Black Bridge Milk Stout
Originally posted in the Brandon Sun - October 9, 2015
This weekend is Thanksgiving long weekend. I want to give thanks to beer fans in Western Manitoba who keep pushing me to try new beers, to review beers that most people may never want to try. Also, I want to give thanks to Manitoban brewers Half Pints and Fort Garry for bringing out innovative and tasty beers year after year, even though we don’t get access to some of them here in the Wheat City. This time next year, we will have the possibility of up to a dozen craft breweries and brewpubs in Manitoba. With co-founder of Half Pints Nicole Barry starting up Peg Beer Co and the Warwaruk brothers opening Farmery Brewery in Neepawa, it’s going to be an exciting time to be a beer drinker locally. Every week I hear announcements on Twitter or Facebook that someone or their brother is starting up a brewery - unfortunately most of those announcements will never surface into reality - but Peg Beer Co and Farmery both have actual brick and mortar locations set up to brew beer and employ hard working Manitobans. 2016 is going to be exciting!
Manitoba’s beer industry is slower than the rest of Canada.. and even compared to North Dakota but the beer drinkers are here and more than willing to give new breweries a try. One brewery I’ve been raving about since the Coast to Coaster event took place in June was Black Bridge Brewing out of Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan’s beer scene is booming, and not only that - Saskatchewan bar and restaurant owners are actually WANTING to bring in as much local beer as possible, replacing the old standards like Pilsner and Keith’s with locally made alternatives.
For the Coast to Coaster event, Black Bridge brought their Rye Ale to Manitoba. I still have four or five cans of it in my fridge. All I can remember about it was that it was a really delicious rye ale, fairly sweet and malty yet a nominal amount of bitterness to keep things interesting and a hint of rye graininess to top it off. After Coast to Coaster ended, I was disappointed that Black Bridge was no longer available in Manitoba, but only days later a surprise showed up at the 10th & Victoria LC - not one but two beers from Black Bridge! First was an India Pale Ale, simply called “IPA!” (exclamation and all) and the other was "Milk Stout". I’ve sampled a wide variety of stouts over the years from Guinness to Imperial Stouts aged in whisky barrels for a few years, but I’ve only ever had one other Milk Stout and that’s Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, which I feel is one of the most famous stouts in the world after Guinness.
A Milk Stout is exactly what it sounds like, a stout that contains lactose to increase the beer’s sweetness as many stouts can come across as overly bitter and coffee-like, so as you can tell - Milk Stouts are not vegan friendly. Black Bridge’s Milk Stout tops out at 5.3% ABV, which is pretty average for a typical stout (aside from Guinness). It pours a thick, black, molasses beverage with a dark black as night hue to it.. well it’s not your grandfather’s OV after all! It has a very nice amount of tanned brown foam on top that slowly diminishes as it warms up yet leaves a good amount of spider web-like residue along the side of the glass. The aroma reminds me of breakfast - it has a rich roasted malt smell to it that gives off a freshly roasted coffee vibe to it, followed by dark chocolate, a hint of cream and sugar and a bit of a plain popcorn scent to it as well. The taste is very sweet with notes of chocolate giving off the first impression. Following the chocolate notes, I’m noticing subtler notes of coffee, not as roasted and bitter as the aroma led me to believe. For the mouthfeel, it’s incredibly silky and smooth, it’s like drinking a rich hot chocolate with milk instead of water, very creamy on the tongue and doesn’t give off much of a bitter aftertaste. This is a stout that’s somewhat complex but has flavours that remind me of breakfast - I guess that’s why “breakfast stouts” exist!
So comparing this to Half Pints’ Stir Stick Stout, the lactose plays a crucial element compared to Stir Stick as Black Bridge’s Milk Stout is much more of a smoother, creamier stout, while Stir Stick is more of a bitter, roasted coffee with a hint of chocolate take on stouts. For it being mid October, this is the sort of beer I’m looking forward to drinking more during our long prairie winters.