Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout (500ml, 4.5% ABV)
I have to confess, the idea of a factory producing beer goes against my idea of what a small brewery should be doing. Perhaps the Bristol Beer Factory were thinking less ‘commercial beverage giant’ and more ‘Willy Wonka’. Their Milk Stout would certainly seem to suggest it.
Rather than slopping actual milk into their milk stouts, brewers use lactose, a non-fermentable sugar that can’t be attacked by yeast and turned into alcohol during the brewing process. Instead it adds a milky sweetness to the beer.
If stout is a bit like espresso, with the roasted barley being the equivalent of the coffee beans, perhaps milk stout is more like a latte. And perhaps I’m getting carried away with my analogies.
There’s a lot of fizz when you pour this one, but the bubbles dissipate rapidly
leaving a fairly still pint, in contrast to Guinness’s foamy cappuccino. It’s also pretty hard to see the sediment, given how dark the beer is. (Later I discover that it’s done a pretty good job of sticking to the bottom of the bottle.)
It smells like a stout all right – roasty, treacly even. At the edge of my pint glass I can make out a hint of red to offset the relentless ‘none more black’ colour.
The lactose has done nothing to hide the fact that this is a stout. It’s rich and full bodied, with hints of coffee and chocolate. There’s an unctuous, syrupy feel on the tongue and a sweetness in the aftertaste.
Being a big fan of stout in general, it would be easy to think that mucking about with the classic recipe could only result in a compromise. But no, the balance between bitter and sweet is just right. No compromise – just an enormously quaffable bottle of beer.
By Richard Salsbury