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Jan 25, 2007 05:58 AM

Do Cream Stouts have lactose or milk products

I've been doing a little reading up on milk stouts and have learned that some brewers add lactose or milk byproducts to achieve the desired consistency. I was wondering whether the same is done with cream stouts or whether the creamy effect is more the result of the type of hops and yeast used in the brew.

To date I have never seen a beer which says that it may contain milk/lactose. This is hard to comprehend since all the kids candy have the warning labels that they may be made on machines or in factories where milk (or peanuts) are used. Of course this may be due to the fact that there is no actual milk used, but...

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  1. "Milk Stouts" are so-called because they have/had lactose (aka "milk sugar") in them. Lactose isn't fermentable, so those stouts are very sweet and, as you mentioned, have a very thick mouthfeel.

    IIRC, in the UK, the term "Milk Stout" can no longer be used, so most (of the few left) are called "Sweet Stout" or "Lacto Stout" or, sometimes just "Stout".

    The term "Milk Stout" is allowed in the US but some brewers prefer "Cream Stout" for their sweet stouts and, AFAIK, not ALL sweet/milk/cream stouts in the US necessarily use lactose- like all the different stout styles, labeling and ingredients vary from brewery to brewery.

    Labeling laws for beer in the US differs greatly from that of food products, so you probably won't see a "warning" label but it is surprising that few of the milk or cream stouts in the US specifically mention lactose on the label.

    1. Do you know which of the domestic cream stouts have lactose or milk as an ingredient?

      1. Specifically labeled "cream" stouts or any sweet/milk stout?

        Never heard of any that use milk (but, nowadays...who knows) but lactose is mentioned as an ingredient on the websites for Left Hand Milk Stout (nothing on the label) and Lancaster Milk Stout, as well as the label of Hitachino's Lacto Sweet Stout ("...authentic Lactose- milk sugar, 10% of the grain bill"). Those are the three I have around right now.

        I used to like the import version of Mackeson Stout (pretty much THE classic Milk Stout- altho the export version was much higher in ABV than the domestic UK stuff) but was very disappointed with the contract-brewed in Cincinnati (Boston Beer/Sam Adams) stuff, tho' I see some good ratings for it, so maybe I'll try some out again. (Occassionally seen as coming from The Lion brewery in PA, too.)

        Other than that, check the lists of sweet stouts on Ratebeer or Beer Advocates and check the descriptions of the "milk stouts" there or on the linked brewery websites. Are you trying to FIND or AVOID lactose?

        It's kinda like "Oyster Stouts"- not many include oyster/oyster shells anymore (Love Stout from Yards is the only one I can think of, and I couldn't pick up much oyster in the taste...EDIT and I notice their website now says "We no longer use oysters to brew this beer." ).

        1. Thanks for the info. I am definitly trying to avoid the lactose. One of the brands I am looking for information on is the Sam Adams Cream Stout. I sent an email to the good people at Boston Beer a few days ago but never got a response.

          1 Reply
          1. re: PapaT

            Please post back with whatever you hear from them, but I'd be really surprised if there is any lactose in that beer. It just doesn't seem to have that quality on the palate, rather a really dominant caramel character ( lactose, which is an unfermentable sugar, is only one way to get that residual sweetness.)

            Disclaimer: I'm not advising anybody who is lactose intolerant to consume SACS until we hear directly from the company...just reiterating that the phrase 'Cream Stout' is pretty non-commital about the inclusion of lactose.

          2. Yeah, the ATF rules about labeling beer are a mess-


            and there's still a somewhat Puritanical viewpoint going on in regard to alcohol content, etc. For example, there's still a rule- § 7.26 - AGAINST listing alcohol content (except where required by STATE law- go figure)- the reasoning used to be that listing it would encourage people to only buy high alcohol content beer (more bang for the buck) and, thus, encourage brewers to engage in a race to the top. The rule is currently "suspended", however.

            It looks like a brewer CAN voluntarily list "allergens" on the label, but if they do, they are forced to list ALL allergens. § 7.22a

            When a proposal to mandate Nutrition labeling came up in the early 90's, according to the ATF "...ATF received 55 comments in response to the advance notice. Only 7 of these comments came from consumers. However, 5 of the 7 consumers who commented opposed nutrition labeling."

            Notice that any sort of health claim or any sort of labeling that implies beer is a food product is banned.

            It seems to me one of the good things that the beer groups on the 'net (Beer Advocate, Rate Beer) could accomplish is to evolve into a "consumers group" and to start writing en mass to the ATF on such questions (rather than get upset only when they ban a Santa Claus or risque label), since obviously, in the past, the responses have been dominated by the corporations rather than consumers ("consumers" who would prefer to remain ignorant, apparently, going by the above example...). While the "craft beer" drinkers make up a tiny percentage of the beer consumers in the US, something tells me the Feds might be a bit more impressed with the response of several thousand people, after hearing from only 7 in the past...

            12 Replies
            1. re: JessKidden

              I recall a number of years ago that Coors successfully challenged the ban on listing alcohol content (which was required on liquor and wine), and today you find quite a few beers listing this information.

              1. re: Jim Dorsch

                Yup. That's why I said "used to be" and that the rule was suspended.

                From the ATF website noted above:

                (a) The alcoholic content and the percentage and quantity of the original extract shall not be stated unless required by State law.
                Effective Date Note: At 58 FR 21231, Apr. 19, 1993, §7.26 was suspended indefinitely.

                1. re: JessKidden

                  Yes, I see now. I read your post too quickly before, I guess.

                  1. re: Jim Dorsch

                    Yeah, well, reading any of those government rules will make one's head spin, so my post might not have been writen clearly enough.

                    I thought it was "interesting" (meaning, I guess, that I have no idea what the difference is) that the regulation was only "suspended" and still on the books, rather than simply changed or eliminated. It implies to me, that should a pressure group (MADD, etc) pop up and demand a change back, it's easier to do?

                    IIRC, Oregon DOESN'T allow alcohol contents to be listed.

                    So, the "rule" is- a brewer can't list ABV or ABW except in states where they HAVE to, BUT that rule's suspended, so now they can (but don't have to) except in states where they can't. OK, I think I got it...

                    I recall that the "suspension" came after a complaint by one of the big 3- couldn't recall which one. Coors, huh?

                    1. re: JessKidden

                      Confirming that it was Coors.

                      Incidently, here in North Carolina, beers above 6% ABV must have the alcohol percentage printed on the package/label. I led the group that pushed for the lifting of the 6% cap and we supported the legislative mandate that "big" beers be labeled.

                      Our opinion was (and is) that it's best to inform consumers about what they're drinking. The risks of someone unknowingly consuming a high alcohol beer far outweighs the risk of people chasing down big beers to get drunk faste -- people who are probably going to get drunk anyway.

                      1. re: JessKidden

                        > IIRC, Oregon DOESN'T allow alcohol contents to be listed.

                        Correct, which is why you'll not find anything from Rogue that lists the alcohol content on the bottle, though they do list all of their ingredients and brewing information.

                        1. re: JessKidden

                          Yes, the suspension is curious. I'd thought Coors won a court case that would have meant the rule was no longer in effect.

                  2. re: JessKidden

                    There's been further talk of nutrition labeling for beer in recent years. This time around, it's primarily a reaction to the claims of some breweries as to the carbohydrate count of their light "beers." The nutrition information was not going to be as thorough as the information listed on food (since much of it doesn't really apply to beer), but would include basics like caloric information, carbs, etc. I don't remember if there was any mention of breweries being required to include an ingredient list as part of the new labeling standard, however.

                    1. re: braineater


                      After not getting a response to my email, I called Boston Beer customer service. The confirmed that there is no lactose or dairy by product in the Cream Stout.

                      1. re: braineater

                        Take a look at what happened to Bert Grant when he tried to put nutritional information on beer labels.


                        1. re: LStaff

                          Horrible. Thanks for the info.

                          1. re: LStaff

                            That's an interesting read, if not a bit dated (from '93, IIRC). For more information on the beer labeling changes that may be coming down the 'pike, have a look at the following article by Andy Crouch: