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Chicagoist's Beer Of The Week: 4 Hands Chocolate Milk Stout

By Jason Baldacci in Food on Feb 14, 2014 8:30PM

If you're one of those people who protests Valentine's Day by refusing to purchase chocolate, we may just have the perfect compromise for you.

Hailing from St. Louis, 4 Hands Brewing Co just recently started sending their beer up to Chicago and their current seasonal is Chocolate Milk Stout. Brewed with cacao nibs and lactose sugar, the nose on this beer is phenomenal. The first whiff reminded us of the many glasses of Ovaltine and Nesquick we consumed as children with just a little extra kick of roasted bitterness. That same bitterness is quite prevalent on the palate, thanks to the cacao nibs and heavily roasted malts, but there's a richness that comes across in the form of dark chocolate and cocoa powder, along with a hint of hazelnut that lends a nice backbone and rounds out the mouthfeel. As much as we loved the nose on this beer, it made us expect that Chocolate Milk Stout would be sweet, but the sweetness involved is nicely balanced against the bitter components making sure that this isn't a one trick pony. At 5.5 percent alcohol content, Chocolate Milk Stout is silky smooth, complex and wonderfully rich without being overwhelming.

Brewing with lactose sugar is an old English technique that's significant since lactose is an unfermentable sugar. Because of this, lactose doesn't get consumed by brewer's yeast and turned into alcohol like other sugars lent from the malt. Instead, the lactose sugar remains in the beer to add body and richness and lets a 5.5 percent alcohol content beer like Chocolate Milk Stout drink more along the lines of a beer that's around 7.5-8 percent alcohol content. It's almost like adding cream to a cup of coffee, since it affects both flavor and texture. While this beer is an obvious choice either with or as dessert, don't count it out to pair with another part of the meal. Beef stew or chili could work very well, but a beef roast with a heavy sauce or gravy would probably be even better. One thing that's always blown our minds, though, is how well a beer like this can pair with a funky cheese.

Chocolate Milk Stout is available on draft and in 22-ounce bomber bottles, check to see where you can score some this weekend.