moon gazing… it’s the Milky Way

David Holliday of Moon Gazer Ale takes us to the dark side, reminding us that winter is a time to rediscover the tradition of smooth, sweet stouts… Norfolk style.

A short line on social media caught my eye the other day, it stated very simply “when the clocks go back the beer turns black”. I liked its simplicity and the fact it has no scientific basis, but it is a general truism that our taste palates change as the nights draw in and we seek out darker more malt-based beers.

Traditionally in winter our ale offering will include two darker beers – a mild and a porter – who have been kept patiently waiting for months to be served again on the bar.

This winter is a bit different, and it’s been a long time coming but we’re pleased to announce the addition of a milk stout to our Moon Gazer line-up.

We’ve been promising a stout for a long time, and to be perfectly honest I’m not entirely sure why it’s taken us this long, but hopefully you will agree it’s worth the wait.

So, time to discover the latest addition to our dark side! 

Skidaddler is a very dark – think black – 4.5% abv milk stout that delivers a rich complexity of flavours balanced by the sweet smoothness achieved by the addition of lactose. 

Now, while today you will find a plethora of milk stouts offering you an array of taste sensations from blueberry, salted caramel, peanut butter, marshmallow and – heaven forbid – banana, our Skidaddler follows the tradition of malt, hops and lactose. 

Oh, and yes, I use the word ‘tradition’ advisedly. 

You would be forgiven for thinking these new milky stouts are the invention of today’s youthful craft generation. In fairness while brewers of the early 1900s wouldn’t be adding a cocktail of exotic fruits and sweet things to their brew, milky stouts first started appearing in the UK as early as the 1900s.

Back then they were hailed as a healthy tonic – not something condoned today – but also were the antidote to the then mainstream aged beers. Often tasting stale and quite frankly off at the turn of the century, aged beers were losing popularity and beer drinkers were turning their attention to beers served fresh and young. Styles such as milds were rising to the fore, and brewers seized the opportunity to bring milk stouts to the attention of drinkers in search something new.

After all, the lactose – the sugar found in milk – brings a smoothness and gentle sweetness to the beer. In layman’s terms, lactose is a sugar found in the whey when cheese is produced and happily is a sugar that the yeast used in brewing can’t be bothered to ferment. So, while most of the sugars from the malt are converted into alcohol, the kind-hearted yeast leaves us the lactose, for body and smoothness. 

Blend this with a cocktail of malts and you can create something rather distinctive and special. For us at Moon Gazer, we wanted the malts to shine – a backbone of Norfolk Maris Otter plays host to some German dark malts. Now, for a brewery that bangs on incessantly about the importance of
local, you may wonder why German malts?

The reason is one of added smoothness. The German’s – who are partial to a dark lager – wanted all of the darkness but none of the bitterness that comes from the roasting of malt. Some clever – or incredibly fussy brewer – soon worked out that the bitterness was in the roasted husk of the barley. Hey presto, simples! Remove the husk and be left with just the flavour and colour. That’s how we like it too.

We’ve blended a total of five malts to give a depth of flavour and mouthfeel, and merely flirted with the idea of hops. Yes, some hops were added for bittering – an Anglo-French alliance of British Challenger hop and some French Goldings. As for late addition hops, there were none. When you have such a luxurious blend of malts, why would you want to mask it with hops? No – let the maltiness have its day in the limelight.

Mind you, we confess that it did take an effort of will, bordering on the superhuman, not to sneak just a kilo or two of aroma hops in…

As for the name, as you would expect from Team Moon Gazer, it’s once again taken from a local name for a hare, presumably earned by the hare’s ability to move or leave quickly. Not entirely sure why but it just fits the bill. It suggests a cheekiness and a freshness and a drink full of surprises.

Mind you, as to surprises of exotic fruits and confectionery, we will leave that to the young ones. For us, traditional simplicity is the order of the day. 

Don’t be afraid of the dark. Enjoy. 

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