Lactose In Beer: What is it & How Does it Taste?

With more and more breweries all over Australia experimenting with new and inventive ways to add flavour, texture, and color to their beers, it was only a matter of time before lactose factored into the equation.

And factored in it certainly has.

More than ever before, the average craft beer drinker is offered a dizzying amount of variety when it comes to what beer they’d like to sip on, many of which now bear names such as ‘Milkshake IPA’ or ‘Oat Cream DIPA’.

As confronting (or as amazing) as these brews might sound to you, the number one thing to remember about them is the most important ingredient that they all have in common: lactose.

But what is lactose and why, exactly, is it being included in beer?

To answer these questions, we’ve put together this quick and useful article on the subject, which will go a long way towards simplifying your decision-making process when deciding whether or not that lactose-infused brew is right for you.

What is Lactose?

Lactose Powder
Lactose Powder.

The short answer is that lactose is the sugar contained within milk.

Though somewhat similar to sucrose, which is the type of sugar that we’re more used to finding in bottles of soft drink or bars of candy, lactose tastes quite a bit less sweet and is not usually found outside of milk or milk-based products.

For those who are lactose-intolerant, this sugar can be quite the pain to live with, especially when you want to order coffee or snack on a dairy-based dessert.

For everyone else, however, lactose is responsible for that creamy mouthfeel inside a glass of milk, which is perhaps the best way of explaining how it really tastes.

When looking at how lactose is used within beer, it is most commonly included as an adjunct towards the end of the brewing process, where packets of the white powdered stuff are simply poured into the batch and stirred until fully dissolved.

Historically speaking, lactose in beer has been used as far back as at least the 19th century, where brewers in England in particular were fond of mixing milk into styles of beer such as stouts or porters.

Forgetting all about history and science for a moment, lactose is here to stay, which is a truly wonderful thing depending upon your palate and opinion on whether or not it should be included within beer.

Regardless of all of this, however, there are now some truly awesome creations being put forward by some of the country’s leading brewers, highlighting just how creative the craft brewing scene has well and truly become.

Why is Lactose Included Within Beer?

Brewer Pouring Powder into Vat
Brewer Pouring Powder into Vat.

As touched on above, lactose is responsible for adding a light amount of sweetness to beer, which is great when you’re looking to craft a sweeter style brew like a dessert or milk stout.

Besides adding sweetness, however, lactose is also responsible for changing the body and mouthfeel of a particular beer, as beers that contain lactose are noticeably more creamy in both their taste and texture.

Although milk or dessert stouts are obvious candidates for lactose inclusion, brewers in the last few years have also begun adding lactose into IPAs, in particular NEIPAs.

One argument put forward for this is that drinkers today are now increasingly becoming more and more demanding when it comes to the inventiveness of their preferred brands.

On top of this, many first-time IPA drinkers in particular, can find the intense hoppy bitterness of a regular IPA to be too overbearing, a problem that can easily be resolved by softening this out with a healthy dose of lactose.

Having explored why lactose is included within beer, let’s move on to what two of the best lactose-infused brews are for those in Australia.

Beer One: Batch’s Elsie The Milk Stout

Batch Brewing Co Elsie The Milk Stout
Batch Brewing Co Elsie The Milk Stout. Source:

No list featuring the best lactose-inclusive beers would be complete without mentioning Batch Brewing Co’s Elsie The Milk Stout.

Rich, smooth, and delicately sweet, this stout features flavours of roast coffee and dark chocolate, with an added layer of creamy smoothness resulting from not only the addition of lactose but also nitrogen, which makes it even more pillowy.

Beer Two: One Drop Brewing Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake Nitro Imperial Thickshake IPA

One Drop Brewing Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake Nitro Imperial Thickshake IPA
One Drop Brewing Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake Nitro Imperial Thickshake IPA. Source:

We promise this beer by One Drop Brewing Co is much easier to drink than it is to remember the name of.

With double the lactose and nitrogen than what is usually included, this high-ABV Imperial Thickshake IPA tastes more akin to a liquid raspberry cheesecake dessert than a beer, although we certainly aren’t complaining about that.