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Brewer’s Perspective: Using Lactose for Sweetness (Without the Cloy)

Scott Vaccaro of Captain Lawrence in Elmsford, New York, shares his insight on why lactose works and what it brings to IPA.

Scott Vaccaro Nov 4, 2019 - 4 min read

Brewer’s Perspective: Using Lactose for Sweetness (Without the Cloy) Primary Image

Brewing these sweeter IPAs has been a huge shift for me. I went from brewing bone-dry, highly bitter, aromatic West Coast IPAs, which is what I grew up dreaming about and drinking at home, to joining this industry shift for sweeter IPAs. It’s not unlike what happened with the IBU wars years ago when everyone wanted to outdo each other on bitterness. Thank goodness we’ve gotten away from that, and now it’s about the flavors and the aromas.

Lactose is milk sugar, and it is full of unfermentable sugars. Lactose offers a little bit of backbone and sweetness that elevates the hoppiness in a beer in a positive way. If you think about a New England–style IPA, there’s a lot of vegetative matter that comes from dry hopping and what goes into the kettle. When you add lactose to your boil, it helps those flavors and, more importantly, I think it puts a little more meat on the bones of the finished beer.

Lactose turns an IPA into an interesting, smooth, and flavorful drink. It definitely adds to mouthfeel and gives the beer a fuller body.

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