Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout Nitro like a sophisticated chocolate milkshake

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

Greetings, and happy New Year to all of you.

With the new year on the calendar, the weather has also changed. Goodbye, mild winter, and hello, snow and deep freeze. BRRR!

The change is a good excuse to focus on dark, strong beers — beers that warm the soul and fill the belly. So, how about we start with a stout? How about a milk stout … no, a milk stout on nitrogen? Yeah! The beer is Milk Stout Nitro by Left Hand Brewing Company.

What is milk stout? Milk stouts are basically stouts that have a larger amount of residual dextrins and unfermented sugars (usually lactose) that give the brew more body and a sweetness that counters the roasted character.

So, what is the difference between nitrogenated and a carbon dioxide beer? In a nutshell, the main difference is mouth feel. Carbon dioxide beers have a greater carbonic bite compared to the smoother nitrogen. The addition of nitrogen gives way to much smaller bubbles, creating a smoother, creamier beer. There are some nuances in taste and appearance also, depending on the style.

Left Hand Brewing started in December 1990 with a home brewing kit founder Dick Doore received from his brother. In September 1993, Dick and college buddy Eric Wallace incorporated as Indian Peaks Brewing Company. It was discovered that the name Indian Peaks was already in use by another brewery, so the name was changed to Left Hand, in honor of Chief Niwot (the Arapahoe word for “left hand”) whose tribe wintered in the local area.

Left Hand presently distributes 10 year-round, eight seasonal and 13 limited release beers. Milk Stout Nitro is available year round and has an alcohol by volume of 6 percent.

For this review, I am using my Forest City Brewers nonic pint glass and allowing this beer to warm to 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

The pour is straight down the middle that starts out looking somewhat flat, but as the nitrogen starts to release from the liquid, it develops a really nice dense, tan-colored head of tight small bubbles that is one finger in depth, like the top of a cappuccino. This recedes slowly to a quarter-inch-thick, crowning a very dark brown — almost black — body with some reddish highlights, leaving a very dense lacing.

The aroma definitely is of roasted malts, coffee, sweet Hershey’s chocolate, a bit of smokiness and just a hint of toffee. There is nothing overpowering here, but a nice mingling of smells.

Like the aroma, the taste has roasted malts, coffee, sweet chocolate and some light smoke. I also get a touch of caramel as well. This is like adult chocolate milk with some coffee added, which is friggin’ marvelous, as far as I am concerned.

The mouth feel is creamy and silky, making it extremely smooth, with a bit of chewiness. It coats the mouth with virtually no bite from the nitrogen. The beer is medium bodied, but leans toward a fuller feel, making this an enjoyable drink.

Overall impression is this is a smooth and drinkable beer. It’s like a chocolate milkshake in your mouth, but sophisticated. It creates a strange sensation, as there is more on the tongue than there is in the nose in this particular stout. I’m sure there is better out there, but considering the price, this milk stout is worth getting.

Prost!

Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Rockford Brewing Company, 200 Prairie St., on the Rock River. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to http://forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, contact Mike at rockfordcraftbeer@comcast.net.

From the Jan. 7-13, 2015, issue

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