What is a Milk Stout? All about Milk Stout in one guide!

When you have been browsing in your local hip beer store, you’ve probably stumbled upon this type of beer called a Milk stout and wondered what in the world is a milk stout? Read on as i will explain what a milk stout is in one guide!

So, What is a Milk Stout? Milk stout (Also called sweet stout or cream stout) is a dark thick ale with low carbonation brewed with milk sugar, also known as lactose. Lactose gives the beer a subtle sweetness, and if paired correctly with the beers hops and barley a fine complement to the bitter flavors you are used to.

If you want to read more about Milk Stouts please don’t stop reading as I will go through everything there is to know about Milk Stout in this blog post!

Read Also: Best Beer Recipe Kits

What Makes a Beer a Milk Stout?

In order for at beer to be classified as a Milk Stout it has to be brewed with lactose, a sugar derived from milk. Milk Stout are dark, thick ales with low carbonation

They generally have notes of coffee, and chocolate. Milk Stout are not extremely sweet, but have the subtle sweetness of whole milk.

The ABV of a Milk Stout is ranging between 3.2%-6.3%, however there are some exceptions of more experimental type Milk Stouts such as the Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout with a ABV of 10%.


Milk Stout is a subcategory of the more dominant stout, which is a very popular beer around the world.

You can read more about stouts, and the difference between porters and stouts here: What Is The Difference Between A Porter And A Stout?

What Does a Milk Stout Taste Like?

Milk Stouts are sweeter than dry stouts, and usually sweeter, than Oatmeal Stouts. 

The dark roasted grains gives the beer the dark color and the stout-like flavor and aroma of chocolate, coffee and caramel, while the lactose gives the beer a balancing sweetness, and it finishes off with a moderate hop bitterness. The sweetness can range from moderate to high.

I can recommend using Milk Stouts for American barbecue, mainly beef, as well as desserts because of the sweetness and the mouthfeel of the beer. It also goes well with cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, Aged Cheddar, Goat Cheese and Swiss.

How to Brew your own Milk Stout?

When brewing your own Milk Stout you would want to use roasted malt to create the chocolate, caramel like flavors, but be careful -you do not want to make your beer very bitter-.

TIP:  always add twice as much chocolate malt as your roasted barley.

As for the lactose in this milk stout, you would want to add between 5%-13% lactose, whereas 5% is more for nuance, and 13% is for the extreme, but as every other home brewer, the experimental part of the hobby is mainly the fun stuff.

You want to add your lactose at the later stages of the boil. 

What is the origin of Milk Stout?

It all starts in England, the home of the porter and stout. Ales were available at the time, but stout still reigned supreme. Due to the brewers newly found understanding of microbiology and fermentation it gave a rise to the more fresh, hoppy and sweeter ales that the hard workers in England found more refreshing.

There were also mild porter and stout, but they were going stale very quick. This lead to the question whether it is possible to keep the freshness of a mild stout in the beer forever, and still remain alive and well in the cask?

Mild porters and stouts were seen as nutritional to the laboring people of England, which were the majority of beer drinkers at the time. 

The idea of brewing a beer containing lactose and whey was proposed in 1875 by John Henry Johnson of Lincoln’s Field Inn.

Mr. Johnson obtained a patent for this type of beer, but unfortunately he never saw his dream realized, but his voice were heard. In 1907 the first commercialized Milk Stout was brewed and later shipped in 1910 by the brewer, Mackeson of Hythe, Kent. He claimed that “each pint contains the energizing carbohydrates as ten ounces of dairy milk”.

Mackeson later licensed other breweries and within a couple of years more and more Milk Stouts started to appear. In 1929, Mackesons were bought by Whitbread and with that Mackeson’s Milk Stout

7 Milk Stouts To Try

If you are interested to taste some Milk Stouts on your own then we have found a list of seven Milk Stouts to try:

#1 Moo-Hoo chocolate Milk Stout by Terrapin Beer Co.

Naming this beer must’ve been quite easy, since milk chocolate and roast coffee flavours that turn mildly bitter is exactly what awaits for you with this milk stout from Terrapin Beer Co. Take your time with this one!

#2 Xocoveza by Stone Brewing

This beer is basically a “Mexican hot chocolate” in a beer form. It’s brewed with coffee, cocoa, spices and pasila chile peppers. There is a lot going on in this beer. From layers of baking spice to a noticeable patina of pepper-derived heat. This beer can make any winter night a little bit warmer.

#3 Milk Stout by Lancaster Brewing Co.

“America’s original craft milk stout” as it has been touted by Lancaster Brewing. This is as creamy and smooth as you would expect from anything that has milk in its name. Beautiful dark-mocha color, and it is in the sweeter end of the milk stouts, but it’s delicious.

#4 Madagascar by 4 Hands Brewing Co.

From 4 Hands Brewing we have this Imperial Milk Stout that is released each January. This beer is aged in bourbon barrels and is named after the Madagascan vanilla beans they add during the brewing process. An unconventional, but memorable milk stout, that tastes like vanilla, chocolate, and liquorice hits of bourbon due to the aging in barrels.

#5 Cream Stout by Samuel Adams / Boston Beer Co.

A dryer milk stout than some of the more sweeter beers there’s on this list. If you need a beer with little less body and alcohol, but with the same chocolate, toffee and coffee goodness of them all, this milk stout from Sam Adams is for you

#6 Milk Stout Nitro by Left Hand Brewing Company

Chocolate, brown sugar and coffee notes highlight this beer from Left Hand Brewing Company. This beer is best served when it’s allowed to warm up a few degrees, this is where its full flavor and complexity emerges.

#7 Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout by The Duck

With notes of black coffee and caramel, that doesn’t overpower the sweet chocolate and malty burntness, while being rich, smooth and creamy – this beer from Duck-Rabbit has everything a satisfying milk stout needs to have.

There you go. Seven amazing examples of milk stouts that you should try out!

Is there Milk, in a Milk Stout?

Do not replace your morning ritual of having as glass of milk with a Milk Stout. The beer has all the good sweetness of milk, but without any of the good stuff found in milk.

When the beer was mass produced in the start of 1900s it was marketed as being healthy. The palette of the English people were changing and people lost their interest in the “stale” ale and therefore opted for the more “fresh” and mild beer. Here is where the lactose part comes into play, which is the sugar found in milk. 

What effect does lactose have on beer?

Lactose is different from your everyday sugar crystals you have on your kitchen counter. 

Lactose is produced from whey, which is a byproduct from cheese making and casein production by crystallizing the over saturated solution of the whey concentrate.

The traditional yeast used in brewing beer have a hard time digesting lactose, so during the fermentation process the lactose is left untouched and therefore the beer has a sweeter note.

However, it is not like the yeast used for stout production simply can’t break down lactose. The yeast simply use the sugar that is less likely to resist. The ale yeast easily breaks down sugars like fructose and glucose, while lactose is made out of sugar molecules glucose and galactose. Galactose is less sweet that glucose and fructose.

In the production of Milk Stout the lactose is therefore added by the end of the boiling process to give the beer a slight sweetness.

Can you drink Milk Stout if you are lactose intolerant?

For the complete intolerant friends you have, your answer should be yes. 

However, the lactose percentage amounts to a very small fraction of what you find in a glass of milk, so drinking a Milk Stout is generally not a huge problem for the lactose intolerant.

Milk Stout – healthy?

Well, despite the claims of the old English brewers suggesting that Milk Stout can help nursing mothers and so on, they’re not actually healthy. 

Milk Stouts keep on the tastiness from the lactose, but all the good healthy stuff there’s in milk is left behind, such as thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin b12.

Different Styles of Stout Beer

The first thing that comes to mind when people are talking about stout beer is the good old Irish Guinness. The stout world is so much more than Guinness.

Dry Stout, Irish Stout or Irish Dry Stout

This style is where the famous Guinness is located. It is completely black, with a thick, creamy long lasting head atop of it. It smells like coffee, barley and chocolate. The flavor is generous with a tiny bit of acidity coming through.

Examples of dry stout are:

  • Guinness Stout
  • Murphy’s Stout
  • Beamish Stout

Sweet Stout, Milk Stout, Cream Stout

I guess you know what there is to now about Milk stouts at this point. Let me catch up real quick. The same richness of a dry stout but sweeter due to lactose being added in the later stages of brewing. Lactose can’t be processed by beer yeast, so the sweetness stays in the beer.

Examples of sweet stout/milk stout/cream stout are:

  • Mackeson’s XXX Stout
  • Watney’s Cream Stout

Oatmeal Stout

The addition of oatmeal added during the brewing process gives this stout an amazingly long lasting head and a very smooth, silky mouthfeel. Oatmeal stout is slight sweeter than a dry Irish stout, but not so sweet that it could be called a milk stout. A perfect stout for the first timer

Examples of oatmeal stouts are:

  • Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
  • Young’s Oatmeal Stout

Foreign Extra Stout, Tropical Stout or Extra Stout

The names of these stouts aren’t really as foreign or tropical as they might sound like, but just more “extra”. It was brewed to withstand the long travels, much in the same way as an India Pale Ale. These stouts are designed with more of everything (Hence the extra) so it could last a long journey. More broad flavors and generally a higher ABV

Examples of extra stout are:

  • Lion Stout
  • Guinness Extra Stout (bottled)
  • Coopers Best Extra Stout

American Stout

When U.S. brewers began brewing stouts they did what they do best and add their own twists to the beers. In many ways, American Stout is much the as the foreign extra stout, since the style was designed for export. The american stout has more roasted malt presence with a sharper acidic coffee impression.

Examples of American Stout are:

  • Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout
  • Rogue Shakespeare

Russian Imperial Stout

Last but not least, we have the Russian Imperial Stout. This stout is known for its intensity and aromas such as coffee, fruit, dark chocolate, burnt grain and currant. They are typically the stouts with the highest ABV

Examples of Russian Imperial Stout are:

  • Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout
  • North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout
  • Dogfish Head World Wide Stout

Is There Any Vegan Friendly Beer?

After all of this talk about milk stouts, some of you out there might be vegans and you have probably wondered about what types of beer are actually vegan-friendly?

Here a list of ten vegan friendly beer that even skeptics will love.

#1 Ninkasi Brewing Company

Ninkasi beer is packed with flavor, yet balanced. If you are new to Ninkasi, their Total Domination IPA is highly recommended – Their most popular beer the company has to offer

While almost all of Ninkasi’s beer are vegan, they released a coffee milk stout that contains milk fat. This is the only Ninkasi beer that isn’t considered vegan.

#2 Flying Dog Brewery

The brewery who had Hunter S. Thompson to help them get a beer label. They brew flavorful and experimental beers, although this brewery mainly is vegan, they have three beers which are non-vegan. You can verify before check-out on the site if the beer is vegan or not.

#3 Pilsner Urquell

Who would’ve thought that this world renowned beer is vegan friendly? This pilsner is reminiscent of the first beer in your life

#4 Stella Artois

This Belgian lager was originally brewed for holidays, but the crisp and clean finish made it a hugely popular beer in Europe and Australia. Now grab a cold one with the boys, as they would say down-under.

#5 Revolution Brewing

A modern twist to the classic pilsner. This beer is spiced with fresh ground coriander and orange zest. With 5.0% it has a silky smooth finish, which is surprising for such a strong flavored beer. Their Mad Cow Milk Stout is the only beer in the brewery that isn’t considered vegan

#6 Ballast Point

The Commodore from Ballast point is a medium-bodied stout with notes of coffee and chocolate. A citrus addition provide an airy aroma to this stout.

#7 Back Forty Beer Company

Southern inspired beers at its best. One of their most popular beers, Naked Pig, is a light pale ale with 6% ABV. Made from German malts that gives the beer a crisp flavorful taste for all the vegan beer drinkers out there.

#8 Harpoon Brewery

Harpoon Brewery has a beer called UFO Pumpkin brew and it is one of the best pumpkin ales out there. It has an distinctive flavor that comes the closest to drinking a pumpkin pie.

They also have a Oyster Beer which is considered non-vegan, but besides that it is vegan heaven

#9 Terrapin

Terrapin comes in at number 9. Their Rye Pale Ale is available all year round. This brew acquires its signature taste by using an exact amount of rye and five varieties of hops and different malts to create a bold flavor.

#10 Trader Joe’s brand beer

TJ has a alot to offer when it comes to vegan beer. Their popular European lagers and pale ales especially. TJ is really good if you are on a budget, but still need your craft beer.

Read Also: What Is The Best Home Brewing Kit For Beginners?

About HomeBrewAdvice

Hello, my name is Simon. Together with a group of writers I write about brewing beer and making wine. We all share a passion for the great things in life, such as making stuff from scratch.

The business of HomeBrewAdvice is to bring you great information, stories and product reviews from brewing at home, and making wine

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