The first few truly wintery days this past week put me into full hibernation mode. When it came time to brave the frigid air to sip on a brew outside my own living room for this week’s column I knew it was time to hit one of my favorite local spots for the perfect late-fall brew, which I’ve been keeping in my back pocket for a lazy week just like this one. That’s how I found myself snuggled at a table in Pearl’s Social & Billy Club this week, listening to blues music over the din of my fellow drinkers and sipping on a glass of Left Hand’s Milk Stout, a small, contented smile on my face.
The Left Hand Milk Stout pours such a dark brown it looks almost black, a beautiful contrast to the white head. It smells like cocoa and vanilla, and a little bit of coffee – like the most delightful winter treat. It’s as smooth and creamy on the tongue as you’d expect from the name, with a toasted chocolate body and sweet but smooth malty finish. It’s like drinking a glass of grown-up chocolate milk, one that leaves you smacking your lips in satisfaction, a thin layer of foam still coating your upper lip in a slight milk mustache. A great way to pay homage to the last few days of November.
Milk stouts are sweet stouts, which basically means they are made with extra sugars and starches that never break down into alcohol and CO2 in the brew process, leaving plenty of sweetness behind for your taste buds to enjoy. In a milk stout this sweetness comes from lactose, the sugar found in milk. Left Hand’s version has won 12 prestigious beer awards since 2006 and took home the Gold Medal in the Sweet Stout category at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Not too shabby.
Left Hand is a small brewery located in Longmont, Colorado, whose distribution exploded in recent years as the country caught on to the deliciousness of their brews. Bushwick’s onto the trend and you can find the Milk Stout on tap at several neighborhood locales, but Pearl’s Social & Billy Club may be my favorite spot to drink it. As the weather turns cold its windows steam up from the crowds gathered around candlelit tables, imparting a cozy, old-time vibe that makes me want to hunker down and spend all my winter nights at its long wooden bar. The joint gets its name from Great Grandma Pearl who used to feed and house hobos passing through her small Nebraska town, and employed her billy stick when her guests got too rowdy. I’ve heard the memorabilia lining the walls of the bar – ranging from Jesus painted in his crown of thorns to a sketch of a hand forming a shadow puppet devil on the wall – comes from Pearl’s small home beside the train tracks. I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but I like to think it is as I sip my Milk Stout by candlelight, an experience I’m sure to repeat many more times as the winter settles in!
On a side note: Let me know what you’re drinking locally via Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #bushwickbrews.
Left Hand Milk Stout gets 4.5/5 stars – 1 for its tantalizing aroma; 1 for its malty, milky deliciousness; 1 for epitomizing all that is good in the style; and 1.5 for Pearl’s supplying the perfect environment to drink it in.
Pearl’s Billy and Social Club is located at 40 St. Nicholas Ave. It’s open Mon – Fri 2pm – 4am and Sat and Sun 12pm – 4am. Happy hour happens daily from 2pm – 8pm and will get you $2 off draught beers, well drinks and wine. My Left Hand Milk Stout was $6.
Bushwick Brews is a weekly column dedicated to the exploration of Bushwick’s finest beers written and curated by brewista Erin Wicks.