It's that most hallowed time of year for beer drinkers -- Saint Patrick's Day. And while I'm not one to celebrate with the inevitable green beer, I do feel the occasion warrants a deep dark stout.
Guinness' version of the style -- a light-bodied dry Irish stout -- is often the first that comes to mind. However, there just aren't that many local breweries that make one, let alone one that can compete with Guinness. That's why my annual March search for the perfect stout brings me to the oatmeal and milk stouts, which are richer in flavor, heavier in body, and strong enough for a little warmth in the late winter to early spring season.
This year I'll be toasting St. Paddy with O'so Sweet Lady Stout. It's a full-bodied milk stout that is so smooth even the leprechauns will be wishing for a second pint.
What is it? Sweet Lady Stout from O'so Brewing of Plover.
Style: The Milk Stout, also known as an English sweet stout, emphasizes a malty sweetness with hints of chocolate and caramel. Some versions, like Sweet Lady, add lactose for more body and softness. Milk stouts were commonly marketed as nutritious in the 1800s, even promoted as something nursing mothers should consider. By the mid-1900s, the United Kingdom had outlawed use of the word "milk" in association with beer. These sweet stouts will often range in alcohol from 3% to 6 % ABV.
Background: Sweet Lady Stout is a new bottled beer in six-packs that has become a late winter seasonal product for the brewery. Surprisingly, until now the brewery didn't have a regular winter seasonal. Sweet Lady isn't entirely new; it's been a favorite in the brewery's taproom and in a small number of select beer bars as a draft-only beer since 2011.
- Aroma: Roasted chocolate maltiness and hints of coffee-sweetness.
- Appearance: Black body; with a marbled brown head.
- Texture: Medium- to full-bodied. Lots of softness.
- Taste: Smooth sweet chocolate maltiness, with roasted flavors that add sweetness.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Lingering roasted chocolate malt.
Glassware: The English pint glass is the traditional choice for the milk stout. However, in the spirit of for Saint Patrick's Day, go with the familiar Guinness-style tulip pint.
Pairs well with: Buttery cheeses are great with Sweet Lady's sweetness. For a special treat try it with semi-sweet or mint chocolate.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Consensus: 87 (very good) from BeerAdvocate. It does not yet have enough ratings to be scored by RateBeer.
The Verdict: This stout has so much body and smooth mouthfeel its lives up to the image of "milk" in the term milk stout. Saying it's rich in flavor hardly seems enough. It's a memorable stout for its smooth body, chocolate maltiness and hints of roasted coffee. While I give Guinness stout a nod for tradition, this is one Sweet Lady I'll be honoring on Saint Patrick's Day.