasant; even better, served with some sort of sweet rich sauce. More options are gravies, hardy soups, roasts, spicy barbeque, and spicy Mexican or Asian dishes. Storage & Serving: For best presentation and greatest appreciation, a Sweet Stout should be served at around 48-50°F in a nonic pint or glass mug. They are best stored at cellar temperatures away from light and can age for 9 months or more. *Reference: The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines Award-Winning Examples of the Style Chocolate Milk Stout from Boxing Bear Brewing Company (Albuquerque, NM) — Great American Beer Festival Winner, Gold, 2016; Silver, 2015; and World Beer Cup Winner, Gold, 2016. Available: Rotating. Milk Stout from Duck-Rabbit Brewing Company (Farmvill, NC) — Great American Beer Festival Winner, Silver, 2016. Available: Year Round. Good Mooed Milk Stout from Railtown Brewing Company (Dutton, MI) — Great American Beer Festival Winner, Bronze, 2016. Available: Rotating. Buried At Sea from Galway Bay Brewing Company (Galway, Ireland) — World Beer Cup Winner, Silver, 2016. Available: Rotating. Utter Love from Beachwood BBQ and Brewery (Long Beach, CA) — World Beer Cup Winner, Bronze, 2016. Available: Rotating. West O CocO from West O Brewing Company (West Okoboji, IA) — Great American Beer Festival Winner, Silver, 2016. Available: Year Round. The Husstler from Huss Brewing Company (Tempe, AZ) — Great American Beer Cup Winner, Bronze, 2015. Available: Year Round. L’exploté from Brasseurs du Monde (Sainte-Hyacinthe, QC, Canada) — World Beer Cup Winner, Gold, 2014. Available: Year Round. Outlaw Milk Stout from Great Basin Brewing Company (Reno, NV) — World Beer Cup Winner, Silver, 2014. Available: Year Round. Cream Stout from Redwood Brewing Company (Arcata, CA) — World Beer Cup Winner, Bronze, 2014. Available: Rotating. A Few Widely Available Sweet Stouts Left Hand Milk Stout from Left Hand Brewing Company Stone Coffee Milk Stout from Stone Brewing Company Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout from Odell Brewing Company Sam Adams Cream Stout from The Boston Beer Company Young’s Double Chocolate Stout from Wells & Young’s Ltd. How to Brew a Sweet Stout Recipe If you have an intolerance to lactose you obviously want to stay away from any beer with lactose in it. But don’t be disheartened my friend, for a different, but perfectly acceptable sweet stout can be had by using a larger portion of caramel/crystal malt. You don’t even need lactose to make a winning recipe, both the National Homebrewer Championship second round sweet stout recipes Ray Daniels references in Designing Great Beers, have neither lactose nor any other added sugar. Shop for Sweet & Milk Stout Recipe Kits on Amazon Grain Bill: Because this is a traditionally English style, between 60% and 80% of the grain bill will be British pale malt. One good option is Crisp’s pale ale malt. While you could make due with a domestic pale malt keep in mind that the rich malt character found in the best British beer comes from malt that is kilned slightly darker (2.5-3.5°L) than most domestic pale malt (1.5-2.5°L). It can be tempting to use the often cheaper domestic pale malt and try to get the same rich biscuit flavors by using some combination of specialty malts. Don’t. Stick with the real genuine article when possible, even if it does cost a little more. Specialty Malts Specialty malts are an important part of any sweet stout recipe. From these you’ll get the chocolate, coffee, roast; and even a little caramel sweetness. Start with some 10 to 15 percent caramel/crystal malt. Remember, as you go up in Lovibond rating crystal malts become less sweet and more nutty and roasty. Generally you’d use the mid and upper color ranges for a stout. Again, if you can, try to get British crystal malt. Darker, highly kilned, specialty malts such as dark or pale chocolate, British black malt, and roasted barley usually combine to make up about 10% , or maybe slightly more, of the grain bill. Roast barley is almost always included. Black malt when used usually makes up 4% or less. And, generally, if using chocolate malt it will make up a bigger percentage than the roast barley. Wheat, oats, or flaked barley can also have a place in a sweet stout recipe, though uncommon and only in small quantities. With both stouts and porters it is easy to get a little specialty malt crazy. It’s important to remember that the best recipes are, in most cases, the simpler ones. Adding ten different kinds of specialty malt to the same recipe is likely to confuse rather than deepen the character. It is a much better idea to stick to 3 or 4 specialty malts and experiment with changing these across several different batches. Extract Recipes If extract brewing, you should look for a malt extract made from British pale malt, such as those made by Muntons. There are also many extract kits out there; sweet stout kits (often using the “milk” or “cream” moniker in place of sweet), and other stout kits that could be modified to get a sweet stout. A quick note on ingredient kits, many times it is a little tricky to find out where their extract is coming from. I would assume domestic grain if it does not specifically say otherwise. If you do end up using domestic extract it’s a good idea to try and build some of that British richness back in with a partial mash using one or two slightly darker malts such as biscuit or Victory along with your chosen specialty malts. Most times the best way to use an ingredient kit is to brew them once exactly as specified. Then you have a baseline for any additions and experimentation. Always take good brewing/tasting notes. Maybe modify the kit in some way the next time you brew it, maybe build your own extract recipe. Fiddle and play. There are traditions to all styles, but they don’t always have to be adhered to, unless of course you’re brewing for competition. Getting The Sweet Into Your Sweet Stout: There are two ways to make a sweet stout. You can either rely wholly on your malt to produce the sweet character or you can add an adjunct sugar, which in most cases would be lactose (milk sugar). 1) Adding Lactose The easier of the two is adding lactose, which is where the name “milk” and “cream” stout come from. This way is a little more forgiving than relying only on the malt. When to add the lactose is up for some debate, and some experimentation will likely be in order to find out what works best for you. Brewers have added it with their first runnings, before the boil has even started; at the end of the boil; during fermentation; and even right before packaging. Adding it at any point during the boil sterilizes it and helps it dissolve. But adding it before packaging allows you to taste your finished beer, see how sweet it already is, and gives you a better idea of how much you need to add. Remember lactose is not a sugar yeast can use, so you don’t have to worry about exploding bottles. You can boil it with your bottling sugar to sterilize and help dissolve it. If kegging just boil it in some water and add it directly to your keg ahead of the beer. The amount used will depend on how sweet you want it, but Scott Christoffel, once head-brewer at Left Hand Brewing Company, recommends between 5 and 12 percent in this article written by Glenn BurnSilver for Brew Your Own, which roughly equates to 1/2 to 1 pound per 5 gallon batch. 2) Relying on Your Malts The trickier path to a sweet stout is using malt only. If you go this route you will have to get several things right; your amount of caramel/crystal malt because this is where your sweetness will come from (slightly higher percentage); your mash temperature (higher temperature, i.e. a less fermentable mash); and yeast selection (lower attenuating). Hops: This is a British style so you’ll be looking to use English hops. Fuggles, East Kent Goldings, Target, Challenger, Pilot, or any of several other varieties will work well. Only tradition keeps American hops from being used in this style. Many brewers have bucked that tradition, and some have even done well in competition. If you do use American hops some commonly used varieties include: Cascade, Nugget, and Cluster. You want enough bittering to balance the sweetness of the beer, while optionally leaving the scale tipped just slightly toward the sweet. A bitterness to starting gravity ratio (IBU/OG) in the range of 0.5 to about 0.7 is common. There should be little if any aroma or flavor, and to that end, late additions are almost never used in this style. The Mash: A simple single step infusion mash works just fine. Shoot for a saccharification temperature of between 152° and 156°F and hold until conversion has taken place, around 60 minutes. You can check for conversion by putting a couple drops of the mash, with as few solids as possible, in a small white boil. Add a couple drops of iodine to it and if it turns black, conversion is not complete. If it stays a reddish brown you have full conversion. A higher mash temperature range will leave more unfermentable sugar so you’ll want to be in the higher range if you have a low starting gravity, using a higher attenuating yeast, or perhaps when relying purely on the malt to make your stout sweet. The lower range is better used in the opposite of the above cases, and will make a more fermentable less sweet mash. Boil: A regular boil of 60 minutes works fine. Throw your bittering hops in as soon as it boils. If you’re adding lactose here, put it in at your preferred time. Some kettle finings, such as Irish moss, added 15-20 minutes before flameout doesn’t hurt anything and will help beer clarification. Yeast: Ideally, you’ll want to find an English yeast that has a lower attenuation, say below 75. Lower attenuation helps keep more of the malt sweetness intact. This is especially important if you are trying to brew a sweet stout without adding lactose. Wyeast — Whitbread Ale (1099) or Irish Ale (1084) White Labs — Irish Ale (WLP004) or British Ale (WLP005) Dry Yeast — Fementis Safale S-04 or Danstar Nottingham Ale Fermentation: Once the 60 minutes are up, cool your wort, quick as you can, down to pitching temperature and aerate well. Follow your yeast guidelines and cast the appropriate amount of healthy yeast. Much of an English beer’s character is expressed through the fermentation. At lower temperatures yeasts will produce less esters and fusel alcohols, while letting the temperatures climb toward the other end of the yeast’s range will produce more esters and fusels. So, if you are looking for a cleaner less traditional character, keep the fermentation temperature right around 65°F for the duration; or use an American yeast, which tend to be cleaner than British strains. If going for the traditional British take, the esters and fusels should be noticeable, but not too intense. A middle-of-the-road temperature usually does the trick, somewhere between 67°F and 70°F. Once fermentation is complete, you can either rack your sweet stout to a secondary fermentor and let it condition for a few weeks, or go straight to packaging it. Aim for a carbonation of between 1.5 and 2 volumes. Cheers!