If you saw us at HOPYARD recently, or have popped into our Tap Room, you’ll have tasted our latest special – a BBF fan favourite – WELL ABOVE SEA LEVEL, a citrus IPA at 5.0% ABV. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? It wouldn’t be, if it wasn’t for the not-so-secret addition of LACTOSE.
Lactose? In beer? Technically, you’re looking at an unfermentable sugar. It’s the crème de la crème. It’s smooth, sweet and full-bodied. It might sound a little off-putting to start with, but when you think it’s the backbone of the OG MILK STOUT – not to mention the underpinnings of trend-driven milkshake IPAs – it starts to make sense. Think of eating an ice cream on a bitterly windy beach.
In an IPA like WELL ABOVE SEA LEVEL, the bitterness of the hops balance the sweetness of the lactose. The result is a beer lighter than a stout, but sharing it’s satisfying characteristics.
The use of this magic ingredient doesn’t stop at stouts and ‘shakes. It's thanks to lactose that we were able to make a convincing alcohol-free IPA in CLEAR HEAD. Taking away the alcohol can sometimes make a beer feel thin and watery, especially when you’re having a full pint. But lactose does one thing very well, and that’s give beer body and mouthfeel.
One obvious drawback to using lactose in beers is the allergens. Not only is lactose a common one, but it isn’t suitable for vegans either. We’re proud to make BEER FOR ALL as much as possible, with the majority of can and keg beers being gluten free and vegan. So, we use it sparingly – in the brews where it’s really going to sweeten the deal. Brewing is all about finding that perfect balance.
Here in the Brewhouse, we’ve been playing with a vegan-friendly alternative called Maltodextrin, another unfermentable sugar. (Yes, the name is a mouthful, and no, the marketing team haven’t come up with a sexy replacement yet. Answers on a postcard, please.)
We used Maltodextrin in our recent specials, FASCINATION and ROCKSTAR BREAKFAST. If you were lucky enough to grab a pint of the latter, a kiwi hopped keg, then you’ll have tasted fruity orange on a sweet creamy oat base. You can see where the name for the beer came from. We even made muesli with it, because why not? Honestly, the bowlful of beer wasn’t that bad… but mostly, we had hella fun making it, and it looked great on the ‘gram.
Plus, we pushed the boundaries and made a vegan lactose beer. That, pals, is what it’s all about! But what did Tristan, our head brewer, think of the results? We asked him if Maltodextrin was the future, and if we can expect to see more of it in the future:
“Maltodextrin is like granulated sugar in tea. Very sweet, not to my liking. The flavour is different to lactose. We won’t be using it across the board, but we might dabble in the future with Clear Head!”
Experimenting with beer is a hard job, but someone’s got to do it…