Milk Me!

by Jim Lundstrom

A pal and I decided to test the waters for a series of beer tastings at the new community center in the village where we both live by holding a Valentine’s day dark beer tasting that we dubbed “Heart of Darkness,” a celebration of dark beers. 

The title was my idea, and I marketed us as the Kurtz and Marlow of beer tasting in Door County, which I thought was both funny and obscure. 

We pulled it off, and the folks who showed up enjoyed our idea of pouring dark, darker and darkest beers on the manufactured holiday that is meant to be light hearted, or, if not light hearted, meant to be true hearted.

Ta da, we present the heart of darkness instead.

I’m so easily amused.

But I’m also easily distracted, so we could do red-colored beers next Valentine’s Day.

But there were some leftovers from the Heart of Darkness, and I am here to tell you about another great Southern Tier beer – 2X Stout, an imperial milk stout. Yum!

I love the boldness of the brewery in doing a double milk stout, but, at the same time, I wonder if this is one of those rare beer styles that should be left alone. Can you intensify a milk stout and retain the silkiness for which it is reknowned?

Milk stout as a style of beer is a mere 112 years old, first appearing in 1907. Mackeson Milk Stout was the first ale made with lactose, a sugar in milk that is not fermentable. It was originally marketed as helpful to nursing mothers, with a long-lasting ad campaign that touted “looks good, tastes good and, by golly, it does you good.”

At some point the all-powerful dairy industry forced Mackeson to drop the word “milk” in its title, just as they are trying to do here with nut and soy milks and cheese. I think that’s just fine. Milk sucks!

But why would a brewer add a non-fermentable element to a beer?

As well as adding body, lactose softens the delivery of the dark malts in the dark beers where it is used. I suspect that I could be called on this one, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a light-colored beer that included lactose (but even as I write this I think I am wrong…).

Anyway, let’s forget about the style for a moment. Let’s just look at the beer.

Well, it’s Southern Tier. They never let me down.

It’s a beautiful black beer, with a teasingly poignant tan head.

And the taste?

Rich, deep darkness. A silky cup of coffee infused with the darkest of chocolate. 

Exquisite! Each sip is exhilarating. Euphoric, even. Dare I say orgiastic?

With the exotic richness of this beer, I have to believe there is a god or goddess who occasionally deigns to bestow on us miserable human beings an example of their divinity,  and, voila,  2X Stout.

OK, forget divine intervention. The truth is that the folks at Southern Tier make heavenly beer.

Amen!