Milk stout

No More Heroes XXVI – Big Smoke Brew Co. Underworld Milk Stout

I must admit that, although I try to champion dark beers year-round, this year my efforts have been a little lacklustre. The problem I have is that there are just so many good pale and golden beers in circulation, that over the warmer months anything darker than a reddish-shade of amber hasn’t got much of a look in. This needs to change.

And so I find myself with a bottle of Underworld Milk Stout from Big Smoke Brew Co., who brew at The Antelope in Surbiton, Surrey. Like dark beer, I’ve not really given Big Smoke a great deal of attention since their launch in 2014 and I’m regretting that while I’m a couple of sips into Underworld, their milk stout.

I already felt enamored with this beer before I’d even cracked the cap. I’m a sucker for great branding and this is great branding. It’s distinctive, thoughtful, engaging and tells me everything I need to know about this beer. But does the quality of the package reflect the product within?

The pour and appearance is everything you’d expect from a milk stout. This dark brown beer has a pleasing translucency. It shines russet red around the edges when held up to some light and the off-white head is tight and creamy. Both of these factors indicate that I shouldn’t expect a beer that’s too heavy, and that’s exactly what I find in my glass.

To taste it has all the roasted coffee and bitter dark chocolate notes I look for in a stout, without ever being too complex. The finish is nice and dry with a slight herbaceous, bitter note from the hops. My only complaint is that if you’re going to chuck lactose in a stout then make sure that sweetness comes through. In this beer it’s a little too muted for my personal tastes, but as a stout, milk or otherwise, Underworld really shines.


Music Pairing: Millionaire – Body Experience Revue
A good Milk Stout is all about the balance between the sweetness from the lactose and the robustness of roasted malt but still having the drinkability that comes with being a sub 5% beer. This track from Millionaire, a band fronted by Belgian wunderkind Tim Vanhamel, formerly of Deus, has similar qualities. Sure its got some searingly heavy guitars, but without the carefully thought out synth lines and Prince-tight rhythm section it would all feel a little flabby. The combination of this criminally underrated tracks tight beats and loose riffs is ideal listening, as we officially enter stout-season.

As always, you can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at the excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Find Big Smoke Underworld Milk Stout in store or at our online shop to get it delivered to your door.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Three Beer Floats

It’s almost July, but you haven’t seen the sun for three weeks. The next bank holiday isn’t for two more months. And “apocalyptic” might be a generous way of describing our current political situation. But… have you considered putting ice cream in beer?

Sure, beer floats aren’t going to heal everything that ails you. But the simple magic of adding a cold scoop of ice cream to a frosty beer is one very reliable, gently decadent way of making your day a little brighter (and, if you can manage to find a window of sunshine and a patch of grass, all the better).

As an American, adding ice cream to something fizzy was never a weird thing for me. Root beer floats, baby! In my early twenties, I graduated towards frosty pint glasses of Southern Tier’s super-sweet Crème Brûlée Stout, which was almost a dessert in itself, and therefore even better when served a la mode. And while the classic sweet stout and vanilla ice cream pairing is always reliable – here, I’ve opted to use Wild Beer Co’s Millionaire, which is made with lactose, cacao nibs and caramel – there are more ways to play with the beer float format.

Try sours, for starters. For my other two floats, I’ve gone for Moa Cherry Sour, straight from New Zealand, and Mikkeller’s jolly can of Hallo Ich Bin Berliner Weisse Peach. These two work really well, as both are softly sour, and full of lots of bright fruit flavours. The Moa Cherry Sour is excellent when topped with chocolate ice cream (think German black forest cake), and for the Berliner Weisse, you can go full retro peach melba with the addition of raspberry sorbet. The former is decadent and desserty, while the latter is a sweet, refreshing fruit-bomb that would be perfect for a picnic.

A bit of further guidance if you’re looking to invent a beer float of your own: any beer that skews too hop-forward and bitter will likely clash with all of that sweet dairy, so approach with caution (although a super juicy pale ale just might work). Witbiers and hefeweizens also offer some pairing possibilities; if I were you, I’d look to the sorbet section. Beyond sorbets, if you’re dairy-free, coconut ice cream would be a dream with richer stouts or fruitier brews. I’d also avoid any sour beers that are on the funky, brett-y end of the spectrum.

And finally, if you’re a purist who thinks adding ice cream to beer is sacrilege: please withhold judgment until you try. If liquid, boozy ice cream doesn’t make you happy – or help you temporarily forget that Boris Johnson exists – then nothing will.

Three Beer Floats

Float 1
Wild Beer Co Millionaire
Vanilla ice cream

Float 2
Moa Cherry Sour
Chocolate ice cream

Float 3
Mikkeller Hallo Ich Bin Berliner Weisse Peach
Raspberry sorbet

For your respective float, first find a sizeable glass that can comfortably hold a good few scoops of ice cream or sorbet (you don’t want to be skimping, here). Add 2-3 scoops to the empty glass and top up with your beer – the mix should foam up quite aggressively. Let rest for a few minutes before topping up with more beer and crowning with an additional scoop or two. Grab a spoon and a straw and go to town.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. And why not grab all those glorious beers at our online shop?