Ya Momma’s Milk Stout (all-grain)

An unseasonable stout is always great. In the summer time, you get so caught up in hefeweizens, wits, pilsners, pale ales… Sure, they all complement the season well, but all of a sudden you feel like you’ve been drinking the same beer all summer!  I needed a break.  Sipping on a nice roasty chocolately stout or porter after a long stretch of bright colorful summer beers just makes you say to yourself, “ah, hello old friend.” It’s 101 degrees outside today. What better to brew than a refreshing, smooth, delicious milk stout?

  • 7.5 lb US 2-row pale malt
  • 0.75 lb Munich malt (briess)
  • 0.75 lb Crystal 80L
  • 0.63 lb Flaked Barley
  • 0.5 lb Flaked Oats
  • 1 lb Chocolate malt
  • 0.75 Roasted Barley
  • 1 lb Lactose (milk sugar, 18 min)
  • 1 oz Cascade hops (60 min, 6% aa)
  • 0.5 UK Kent Goldings hops (10 min, 5% aa)
  • WYeast 1056 American Ale

The last all-grain stout I did was pretty astringent (that dry, pucker-y sensation) which I’m 99% sure was from mashing the roasted grains in with everything else for the full hour.  Thinking about the extract dry stout I did before that, that same dryness probably came from steeping the roasted grains for longer than normal; in both cases, those dark grains start extracting tannins from the grain husks in addition to the sweet sugars, making for a pretty harsh, dry mouthfeel.  Not a great sensation in most beers.  The analogy a lot of other brewers give is this: think about drinking tea that you’ve let the tea bag steep for way too long in the hot water.  Roasted grains are also very acidic, so, if you care about water chemistry (which I don’t at the moment) this can affect the pH of your mash and affect starch conversion. That would be bad.  So, this time I’m not even mashing the roasted stuff – just steeping it on the side for 30 minutes in some 150 degree water, and combining it with the rest of the mash runnings afterwards. Hopefully this works!

The other relevant nugget in this recipe is the lactose.  Lactose is milk sugar that is not fermentable by brewer’s yeast, so it’ll just add some nice creamy sweetness and body to the final beer.  Hence the name “milk” stout.  I don’t know much about the history of the style, but maybe in the past they added actual milk or cream – who knows. Most of the recipes I perused contained lactose in varying quantities, but a pound was pretty much the average.  I’ve only ever used it once in beer, and yep, it gives the beer a nice desert-like sweetness which is a nice touch sometimes.

BEGIN BEER-NERD INFO // Mash in all non-roasted grains w/ 13.5 qt water @ 168F, to settle at 154 F (1.33 qt/lb, 10.13 lb grain total). On the side, steep the roasted grains (in grain bag) in a pot of 2.5 qt water @ 150F for 30 min. Use 1 qt of your sparge water (~4 gal total @ 168) to gently rinse the grain bag and get the last bit of juice out into the side pot.  After batch sparging the mash, combine in the roasted grain liquid to get at total of around 6.2 gal pre-boil wort, 1.04 gravity. Boil 75 minutes, add hops and lactose, resulting with 4.5 gal 1.064 wort. Chill to 85F and pitch a 2 quart starter of yeast. // END BEER-NERD INFO

The side-pot-of-roasted-grain method seemed to work pretty well. I was initially worried that I didn’t get enough out of the grains to yield a roasty enough stout, but the boil smelled very bold and stout-ish which seemed promising.  Everything else went smooth and the airlock was showing activity after just 2 hours. Can’t wait for this summer stout to be finished!

Right afterwards I took some of the mashed grains (non-roasted) and made some more spent-grain bread. This time I used some of the unfermented stout wort (without the lactose) instead of the cup of milk, hoping to give it some more beer-like qualities.

UPDATE: After 3 days in the primary, this thing had fermented like a machine and looked idle (1 blurb every 1:30 or so) so I racked to a secondary. The gravity read 1.022, which is right on the money based on what this recipe stated. The taste is really great considering it’s only been 3 days; nice presence of chocolate, coffee, and a smooth texture. It’s definitely got that great sweetness from the lactose. It’s not overpowering, but in the future I might decrease this slightly. I gave it two more days in a secondary to let the remainder of the yeast settle out, then kegged.

THE VERDICT:

If I had to use one word to describe this beer, it would be simply put: “pleasant”. Little to no harshness (bitterness, astringency), or blandness, just a pleasant quality stout.   I’m super happy to report that the roasted malts taste great in this beer. Doing a separate steeping helped enormously for the flavor and mouthfeel.  This beer definitely has some body to it, so don’t plan on drinking a few of these without feeling like you’ve eaten an additional meal for the day.  So how would I take this beer from “pleasant” to “fantastic”? Plans for next time include: decrease lactose to 12 oz, increase flaked oats to 1 lb, change the bittering hop to something more neutral (I only used cascade because I had it leftover in my fridge. It’s definitely noticeable, but not off-putting.), maybe even decrease the roasted malts very slightly (keeping the same proportion, though) and also, maybe even toss in a vanilla bean into the secondary for some interesting complexity.  Prost!

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