Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

26 April, 2016

I keep drinkin' malted milk, tryin' to drive my blues away: Malted Milk Shake Lager by Stevens Point Brewery

Last year Budweiser aired a commercial during the Super Bowl which mocked the perceived pretensions of craft beer brewers and drinkers alike with a narrator intoning, “Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale. We’ll be brewing some golden suds.” Part of me felt affronted by Bud's disregard for flavorful beers and brewing creativity while another part laughed because I know that I roll my eyes whenever I see a Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Lemon Chiffon Crueller Ale.

While I've never had one of those Voodoo Doughnut beers, I did have a watermelon brew this past weekend – a double IPA from Ballast Point, my first ever beer from them. It tasted like someone had brewed an IPA and then aged it on a bed of watermelon Jolly Ranchers. Not my thing, really, but I am glad that I have experienced a trendy fruit-flavored beer from a trendy brewery. Anderson Valley's Briney Melon Gose suffered from the same candy-like taste. And going back to the second half of the 1990s, I recall The Great Dane being in media res of a fruit beer binge and releasing a really awful watermelon brew. (The blueberry one was good, however.) Watermelon is just a problematic fruit when it comes to beer.

What about beers made with oysters or bull testicles? At what point does novelty lose its original Latin meaning and descend into doing something unusual for the sake of doing something unusual? This is definitely a grey area and I am loathe to think that brewers who brew novelty beers are, to paraphrase Severinus in The Name of the Rose, tempted against nature. Taking the long view, brewing a pastry-flavored beer is, to my mind, another entry in a long history of playing with foods to make them different, amusing, et al. I mean, medieval royalty were presented with whole cow skins stuffed with cooked meat, pies containing live birds (frogs, etc.) just like a certain nursery rhyme, fish prepared to look like a roast, and so on.

Admittedly, bull testicles in beer must violate various ontological categories that our brains use to understand the world. Beer is over here with grain, water, yeast, and herbs/spices while Rocky Mountain oysters are over there with tripe, pig bung, brains, and the like. Surely Pascal Boyer can enlighten us on this matter.

Which brings me to Point's Malted Milk Shake Lager. The beer was one of four in a variety pack released for the first time this past late autumn or winter called Long Nights. These are sweet beers enhanced with flavors that complement the malt. To achieve the desired effect, Malted Milk Shake Lager is brewed with malted milk powder and aged on cocoa nibs. Note that malted milk powder was invented by an English pharmacist and the company he founded with his brother, J & W Horlicks, would produce the stuff here in Wisconsin – in Racine.

Malted Milk Shake Lager pours a lovely dark copper due, no doubt, to the chocolate malt. While not as dark as some porters, it looks almost opaque in the glass. If you maneuver your vessel around, you can catch the color as well as the beer's clarity. I got a small ecru head on my pour which lasted what I think of as an average amount of time – 30 seconds or so. While not effervescent like a pils, there was a fair number of bubbles in the bier heading upwards.

Point advertises this as a sweet bier and this was confirmed by the aroma. It was sweetly scented with the evaporated milk giving it a luscious dairy air. The malted part of the malted milk was also rather prominent. Topaz and Tettnang hops are used here but in the aroma I could only detect a faint bit of grass. To be fair, I don't think this bottle was the freshest example of the bier.

This is certainly a sweet bier. A prominent sweetness was the first thing that I tasted which was a mixture of lactose and bread dough. The former helped give the bier a really smooth feel. Again, the malted part of the malted milk powdered came through loud and clear while there was a touch of bitter chocolate in the background. I tasted a little carbonation as well.

On the finish the malted milk flavor lingered a little and was joined by some of those hops that were in the aroma. While not a big flavor, they helped lay the sweetness to rest with some grassiness and a little bit of bitterness as well. There was no Schaumhaftvermoegen to be had.

Upon her first taste, my wife said, "It's not as bad as it could be." True enough. Malted Milk Shake Lager does taste disturbingly like malted milk. It has a smooth feel to it and a not-unpleasant sweetness which never became cloying. As weird as it sounds, the bier had a clean taste with the flavorings taking center stage with the malt flavors taking on a supporting role. While there's nothing wrong with lactose in beer – see the milk stout – or any of the other flavorings here, Malted Milk Shake Lager just didn't cut it for me. On the one hand, it's a nice middle-of-the-road brew. Not too sweet, no big flavors, 4.8% A.B.V. But it violated those ontological categories too blatantly. The added flavors here are nice but overshadow the natural bier taste rather than complementing it or playing off of it in some way.

Junk food pairing: Keep the dessert theme going. Try pairing Malted Milk Shake Lager with some dark chocolate malted milk balls or turtle cookies.

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|| Palmer, 1:35 PM


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