Why is there lactose in my beer? Where to find out in Birmingham

Bottoms up! Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

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

Even iff you’re not a milk fan, lactose beer could still be for you Photo via Unsplash

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

Photo via Ferus Artisan Ales’ Facebook
  • 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

Photo via @districtbrews on Instagram
  • 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

Photo via Ghost Train Brewing’s Facebook
  • 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

Photo via Logan Y. on Untappd

Ready to clink some glasses? We’ve pulled together the ultimate guide to Birmingham breweries.

Are you a fan of beer with a little lactose? Give us a shout on social and let us know at @BhamNow on Facebook and Instagram, or @Now_Bham on Twitter.