Contrary to popular belief, "milk stout" has nothing to do with sturdy and substantial cows. Sometimes referred to as sweet stout or cream stout, this variety of beer is basically a very strong porter that's been doctored with unfermentable lactose sugars. These stouts possess a degree of sweetness ranging from light to dessert-quality.
A Refresher Course on Your Favorite Refreshment:
As any seasoned beer lover knows, stout is a dark beer crafted from hops and barley that have been roasted and toasted to perfection. It's basically a very strong porter, and the first stouts were even labeled as "stout porter." Eventually, stouts bore their own name (though they still had much in common with their porter parents). For example, Guinness Extra Stout was originally called "Extra Superior Porter."
Recommended by Dr. Bartender:
Remember those ads where a guy with a stethoscope and a lab coat recommended some product or another? In the 1800s, milk stout was marketed as nutritional and chock full of everything the body needs. There's even some documentation that milk stout was prescribed by doctors to nursing moms, with the promise of increasing their milk production.
Guinness, arguably the reigning global champion of stouts, had once even adopted the slogan "Guinness is good for you." This was after market research conducted in the early 1920s seemed to suggest that people felt better after drinking a pint of the potent brew. Of course they felt better — it's beer!
A Plethora of Palate Pleasers:
Relatively lower alcohol content, along with less-overwhelming tasting notes, makes milk stout a popular choice for craft beer lovers. You'll commonly find elements of burnt sugar, cocoa powder, roasted peat and a pleasant earthy flavor. Oats, honey and barley can sometimes be detected.
Thanks to their creamy sweetness, milk stouts are perfect for crafting a variety of specialty flavors. Common varieties are chocolate, coffee, vanilla and caramel. More eccentric flavors of milk stout have been springing up, mostly from American breweries. You can find many dessert flavors, such as peanut butter, s'mores and marshmallow. Raspberry, orange chocolate and mint-flavored milk stouts are also available.