Brad’s Beer Review: Stone Coffee Milk Stout

This is a beer I’ve wanted to try ever since I heard it was to be released. Milk Stout (sometimes known as sweet stout or cream stout) is one of my favorite beer styles. I first found Left Hand Brewing Company’s Milk Stout when I lived in Georgia back in ‘05-07. When I moved back to California, I couldn’t get Left Hand beers (nor could I easily find any commercial milk stouts), so I used the info from their web site and my own palate and created a homebrewed milk stout that has been roundly adored by friends and family, and kicked major tail in competitions.
Stone Coffee Milk Stout

Thus, the news that Stone Brewing, a company whose beer I generally find faultless, was going to brew a milk stout got me excited. The fact that they were going to add coffee—another thing I love—to the mix made me even more so. I saw it at the grocery store this afternoon, and immediately knew it was coming home.

Milk Stout is so named because it is typically sweetened with lactose (milk sugar). Take note, lactose-intolerant folks, this style is not for you. Lactose is unfermentable by saccharomyces cerevisiae, so the sugar adds sweetness without adding additional alcohol. The Milk Stout style, in comparison to the Dry Stout, will have a sweeter finish. Even for a beer that may have a reasonable amount of roast flavor and aroma (and the bitterness that comes with roasted malts), the sweetness should cleanse the palate for the next sip.

Now, on to my thoughts for the Stone Coffee Milk Stout:

  • Stats: 4.2% ABV, 40 IBU. Color not listed.
  • Aroma: I definitely pick up roast here. To me, the roast is definitely more prominent than the coffee in the aroma. I don’t pick up any hops in the aroma, which is appropriate for the style.
  • Appearance: Black and completely opaque. Light brown / dark tan head with great lacing. Really, though, describing the appearance of a stout is rather boring. They do pretty much all look black!*
  • Flavor: Up front, there’s a hit of roast, but it quickly subsides into coffee. While you—or at least I—cannot smell much coffee in the nose, it’s definitely strong on the tongue. I will say that the beer doesn’t finish as sweet as other milk stouts I’ve tasted. One of my criticisms of many commercial milk stouts is that they take a dry stout with relatively weak roast character and just add lactose. My own recipes tend to be big on the roast and correspondingly big on the lactose. This beer seems a bit big on the roast and coffee, with JUST enough sweetness to cover the bitterness of the roasted malt, the coffee, and the hops, but not a dominant perception of sweetness.

    Of course, all of this is in character for Stone. They tend towards big flavor, and most of their beers don’t shy away from bitterness, and finish fairly dry. This seems to me to fit into their general palate profile. And this beer clocks in at 40 IBU [International Bitterness Unit], which is the top of the scale for a beer that falls into the bottom of the scale for ABV.

  • Mouthfeel: Again, I expect most milk stouts to be pretty full-bodied. This is much closer to medium body, with a slightly more dry finish than I would typically expect from the style.
  • Overall Impression: Honestly, this is a delicious beer. I’m really enjoying it. It’s not entirely what I was expecting, though. In fact, if you didn’t tell me there was lactose in this beer, I’d have a difficult time picking it out. The bias towards bitterness, the medium body and the dry finish, all just say “coffee stout” to me. But the simple fact is that I like bitterness, I like dry finishes, and I generally enjoy light to medium body beers. So while it is delicious, it’s not necessarily something I’d recommend as a pure example of the style.

All that said, I highly recommend you buy this beer. It truly is delicious.

* Well, except for white stouts, that is. But I’ve never observed one of these in the wild, and I think calling any beer a white stout is stretching the bounds of beer credulity.

  • moghopper

    Just had this yesterday – and while I am also a big fan of Left Hand Milk Stout (especially with Nitro) – This beer is just “ok”. I’d have it again, but not if a Left Hand or a Boulder Shake Chocolate Porter were available.

  • Brad Warbiany

    Sadly, far fewer breweries distribute from Colorado to California than I’d like… Left Hand and Boulder are two that we can’t get here :-(