The use of lactose in milk stouts is not a new concept, but what about when you go to order a lager, pale ale or sour and notice an unusual ingredient listed next to it on the menu? As the craft beer scene continues to modify and experiment with its brews, we’ll make a bet the lactose trend is here for the long haul, including in Birmingham.
It’s not as weird as you think
The first time I tried a beer with lactose I didn’t really notice a difference, until I learned what was in it and all of a sudden I was a little skeeved out. All I could think about was milk doesn’t go with beer the same way cookies do.
Sugar makes the world go ’round
Like all things, that little sneaky guy we call sugar is what makes beer taste so good. It’s why drinks like the Snake Handler at Good People have a 10% ABV. During the brewing process, most sugars turn into alcohol—except for the lactose.
The milk-based sugar isn’t fully fermentable by beer yeast. So, what’s the purpose of using it? Brewing with lactose adds body and sweetness to the drink—basically producing a creamier beer.
Will the trend last? 🍻
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, roughly 65% of the human population is lactose intolerant. I didn’t even bother looking up the number of beer drinkers, because pop by any Birmingham brewery during the weekend and it’s evident there are a lot of us. So, by adding lactose to beer, isn’t it alienating a ton of potential customers?
Not really, most brewers go for a less-is-more attitude when using the ingredient. You’re not going to taste a milk-flavor—using lactose is more for that creamy effect we talked about. While the amount varies by the brewer, you shouldn’t be too wary when deciding to go for one of these beers.
Curious who has it in Birmingham?
Now that you know it’s there, you’ll start noticing lactose all over the menu at Birmingham breweries. Many times, the brews are seasonal or limited edition because lactose is a great ingredient to use in experimental flavors or milkshake IPAS. However, here are a few currently on local taps.
Validated Fears @ Ferus Ales
- What: Citra and cashmere hops, lactose, aged on guava puree and Madagascar vanilla.
- Where: 101 Beech St, Trussville, AL 35173
- Contact: 205.508.3001 | Website | Facebook
In Your Dreams-sicle @ Birmingham District Brewing Company
- What: Double IPA aged on vanilla beans and blood orange loaded down with bright notes of sweet vanilla and candied blood orange.
- Where: 2201 2nd Ave S #102, Birmingham, AL 35233
- Contact: 205.202-5779 | Website | Facebook
Imperial Boysenberry Smoothie Sour @ Ghost Train Brewing Company
- What: The limited-edition brew contains over 1200 lbs of fruit and a 10% ABV.
- Where: 2616 3rd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233
- Contact: 205.201.5817 | Website | Facebook
Monday Night Han Brolo @ Hop City Birmingham
- What: Full-bodied pale ale. A huge dry hop gives this beer notes of tangerine and grapefruit and the lactose addition during brewing adds silkiness. (P.S. Don’t forget to swing by the newly opened Monday Night Brewing in Parkside)
- Where: 2924 3rd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233
- Contact: 205.279.2337 | Website | Facebook