Willow got me a present, you see, a big crate of porters and stouts for to be having as I love them so much. Which is really nice of her, I thought, and so I finally got round to having some of that bounty this evening as I had the opportunity and thought, well, whyever not? And, frankly, I had no real reason not to. I had a quick squiz of the ales on offer and went with the Milk Stout from Left Hand Brewing Company, an employee owned brewery in the United States. I mean, if that's not socialist-sounding enough to put the willies up people that aren't enamoured of egalitarianism I don't know what is.
Also, in fairness, it has the words 'milk' and 'stout' on it. And it's a purple can, so I'm already sold. Would you like to know more?
It actually opened with a hiss, like a can should, but quietly as though it didn't really want to make a fuss and slip in unnoticed at a party already in progress - maybe check out who else is in attendance before deciding whether or not to hang about. Slightly abashed that some old flame may be hanging about that would make conversation awkward, it sort of slipped out of the can and would not form a head no matter what I tried, at first I thought I was being too gentle but a rougher ending did nothing to persuade a head to form. Even so, the attempted stealth entry is ruined by the rather wonderful aroma that surrounds it like a good does of perfume or cologne (depending on how you wish to gender a glass of ale) - in this case there is a roasted sensation of coffee, without the actual bitter coffee smell, and a bed of soft milk chocolate not unlike the kind of stuff that Cadbury's used to make before being taken over by Kraft and spun off with Mondelez.
The black aspect of the glass is not quite Vanta, it does not suck in the surrounding light like some vast black hole so much as it sits and draws light through to create a kind of murky chocolate brown in the right light and a smooth blackness like a peat bog in others. All the better to kind of blend in with the shadows like the subject of the Rasmus's breakout hit back whenever it was that they were popular. It exudes a milk stout feel, comfortable and warm and slightly introverted, a good ale that doesn't want to get rusty lips. In the mouth it is soft and feels like a marshmallow would if it weren't made of sugar rushes and death. Strangely light as it opens, slipping past into the middle like a thief to lay hands on the tongue and gently strangle it so as to make off with your heart from the vault. Slightly smoky around the edges with a deep cooling milk centre, the consistency of the soft centres in nice truffles but less chocolate and more of the cream. Nothing harsh or bitter about this one, no dark chocolate to match the kind of primeval dark of the colour here, just the soft and warming milkiness that would remind you of being a baby were it not for the fact that it doesn't.
That full mouthfeel continues unabated despite the slight thin-ness in the quality of the mouthful, this is not a big hitter in that sense. Indeed, at 6% ABV it masks the strength well and dangerously for a 355ml can (being Statesian, you see, they like to do things differently there). There is an element of fizz there that nicely carries the hit of the alcohol without becoming brash or uncouth. It's the sort of impact that would be made by a dapper youth in a striking suit (or skirt-suit if you gender your ales that way) being sharply dressed without over-doing it and being fully aware of the ridiculous nature of society that requires one to wear a suit to be taken seriously. Knowing, that's what this ale does with the taste, it is knowing and self-aware. A good soft finish, all comforting and soft like a good duvet spread on some rustic bedframe in the north of France near the First World War battlefields in the late-90s. I like the cut of this one's jib, it is entirely beyond reproach. It's not my most favourite stout ever but it is one that I shall be keeping an eye out for in future because it is rather lovely.
Enjoy this best when you have a bit of time to yourself, when you haven't had an ale in a while, and you're just ready to fall into something a bit different and familiar all at once. When you want to taste something that isn't headily hopped or bitter or too sweet - when your palate refuses to let you just see where an ale will take you but demands a guide. This is the ale that follows any food, that calms any stresses from work or family and allows you to remember why it is that stout is such a good style of ale.