I know this beer’s (and brewery’s) reputation. I have read the’ reviews extolling its virtues. Yet I remained skeptical. Not sure why. I just did. Maybe I am a natural-born curmudgeon (no comments, peanut gallery!).
I am speaking of Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout Nitro. I wasn’t skeptical about the beer itself – by all accounts it is a high quality milk stout, both the regular and Nitro versions. It was the label’s instructions to “pour hard”. Just tip it straight upside down and let it rip. Really? Felt gimmicky.
But the beer recently arrived in Alberta and so I had a chance to give it a try. So I did.
For the uninitiated, Left Hand Brewing out of Colorado has taken some of its regular line-up and injected nitrogen as a portion of the gas, a la Guinness. No widget, instead they have developed another process for getting the nitrogen in there (which they won’t tell us). Hence their instructions to pour hard.
I did as the label suggested. Glass at the ready, I popped the cap and immediately inverted the bottle, allowing the beer to rush into the glass. The resulting sight was something to behold. A rolling caldron of tiny brown bubbles forms and cascades, simultaneously violent and elegant, to the top of the glass. After a few seconds the beer settles in with a substantial dark tan head and a silky looking creamy body.
The beer is inky midnight black. Black like the abyss. The tan head is smooth and pockmarked and persists through the sampling. The aroma is soft chocolate with hints of treacle. I pick up a subtle dark fruit backed by a milky sweetness. In the background there are wisps of burnt chocolate and coffee roast.
The effects of the nitrogen are immediately felt upon sipping. The beer has a quiet, smooth silkiness that melds into a milky sweetness and a subtle coffee. The initial flavour and body reminds me of a coffee milkshake or a rich mocha latte. The middle brings out a light roast and touches of dark fruit to add depth. The linger is milky sweet coffee. The carbonation is almost imperceptible, not getting in the way of the silky flavours.
This is a subtle beer with a cascade of complex flavours. It is quiet, sweet and delicately complex. It has this dual existence, both drinkable and yet totally a complex, rich experience. The flavours blend remarkably well, and the nitro just adds a silky quietness to the beer that is original and impressive.
A side-by-side with the original Milk Stout would be a cool thing to do. Alas, only the Nitro is available in Alberta at the moment.
I guess I really do need to tone down that curmudgeon voice in my head – sometimes things really are as they appear.