The lone trend that arguably exceeds craft beer in terms of popularity is the growth of this cocktail that was inspired by beer itself. From solid lemonade soaked in beer to spritzy sangrias, beer mixes have become a staple on drink menus and households in the United States of America. Beer just works so amazingly well with seasoned spirits and basic syrups imbued with herbs or fruit that it’s surprising why it did not occur earlier. With only one exception though: milk.
Milk doesn’t simply work well together with beer. Or does it? Is there actually truth to the notion that beer and milk consistently creates a curdling mixture? So we can shed light on this matter, we need to first examine the pH level (a scale used to specify how acidic or basic a water-based solution is) of beer and find out the very composition of milk as well.
Beer, just like any other kind of alcoholic beverage, is inherently acidic. The level of acidity is determined by its placement on the pH scale (pH means “potential hydrogen.”). A pH score of seven is deemed as neutral while anything higher than seven is deemed as alkaline. Majority of beer products have a pH score between 4.1 and 4.6 pH, though beer has the ability to diminish in acidity through time. Some factors throughout the course of the brewing stage, like bacteria that produce acid, can at the same time make beer even more acidic – lowering its pH level even further.
Because beer is acidic, it doesn’t blend beautifully with milk and the reason is this: Milk, half-and-half (a blend of equal parts whole milk and light cream) and heavy cream consist of proteins known as casein – fats and lactose which drift, consistently spread, in water. The proteins wander easily throughout their fluid home in tiny clusters called micelles. The small clusters of caseins possess a negative charge that stops them from forming together into one – the same negative charge is responsible for retaining the liquid state of milk.
The level of defense micelles possess against acid is all about fat. When it came to 2% fat or skim milk, for instance, there is little fat to defend casein molecules compared to heavy cream. And when we are talking about safeguarding milk against curdling, this is extremely vital. Fat basically envelops the casein molecules, transforming them into more resilient bunches against curdling.
Pouring in an acidic beverage like beer on milk holds identical effects as pouring any kind of acid, like lemon juice. The milk becomes overly acidic and this, in turn, disrupts the negative charge on the caseins that have been clustered together as micelles. Originally dispensed equally all over the fluid milk, the casein clusters start to mass together into bigger and bigger amounts. It ultimately reaches a point when the large clutches of micelles become extensive enough to be seen by the naked eye or felt through the milk’s texture. Once this occurs, the clumpy milk is regarded as “curdled.”
With that being said, the more fat there is in the milk, the less susceptible it is to curdle. This is the reason why heavy cream, and in some occasions half-and-half, can cater the mixture of beer without exhibiting anything more than a casein cluster. You will also benefit in utilizing fresh components – both beer and heavy cream or half-and-half – and to infuse them gradually at colder temperature levels. This process is arguably, the optimal means to allow a shot of stout, a cup of ice cream and a squelch of heavy cream to become a viable cocktail for your taste buds.
Author’s Note: Does beer make milk curdle?
So does beer actually make milk curdle? But maybe the more important question revolves around the nature of such an inquiry. In reality, there are only a handful of beer-and milk-mixed beverages that I know of. On the other hand, though, I am no mixologist. But there is one interesting mixture that I would truly want to try: a Guinness milkshake. Based on the information that I have gathered so far, the nutty bitterness of the beer and the sweet creaminess of the ice cream blend beautifully in this cocktail. And at this point, I am already fully aware that in the case I’ll want to infuse some acidic liquid mixture into milk, I have more chances of obtaining success by utilizing cream since there would a be a lower probability of curdling because of its higher fat content.