What Is Milk Stout And Does It Contain Dairy?

These days, it seems that there are increasingly bizarre flavors of beer, from crème brulee to coconut curry, which may or may not contain any form of its namesake flavor. When it comes to stouts, you also have a wide range of flavors, from oatmeal to oysters. And while oatmeal stouts are made with some amount of oats and oyster stouts are made with some part of oysters (either just the shell or the flesh itself, during the brewing process), chocolate beers don't always contain chocolate. So, it's entirely reasonable to wonder about milk stouts, and whether it contains any dairy milk, especially when there might be allergies or intolerances involved.

Also known as a cream stout or a sweet stout, a milk stout is a dark beer with a rich and creamy flavor and texture. It's often made with lactose, a type of milk sugar that doesn't get fermented by beer yeast, leading to a sweeter and smoother overall taste that helps provide balance to the often bitter flavors typical of stouts. Lactose is not milk, but it is an ingredient that is derived from milk. It can be added during different stages of the brewing process, including the boil or primary fermentation.

Milk stout's history and future

Milk stouts have been around since the late 1800s in England, and were initially marketed as being a nutritious drink, on account of the milk part of the name. However, since it only contained lactose, and not the nutritious proteins, vitamins, and fats from actual dairy milk, British authorities eventually passed a law that prohibited the use of milk in the name. This led many brewers to work around the law by calling their product a cream stout or some other name suggestive of milk.

While most milk stouts do contain some lactose, not all milk stouts do. Consumers who are lactose intolerant should always check the label or ask the bartender to see whether lactose is included as an ingredient. Different breweries also use different amounts of lactose, which can affect people with lactose intolerances differently, depending on their level of sensitivity. There is also a growing trend of using dairy milk alternatives to make milk stouts, such as almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, and coconut milk, which means even lactose-intolerant beer drinkers can enjoy milk stouts without discomfort.