In times past, when brewing practices were not as fine-tuned as now, some people were known to add certain sweeteners to their beer. In England in the time of porters and stouts it was common to add sugar and in the late 19th century someone came up with the idea of a milk beer made from whey, lactose and hops.
In 1907 Mackeson Brewery in Kent released a milk stout made with lactose. The style has since been seen as having a restorative effect and was a favourite drink of Ena Sharples, late of Coronation Street, and also, apparently, pregnant women.
Lactose is unfermentable so some of the goodness of milk does end up in the finished product but most is straight carbohydrates with perhaps some trace elements.
To fit in with their health drink identity most traditional milk stouts are low in alcohol, between 2 per cent and 4 per cent abv.
Cassels and Sons Brewery, in Woolston, make a cask-conditioned milk stout. At 5.8 per cent abv it is stronger than a traditional version but in the 21st century we drink beer more for pleasure than health.
Cassels’ beer is made with an Irish ale yeast, has six different types of malted barley and uses Fuggles hops. Lactose is added to the kettle and the sweetness lasts all the way to the glass. After fermentation the beer is racked into 40-litre stainless firkins where the traditional cask conditioning takes place at around 10 degrees Celsius. After a few weeks the firkin is tapped and it is served via handpump at their bar, The Brewery, in Garlands Rd.
The Brewery serves a range of cask-conditioned beers. These are great to try as they have a different mouth feel, are less carbonated and warmer. They also look great in the glass as the pint glasses are thick and straight sided and the milk stout is black with a tan tinge with no light getting through.
The generous head is a milk coffee colour and it hangs around. The nose is soft and sweet with a dry coloured malt edge. In the mouth it is noticeably warmer and has an amazing smooth texture that lasts throughout the palate. There is a sweet edge right from the start and it is a real grainy malt sweetness. The sweetness grows into the middle and it turns slightly fruity giving a slightly acidic edge. There are some wonderful distinct coffee, chocolate notes through the middle.
The finish is still sweet with a touch of bitterness at the end around the mouth. This very smooth, drinkable stout is gaining a large fan base.
At the 2011 BrewNZ awards it got a gold medal and best in class trophy in the Cask Conditioned Ale class.
Style: cask-conditioned milk stout
Made By: Cassels & Sons Brewery, Woolston
Alcohol content: 5.8% abv.
Price: $8 / pint
Available: The Brewery, Garlands Rd, and The Port Hole Bar, Lyttelton
Description: Sweet and smooth with hints of coffee, chocolate and a touch of berryfruit.
Source: Carl Hadler, The Press (Zest) 29/02/2012