Nitro. In my experience, it can be a dodgy proposition with bottled beer. Some people swear by it. Some say its best on draft. Others still find little to it other than the rich, thick, cloudy body it creates upon its hard pour. So, lets see what differences we can find between these two separate but same brews from Left Hand Brewing.
To start out, we have the Milk Stout. Dark in color and featuring the standard off white, tannish head, this black beer features a curious, gentle nose of cream and malt. As with other styles of stout – such as cream, coffee or oatmeal – the milk stout presents a mouthfeel and flavor that is smoothed out by its central theme. With a greatly subdued malt profile, which appears primarily in the finish and foundation of the brew, alongside subtle notes of coffee, the main thrust of the sip comes across as primarily silky and smooth.
Bringing to us a humble 6% abv, the milk stout is not exactly the beast or circus that some other higher gravity brews are, but is instead one which offers to the drinker a rich, satiny black beer that is neither syrupy in its body, nor overwhelming in its taste or power. While it may come across as thin to some more discerning palates – those more accustomed to big badass beers from their stouts – the underlying malt notes when combined with the altogether pleasant milk styling presents one with something that feels almost like a robust porter, albeit one with a more smoothed out texture.
And then, onto the Nitro.
To begin with, this brew requires a hard pour, meaning unlike most beers which require a tilt of the glass to avoid over-foaming, this puppy wants to be dumped clean in for a fuller and richer mix. Upon completion of this simple yet wrong-feeling task, a rich, impossibly thick head forms at the top of the body with a cascading and rather beautiful showering effect of hazy bubbles and cloud moving downward along the outside, while building back up in the middle out of view. Black as its non-nitro cousin, the brew shares the same clean and gentle nose.
How does it taste? To answer this, I can only say creamier. Same, but creamier.
Having been less than impressed with bottled stouts in the past myself, I find myself surprised with this one. Whereas previous experiences with nitro scotch ales proved less than thrilling (at least out of bottles, as the same brew on tap was rather remarkable) the smoothing effect that this nitro stout provides actually presents itself as a surprisingly pleasant addition to the base brew itself. Though the non-nitro milk stout was itself already smooth, the addition of creamy texture to its nitro counterpart does something of a fine job of elevating the milk and coffee notes, while leaving the malt foundation well enough alone.
And where in my previous experience with said scotch ales proved to be one where nitro diminished the aspects to the original brew that I most thoroughly enjoyed, with this I find it instead somewhat enhances them, offering up a more robust texture and mouthfeel while maintaining the core flavor. A sometimes harsh critic of bottled nitro, especially in respect to brews such as Old Speckled Hen (which in fairness is canned, not bottled) I walked into this review with lowered expectations. But by virtue of balance and central nature, I would – if offered the choice between the two – most likely go with the nitro in this case. Of course, I encourage you to give these two a try yourself, if only to fall rightly in line with my otherwise infallible opinions on the matter.
While the brewery may have provided the product mentioned above for free, I was not required to write a positive review, I did not receive any monetary compensation, and the honest opinions I have expressed are my own.
Nicholas Goroff is an actor, writer and craft beer reviewer at EveryJoe.com. Certified as a Cicerone beer server, he is working towards obtaining certification as a beer judge while employed at Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett, NH. When not reviewing beer, wine and spirits, he is typically writing political essays, screenplays and short fiction. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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