Several months ago, I tried Left Hand Brewing Company’s Milk Stout at the Decatur Craft Beer Festival, and it was love at first swallow. I was lucky enough to find it again at two of my favorite spots: The Marlay House Irish Pub (formerly the Grange Pub) in Decatur, and in bottles at the Candler Park Market, just a few blocks from my house.
To be honest, I’d been afraid that, when I chanced upon it again, the reality wouldn’t match my fond memories. There’s something about the Decatur Beer Festival that just makes everything seem better. I needn’t have worried. Honestly, this fine brew matches Highland’s amazing Oatmeal Stout on my list of the best stouts brewed in America.
Like all good stouts, it pours a very dark brown, almost mahogany black, color with minimal head. The first tastes are of the smoky, roasted grains and malt with hints of coffee (or even espresso) and chocolate. But what sets this stout apart are the milk sugars added, which add a sweet, smooth finish that is delightfully complex and exceptionally drinkable. It’s not nearly as heavy as most stouts, but it has enough body to please, and the sweetness balances the slight bitterness of the hoppy finish.
If you’re drinking this in a session, you’ll probably want to start here. More robust stouts will overpower it. It’s also a terrific brew to enjoy with food—from a good pot of chili, a steak, or a nice plate of roast beef, or even a selection of quality cheeses. Or heck, just enjoy it on its own. It’s a terrific choice for stout lovers—and even for those who find stout a little too, well, stout and prefer lighter brews.
Most critics seem to rate Left Hand Brewery’s Milk Stout a B+ or an A. I’d give it a solid A. This is a brew I intend to keep on hand, especially in the winter months. That said, I’m enjoying one right now, and it’s May. Why wait?