Beer Review 0514: Southern Tier 2X Stout Milk Stout

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Southern Tier Brewing Company have been in the beer business since 2002, when founders Phineas DeMink and Allen Yahn started the brewery with the goal of reviving small batch brewing. At first, this goal was a reality — using equipment gained from the purchase of Old Saddleback Brewing Company, various brews were distributed in and around the Lakewood, New York area. The distribution circle quickly expanded to New York City, and then to the entire New York state. Small batch, not so much.

That’s what happens when you make good beer. The rest, as they say, is history. Since 2009, the brewery has continually expanded, and the bottling line at Southern Tier can crank out 10,000 bottles per hour. The company’s brews are now distributed in about half of the United States and several foreign countries.

Brewed with two varieties of hops and three different malts, 2X Stout isn’t just a regular Milk Stout — of course, Southern Tier couldn’t stop there. They amped up the alcohol to Imperial levels: 7.5% ABV (alcohol by volume). A Milk Stout (also called Cream or Sweet Stout) contains lactose, a sugar derived from milk that is unfermentable. Since it can’t be converted to alcohol, it adds sweetness to the finished beer. Southern Tier’s 2X Stout is available year-round in six-packs, and can even be found on nitro taps in finer establishments for that extra creamy mouthfeel.

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On the pour, we’ve got an average size, creamy head that lingers around. Color of the beer is pitch black with the exception of lighter brown edges in the bottom of the glass. The body appeared clear, and there weren’t any particles or sediment. Lacing is excellent, leaving behind thin but solid and even suds.

The nose, like most Milk Stouts, is a bit subdued, but there are some good scents here. The milk chocolate is nice and creamy, while there are background players of black coffee and general roast. I can smell a bit of sweetness, and a very light grapefruit hop presence. It’s a touch chalky, and as it warms, a subtle suggestion of vanilla begins to come out. Mixed with the milk chocolate, it reminded me of creme brûlée. Nice.

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The flavors very much follow the nose, but if you’re expecting the sweetness of a Milk Stout, think again. Milk chocolate mixes with burnt toast and black coffee, initially; the flavors open up with a puff of smoke in the middle, harshening the milk chocolate into more of a bitter dark chocolate. Any sweetness is in the opening flavors, as the finish is moderately bitter, featuring grapefruit hops, ash, burnt coffee. The finish is long and complex; it changes at the very end to some fudgey milk chocolate and it, too, contains a hint of vanilla. 2X Stout is medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy and drying mouthfeel.

Surprisingly, the sweetness just isn’t here — that said, the flavors are decent, the alcohol is hidden, and the more delicate flavors (vanilla and dark chocolate) are nice to sit and try to discover. The problem with this beer is that it isn’t memorable, which makes returning not likely. It’s solid if atypical for the style, and a bit of a tease when it comes to highly lauded flavors. Worthy of a try, but maybe not an investment of a whole sixer.

Southern Tier 2X Stout Milk Stout, 88 points. Price: $1.99 US for one 12 oz. bottle.

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