Brewery: Against the Grain Brewery (Louisville, KY)
Style: Stout – Milk/Sweet
7% ABV / 26 IBU
Simply put, Against the Grain’s 35K is your new favorite milk stout. And for the uninitiated or those that equate lactose in beer to Laverne DiFazio’s milk and Pepsi concoction, here’s your gateway to adventure. Better to pair lactose with darker and more malt-centered beers like stouts, where the milk sugars provide a pleasing counterbalance to the malts. Having sampled both IPAs and sours brewed with lactose in the last year, I can’t fully recommend hopping on those trains. But the milk stout is a taste that should be cultivated, because any stout that’s aimed at the “sweet” and “bitter” taste receptors is already a cut above.
Against the Grain’s 35K initially presents as a fairly straightforward milk stout, with hints of cocoa and coffee and a very appealing sweetness from the lactose. There’s also roast-y and toast-y notes from the malt, which contributes to the pretty bold Sumatra-like coffee flavor and aroma. Boldness is key to the appeal of 35K, which pours with minimal carbonation, virtually no head and a rich all-black black-as-your-soul color. It is also full-bodied, which is completely unique for milk stouts, which tend to favor thinner bodies to aid drinkability and showcase the lactose.
I’m also way into the addition of East Kent Golding hops in 35K. It’s sort of a de facto standard for English and U.K. styles, but not obvious for stouts. Benchmarks like Guinness use hop extracts, and a lot of brewers have moved to citrus-y hops like Simcoe and Cascade. The East Kent Golding hops have a more delicate and fruity character, which melds well with a milk stout. And Against the Grain gets its just right with the hopping-for-bitterness in 35K. It’s as drinkable as a mid-range ABV beer could possibly be but with a bitterness that clings to the top of your palette and constantly refocuses your attention back to the beer’s wonderful complexity.
For more info, check out Against the Grain here.