Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The birth of Milk Stout

This going to be Milk Stout week. Because I'm lazy, need to get up my stock og posts before my upcoming US trip. And Geoff Ikin kindly sent me loads of Milk Stout cuttings so I barely even need to get off my arse.

But I'm kicking off with something I found myself. A highly significant article, as it's an interview with someone from the Hythe brewery, originators of Milk Stout, talking about the beers genesis. It's highly unusual to have a contemporary account such as this on the origins of a new type of beer.

As I'm in lazy mode, I'll let the article do all the work. See you at the end for a for comments.

Everyone of our readers will know the Hythe Brewery, by name if not by more rereshing means, and it is interesting to reall that this year of grace is the 240th anniversary of its establishment in Hythe. Founded 1669, nine years after the restoration of King Charles II, it has existed under three dynasties, paying its dues and duties to the revenues of eleven monarchs, and its proprietors serving its county and country in diverse ways.

Messrs. Mackeson and Co. are celebrating this notable year by the introduction of a remarkable novelty in malt liquors, and it was to learn something of the business that we interviewed them at Hythe.

“For years," they told us, “we have been anxious make stout more nourishing; stout particularly, because it is an invalids' drink. We experimented in all sorts of ways until finally — last year it was — we placed the problem in the hands of worker in food chemistry to see what he could do.

“This gentleman was introduced to us by a very large firm of milk food manufacturers, and very heartily he entered into our ideas. We explained what wanted, and in double quick time he shewed that many fond notions were impossible. Meat? That cannot added to malt liquors because of the danger of ptomaine poisoning, and if confine ourselves to extracts we get only the flavour, and no goodness. Eggs?: Impossible again, for many reasons, equally good. Milk? Well, milk is a food of foods - five complete foods in one — and our friend thought that there was hope here.

“His methods were and instructive. Stout is a tonic — an appetiser and an energiser. You don't want stout to make you fat, or to give you heat — stout must not be ‘heating' or ‘fattening,’ and so you can’t put the cream into it. That disposes of one part of the milk. Then you don’t want to make flesh by drinking stout. No. If you want to grow fleshy you drink the stout - that gives you an appetite, and the appetite will see to the flesh-forming in Nature's own way. So away goes a second part the milk, the casein. Then you don’t want the milk fluid — the water — because that is an adjunct the stout itself. So with the fat, the casein, and the water removed, you have only the salts and the lactose left. It interesting to see that milk contains 75 percent of mineral salts, eleven in all; many them are natural water salts, and they would possibly interfere with the ‘balance' of the ‘water' which is such an important factor in all brewery work.

“But the lactose — the sugar of milk — that struck our friend. He found that it could be added to malt liquor without changing the colour, appearance, or taste, and yet do

It is unfermentable, and replaces the came sugar frequently used in the manufacture of stout. This cane sugar leads to many difficulties, and is always the change — it is only cane sugar for a while, it soon breaks up and becomes alcohol and carbonic acid gas. Have you ever noticed how sometimes a bottle of stout will pour out ‘all froth?' That is the gas formed by the splitting up the cane sugar and malt extract. And the undue development of alcohol, due to a large extent to this same cause, requires to be restricted. Of course, there will always be a normal quantity of alcohol in the stout due to the natural development the malt, but that is a limited operation, and it is kept within control. Thus it easy to make stout with 3 or 5, or 7 per cent. of alcohol, and to be sure that it will go but very little higher. The finishing with cane sugar makes all this quite different. It develops alcohol at once, and you can never say what will be the ultimate ratio of alcohol and gas.

“So our new product, which contains no cane sugar, but sugar milk pure and simple, makes a more certain dnnk, and does even more. By means of its origin it differs from ordinary sugar — it is an essential energising food, not a condiment merely. It has wonderful properties in the body. Being slightly diuretic, it reduces the rheumatic properties to a minimum, and so, for the first time, malt liquor is available for wide class who like it, but can't take it. Please remember that this diuresis, as it is called, is perfectly harmless. Just as milk can be taken by the youngest child with benefit, our new beverage can be taken by the hard worker, the delicate nursing mother, or the rheumatic invalid with benefit too.

“We have christened it ‘Milk Stout,' and have been able to get the energy — the lactose — of half a pint of milk in every pint of stout. It is to be sold the same price ordinary high-class stout, although it costs much more to make, but the protection afforded by the patent laws makes it cheaper and easier to sell.

“Yes, we here patented the idea, and hope to let other brewers outside our district have the right to manufacture it under licence. It is going well, although in its infancy, and we have had many enquiries about it from eminent chemists and experts all over the world, and it has already been widely recommended by the medical profession.

We tasted the product; it has a remarkably soft and delicate texture. It looks like the picture the advertisement on our advertisement page, and we commend it as excellent product of a good old firm."
Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald - Saturday 17 July 1909, page 9.
I'm not totally convinced that they ever seriously considered meat and eggs as supplements. My guess is that it was all about making a very sweet Stout which wasn't likely to start refermenting uncontrollably.

Mackeson played it very cleverly. By taking out patents, but allowing other brewers to make Milk Stout under licence, they were able spread the style quickly across the UK, something which would have been impossible had they just brewed it themselves. They were far too small.

We'll learn later this week just how quickly this new type of Stout was taken up. And although lots of other companies produced Milk Stout, Mackeson remained the most famous example.


Lady Luck Brewing said...

Was it more expensive to use lactose as opposed to other non-fermentable adjuncts?

A Brew Rat said...

Excellent article, thanks. Nice to know when you can pinpoint the birth of a style.

I like to mix two stout substyles when I homebrew them, and make an oatmeal milk stout. Seems in line with the nourishing ideals of the 1909 Mackeson brewery.

Ron Pattinson said...

Lady Luck,

no idea of the relative cost of lactose. Probably varied over time. Not so easy to check as it rarely turns up in brewing records and I don't think at all in the ones that include prices. that I've seen.

Anonymous said...

"Our new beverage can be taken by [...] the delicate nursing mother [...]"

Oh sh*t...

Unknown said...

"I'm not totally convinced that they ever seriously considered meat and eggs as supplements. My guess is that it was all about making a very sweet Stout which wasn't likely to start refermenting uncontrollably."

While I agree with your assumption that meat and eggs were just part of the marketing story, interestingly enough eggs at one time were considered as additives to beer. I've heard Charlie Bamforth tell the story multiple times about using egg whites as additives for foam stability. He even wrote a paper on it back in 1987. (Egg Albumen as a Source of Foam Polypeptide in Beer) When he tells the story, it usually included a bit about how he and his coworkers were unsure if this would be dangerous to those that have allergies to eggs, and fed their egg enhanced beer to a brewery worker who they knew could not eat eggs to see if it was harmful or not. I forget why the idea was dropped eventually (cost or shelf stability would be my guesses) but if it had caught on, I could imagine a world where a great deal many beers had egg supplements and some marketer would talk it up as a health benefit.

Unknown said...

Is there an original recipe? I could not find a patent document or anything

Ron Pattinson said...


the earliest recipe I have is from the 1930s. Not sure if the Mackeson records from that period have survived.