Milk Stouts first became popular in England during the 1800s with blue-collar labourers as a nutritious complement to morning or midday meals. As with many older beer styles, milk stouts experienced a near-extinction before being revived by modern craft brewers.
Alasdair Cassels — who died in April aged 71 — was rightly proud of his flagship beer.
Milk Stout before Cassels’ version was a minor craft beer style in New Zealand with a small market amongst aficionados of the style.
The barnstorming success in international competitions of Cassels Milk Stout between 2018 to 2020 is now the stuff of legends. There were eight major awards in total including two World Best at successive World Beer Awards — 2019 and 2020.
Milk stout (aka sweet stout or cream stout) is a stout containing lactose, a sugar derived from milk which adds sweetness and body to the final beer. Milk stouts aren’t cloyingly sweet but have a subtle sweetness reminiscent of whole milk (as the name suggests). Compared to other stouts the roast character is mild and they are less bitter-tasting. Think dark, sweet, full-bodied, with slightly roasty notes of sweetened coffee and milk chocolate.
The original Cassels Milk Stout is black with a tan head, 5.2% ABV with aromas of bittersweet chocolate. It has a full malt body and a light and creamy taste of coffee and chocolate. Smooth and velvety it has a subtle flavour that is mellow enough to match with creamy or chocolate desserts. Adjectives like ‘luscious’ and ‘silken’ can be used to describe this beer, so it is little wonder it seduced its way to the top of the pile.
Realising they were on to a winner, Cassels introduced a beefed up version – Cassels Double Cream Milk Stout. Another full-bodied stout, the Double Cream Milk Stout is rich, strong (8.1%) and malty. There is a roasted note in a sweet chocolately aroma, a restrained bitterness but a big roastiness in the taste, and a creamy, almost velvety texture. Big and weighty, this one is ‘on the road to the Baltic’.
Keeping with the “there is never too much of a good thing” mantra then came Cassels Triple Cream Milk Stout. This imperial strength (9%) milk stout is stronger and sweeter than the Double Cream but has the chocolate aroma and flavours and is also creamy in the mouth. I found a yeasty, Belgian ale note in the flavour, along with some spicy hops and a big roasted, bitter finish. Dangerously drinkable, I believe the 440 ml cans of Tripel Cream Milk Stout could be classed as a hazard by ACC.
We raise a glass to Alasdair Cassels and thank Cassels for taking milk stout to the next level and giving us three great beers to choose from.