Lactose In Craft Beer: Stout Is No Longer The Only Brew To Benefit From This Sugar

Lactose is a sugar found naturally in milk. Craft brewers have started using lactose to add sweetness to their beers. Is it safe to drink?

Lactose is commonly used in dairy products such as cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and butter.

Lactose In Craft Beer: Stout Is No Longer The Only Brew To Benefit From This Sugar

Craft brewers have begun adding lactose to their beers because it doesn’t ferment when introduced to yeast, adding a sweetness to the flavor profile of the finished product.

The problem is that some people who consume these types of foods experience gastrointestinal distress.

This article explains why lactose is added to beer and provides information on how to safely enjoy craft beer.

Before being added to craft beers, the only time lactose was discussed was with milk stouts.

These were low ABV stouts and used the addition of lactose to add sweetness. This gave them the name, sweet stouts and a lot of consumers were happy with this.

However, there is now no denying that lactose in craft beer is increasing in popularity, and this article looks at both the pros and cons.

What Is Lactose?

Lactose (or milk sugar) is a natural sugar found in milk. It’s made up of two glucose molecules joined together by an oxygen molecule. Lactose is also known as galactose or beta-galactose.

The human body can’t always digest lactose so when we eat food containing lactose, our bodies break down the lactose into lactic acid which causes gas and bloating.

When you drink alcohol, your body breaks down the lactose into ethanol, carbon dioxide, and water.

The main reason brewers are using lactose is because it’s cheap compared to other sugars like sucrose (table sugar), maltodextrin, honey, molasses, etc.

What also makes lactose sugar different is, as we mentioned earlier, that it isn’t fermentable.

A lot of sugars convert to alcohol in the brewing process, but lactose remains in the beer itself, giving milk stouts that added sweetness and creamy texture.

In the past, these aspects were only associated with stouts, but brewers are trying to push the boundaries by adding lactose to craft beers and other styles.

What Beer Styles Have Lactose In Them?

As we have mentioned, lactose is used in stouts as an additional sweetener, but some stouts also contain other ingredients such as brown sugar or maple syrup, and in modern stouts, lactose is usually not the only added ingredient.

If you ever have heard of pastry stouts, you will know these are super sweet and almost taste like a dessert.

These stouts often use lactose with a bunch of other items to boost the sweetness, and sometimes this can even make it quite sickly.

These ingredients include maple syrup and sugar as we said above, but also cinnamon and other spices.

But lactose is not only being used in darker beers and stouts anymore. Brewers are adding it to lager and sour ales, and are experimenting in every way possible.

Lactose beer is now being used to make other kinds of beverages and brewers are using lactose to create a new type of beer called the Milkshake IPA, which tastes more like a milkshake than regular beer.

New England IPAs are known for having a very heavy body but are sweet and fruity at the same time. This is dramatized in the Milkshake version with added lactose. The result is a very sweet beer that resembles a milkshake.

Brewers also often add fruit and lactose to styles such as Berliner Weisse and Gose Sours, as this balances out the bitterness.

Lactose adds the sweetness that a lot of beer drinkers are looking for, especially when they don’t like the taste of traditional beer.

This means it is increasing in popularity and brewers are making more lactose beers than ever before.

We are now seeing breweries using lactose in lots more styles where they want to increase the sweetness and create a creamier texture.

Pale and Brown Ales, IPAs, Porters, Lagers, Blonde, Stouts, Wheat, Cream, and so many more styles have been experimenting with lactose, and the list is expected to simply keep growing.

Is Adding Lactose To Craft Beer A Current Trend?

There are many styles of craft beer. Some of these include American Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Porter, Stout, Wheat Beer, etc.

Craft beer is made up of different ingredients such as malt, hops, yeast, water, etc.

Lactose In Craft Beer

Lactose is added to some types of craft beer to create a sweeter taste, and this trend is becoming the new normal.

It is currently a popular trend among craft beer drinkers and is getting a lot of attention.

Craft beer drinkers are wanting sweeter beers, and those that are new to craft beers are finding sweet flavors they never thought would be possible to be made into a beer.

Using lactose, craft beer companies brew different styles of beer, and each style has its characteristics that suit every beer drinker.

Lactose is also used in craft beer as an ingredient that gives the beer more body or foam.

However, the added ingredient is not only receiving positive attention but a lot of negative too.

Some people get sick when they drink these types of beers as there is a large section of the population that is lactose intolerant.

Even though some beers only use low amounts of lactose, the intolerance level varies from person to person, and if the lactose trend keeps growing, this means it will be difficult for a lot of craft beer fans to still drink and enjoy their favorite brewery.

That being said, it isn’t just a trend and lactose will continue to be used in brewing until the popularity of sweet beer goes down.

Consumers will decide how often they want to drink lactose-sweetened beers but brewers will carry on experimenting and pushing the limits as much as they can.

Styles such as lagers, wheat ales, stouts, porters, and IPAs will often include lactose and until demand runs low, they will continue being made with the added secret sweet ingredient.

Adding Lactose To Craft Beer

There are two main ways to use lactose in craft beer. One is by adding lactose directly to the wort during the boil, and the other is by adding lactose after fermentation has finished.

The first method is easier because you just need to add lactose to the boiling water and let it dissolve. Then you can either leave it in the brew kettle or transfer it into your fermenting vessel.

This method works best if you are using a small amount of lactose, less than 1% of the total volume. If you add too much lactose, then you risk creating off-flavors and problems.

The second method requires you to buy lactose powder and mix it into the final product. You can do this right before bottling or kegging.

This method is better suited for larger amounts of lactose, up to 5%. It is important to note that mixing lactose with malt extract creates a different flavor profile than pure lactose.

While both methods work, the latter one is preferred since it gives you complete control over how much lactose you put into your beer.

How Much Lactose Should I Use?

You should use enough lactose to achieve the desired effect. Too much lactose may give you an unpleasant mouthfeel and cause the beer to be overly sweet.

You can calculate the amount of lactose you need based on the style of beer you are brewing.

Some general guidelines will help you figure out what to expect from each style.

For example, in a Pale Ale, you would typically use about 2 pounds (0.9 kg) of lactose per barrel (5 gallons). That’s about 0.8 lb (0.35 kg) per gallon.

For a Stout, you would typically use 3 pounds (1.4 kg) of lactose. That’s about 1.2 lbs (0.55 kg) per gallon. These numbers are only estimates and you may find yourself needing more or less depending on your recipe.

If you’re not sure which way to go, start with the lower amount and see how it goes. Remember that you can always adjust later.

If you decide to experiment with lactose, remember to follow good sanitation practices. Make sure you clean all equipment thoroughly and sanitize everything between batches.

Craft Beer With Lactose – What Are The Benefits And Drawbacks?

There are several benefits to using lactose in craft beer including:

  • Lowering the alcohol content without sacrificing any flavor
  • Adding sweetness without having to add sugar
  • Making your beer more refreshing
  • Improving head retention
  • Reducing foaming when pouring
  • Increasing carbonation levels
  • Enhancing aroma
  • Helping prevent oxidation

However, there are also drawbacks to using lactose in your beer. Some of them include:

  • Off-taste
  • Color change
  • Decreased body
  • Increased viscosity
  • Reduced efficiency
  • Higher cost
  • Potential health risks and reactions from those that are lactose-intolerant

In addition to these issues, there are also potential legal issues that could arise. This includes labeling issues as well as possible tax implications.

So, while adding lactose to your beer has many positive effects, it’s still something that needs to be approached carefully.

What About Using Milk As A Substitute?

Milk is another option for increasing the sweetness level of your beer. However, milk contains casein proteins, which can hurt the taste of your beer.

Casein proteins are responsible for creating a creamy texture in beer. If you want to avoid this, then using lactose instead is probably the best option.

Another thing to consider is that milk is often pasteurized before being sold. This process kills off most of the enzymes that allow lactose to break down during fermentation.

This means that if you use milk in place of lactose, you’ll end up with a lot of residual sugars left over at the end of fermentation.

This can lead to a very sweet finished product. So, if you plan on using milk instead of lactose, make sure to do so sparingly.

Can I Add Lactose To My Beer After Fermentation?

Yes! Adding lactose to your beer post-fermentation is completely safe.
It’s recommended by some brewers.

Lactose In Craft Beer

The reason why is that lactose doesn’t change the flavor profile of your beer. It won’t affect the bitterness, color, or any other characteristic of your beer except making it sweeter.

So, if you want to boost the sweetness level of your brew without adding too many additional ingredients, lactose is the way to go.

What Are Some Other Ways To Boost Sweetness In Beer?

There are plenty of ways to boost the sweetness level in beer.

Here are a few examples:

  • Adding sugar (or honey) to the mash tun
  • Using adjuncts like corn syrup, molasses, dextrose, etc.
  • Using fruit juice concentrates
  • Adding high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Adding artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, etc.

How Much Sugar Should I Use?

When deciding how much sugar to add to your beer, keep in mind that the amount will vary depending on what style of beer you’re making.

For example, stouts typically require less added sugar than ales.

As such, you should generally start with lower amounts of sugar when brewing stouts.

However, once you get into the realm of higher gravity beers, you may need to increase the amount of sugar used.

As an example, let’s say you’re planning on making a 5-gallon batch of IPA. You know that you’ll need about 1 pound of sugar per barrel of wort.

You also know that your target OG is 1.050.

If you were going to use regular table sugar, you’d simply multiply the number of pounds of sugar needed by 0.5 to find out how much you’d need.

If you wanted to use brown sugar, you would multiply the number of pounds required by 0.75.

The same goes for honey and maple syrup.

Now, if you were going to use HFCS, you’d just multiply the number of pounds by 1.2.

That’s because HFCS has roughly twice the concentration of simple sugars as table sugar.

So, if we apply these calculations to our hypothetical IPA recipe, we get the following results:

1 lb x 0.5 0.5 lbs
0.5 lbs x 0.75 0.375 lbs
0.375 lbs x 1.2 0.48 lbs
Total: 2.16 lbs

This means that you’d need approximately 2.16 pounds of sugar to achieve a final gravity of 1.050.

Note that this calculation assumes you’re using only one type of sugar.

If you’re using multiple types, then you’ll have to divide the total weight by the number of different types.

Also, note that the above calculations assume you’re using standard table sugar. If you’re going to use brown sugar instead, you’ll have to adjust accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Craft Beer?

Craft beer is defined as beer made by small breweries that adhere to traditional methods of production.

These include things like hand-pump dispensing, bottle conditioning, limited distribution, etc.

Some people might argue that craft beer is synonymous with “microbrewery” or “small brewery.”

But, technically speaking, there are larger microbreweries that produce more than 6 million barrels annually.

And, while some large brewers do make their beer, they don’t always stick to traditional methods of production, so it’s not fair to call them craft brewers.

Is It Hard To Make Good Beer At Home?

Many homebrewers can make good beer at home. However, it does take practice and experience to hone your skills.

What Does Lactose-Intolerant Mean?

Being lactose-intolerant means that you can’t consume milk products without experiencing symptoms such as diarrhea, flatulence, and abdominal pain.

While many people who are lactose intolerant can drink beer, others cannot.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has helped you understand what lactose is, why you want to either add or avoid it in your beer, and how to calculate the correct amount of sugar to add to your drink come brew day.

Lactose in craft beer is not just a trend, and as long as the demand for those sweet beers remains high, so will the use of added lactose.

Andrew Carr