Sweet Stout and Milk Stout Recipes

by Brad Smith on November 3, 2011 · 11 comments

Sweet stout and milk stouts are increasingly popular beers that form a counterpoint to Dry Irish Stouts. This week we take a look at the history of Sweet Stout, how to brew it and recipes for making it.

History of Sweet and Milk Stout

Milk Stout (also called Cream or Sweet Stout) traces its origins back to Porters. Strong Porters which were widely popular in the 1700’s were often labeled as Stout Porter. Eventually the Porter name was dropped in the 1800’s to become simply Stout. A number of variations of stout emerged. Dry Irish stouts (like Guinness) pushed the limits of using heavily roasted malts to create a dry coffee-like flavor. Other stout variations such as Russian Imperial Stout pushed the limits on the malty or sweet end. Still others, like Oatmeal stout pushed in other directions.

Milk stout and Sweet stouts push the sweet end of the spectrum by using lactose – which is unfermentable. The iconic example of milk stout, Makeson’s stout, was first brewed in 1801 in the Southern United Kingdom. Milk stouts were widely marketed in the 1800’s as nutritious – even to nursing mothers. After World War II, the UK outlawed the use of the word and imagery for milk in association with beer, so many modern examples are labeled as Sweet stouts.

The Sweet Stout Style

Sweet stouts use dark roasted malts to create the dominant flavor which is a malty, dark, roasted chocolate character. Like Dry Irish Stout, they may have roast coffee-like flavors. Unlike Dry Stout, Sweet stouts have a medium to high sweetness (malt or lactose) that provides a counterpoint to the bitterness of hops and roast malt. Some (though not all) sweet stouts include lactose, an unfermentable sugar that enhances sweetness and body.

These stouts are full bodied and creamy, and have low levels of carbonation. Original gravity starts at 1.044-1.060 and finishes at 1.012-1.024 for a 4-6% alcohol by volume. Many English examples use a relatively low starting gravity, while US examples tend to be brewed at a higher starting gravity. They have low to medium esters and little to no diacytl.

They are moderatly hopped at 20-40 IBUs for a bitterness ratio of around 0.6. The hops should balance the malt, but hops is not a major flavor in this style. The color should be dark brown to black (30-40 SRM).

Brewing a Sweet Stout

Sweet stouts start with an English Pale Malt base which makes up 60-80% of the grain bill. To that, we add a mix of crystal/caramel malts (roughly 10-15%), and chocolate, black and roasted malts (10% or more in total) to provide color and flavor. Corn, treacle, wheat or other off-beat malts are sometimes (though rarely) used.

For a true milk stout, lactose is often added. Since Lactose is unfermentable it provides a distinctive sweetness as well as body for the finished beer.

Sweet stouts traditionally use Southern English ale yeast as this is where the beer was originally brewed. A relatively low attenuation English ale yeast with moderate esters such as White Labs WLP002 or Wyeast 1092 would be appropriate.

English hop varieties such as Fuggles, East Kent Goldings, or Columbia are appropriate, though many US variations also use popular American hops. The hops should primarily be added as bitterness hops since hop aroma and flavor is not dominant. Hops should balance the sweetness of the beer.

Mashing an all grain sweet stout should be done at the higher end of the temperature range to enhance body and residual sweetness. I will typically mash this style in the 153-156 F range. Fermentation is done at normal ale temperatures and the beer is conditioned as any other English Porter or Stout.

 Sweet Stout and Milk Stout Recipes

Here are some recipes from the BeerSmith recipe archive:

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Seth January 19, 2012 at 2:31 pm

not seeing a wyeast 1092 yeast strain..

Tony April 28, 2013 at 10:32 pm

I’m wanting to make a creamy stout. But don’t want to use lactose. Any suggestions? Seems every where I read, ingredients ask for lactose to make or help make it creamy. Thank you. Tony Garry

Ashley Bedwell September 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Nice post. I’m going to do a Dulce de Leche Sweet Stout 🙂 I’ll let you know how it turns out

Josh October 21, 2013 at 9:34 pm


Most (probably all) sweet stouts have lactose. It is one of the defining ingredients in the beer style. But there are plenty of other stout recipes that don’t have that ingredient. You should take a look for an oatmeal stout. The oatmeal lends a delicious creamy quality to the beer and gives it a full, thick mouthfeel. You can use 1/2 – 1 1/2 pounds per 5 gallon batch. Also you can check out carapills. It is a type of barley that improves head retention.

Jim Lundstrom October 2, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Just wanted to let you know you do not need the punctuation that you are using for centuries, as in “1700’s.” That effectively turns it into a possessive, when what you want is a plural, or “1700s”…of course, when you drop the century, then you add the punctuation to the front, as in the ’60s or ’90s. It’s a common error that I attempt to correct whenever I see it, and, unfortunately, I see it everywhere.

Ian March 29, 2015 at 5:53 am

Great article (as always) thank you. I’m about to make a sweet stout for the first time. But not sure when to add the lactose. What is the normal practice?

Shreya October 13, 2015 at 1:07 am

Nice article and Recipe.i am gonna try Milk Stout, but i have doubt which type of milk i use for this, coz i having cow milk from pride of cows milk. can i use this for milk stout.

Farmer Bill July 28, 2016 at 6:48 am

Yes Shreya, that milk will be fine. Make sure to add two tablespoons per glass and mix thoroughly.

Jonathan Cournoyer December 23, 2016 at 9:08 pm

Hey where’s thr Milk O’Stout recipe? This page had the link days ago and now its not available anymore

Matt R. January 3, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Oatmeal Milk Stout
8.00 lbs Pale LME
0.25 lbs Lactose
1.00 lbs Cane Sugar
0.50 lbs Wheat Malt
1.00 lbs Flaked Oats (oven roasted at 350 for 1 hour, then cooled prior to mashing)
0.50 lbs Crystal 60
0.50 lbs Chocolate Malt
0.50 lbs Roasted Barly

0.25 oz Cascade Whole 60 min
2.00 oz Fuggle Pellet 60 min
0.25 oz Columbus Pellet 30 min
1.00 oz Cascade Whole 15 min
1.00 oz Goldings Pellet 5 min

British Ale Yeast

John Worrall May 13, 2017 at 2:38 am

A big thank you first for understanding ENGLISH (when looking for recipe’s in Australia I kept getting brew kits) I was looking for a way to sweeten stout, now I need to find a way to make a true northern bitter, hops a hard to find here in Aus. I will subscribe and would like to visit your brewery. John Worrall

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