The idea behind Alternation Brewing’s Almond Milk Stout started simply enough. Owner and brewer Brendan Pleskow, who is also vegan, simply wanted to create a classic, creamy milk stout without the lactose (which is derived from milk). “When I first made it, it was all just an experiment,” Pleskow says. “We didn’t imagine ever being this vegan haven.”
But a vegan haven is exactly what Alternation has become. The brewery's dairy-free milk stout has exploded, with dozens of different varieties spawned from the original concept. While the recipe has evolved, the beer remains a favorite at the South Broadway brewery.
Variations of the stout have included Oreo, salted caramel, s’more, gingerbread and candy cane. Then Pleskow took the plant-based brew to another level by teaming up with other vegan businesses to create small-batch versions. Vegan Van collaborated on a bacon stout, aged on seitan bacon. Wong Way Veg helped make a bread pudding variety, Beet Box weighed in on a chocolate doughnut beer, and Meta Burger collaborated on a steak-sauce stout. Cholo Ass Vegan recently joined in for an horchata version.
An ice cream float was made by teaming up with Best One Yet, a vegan ice cream company, to go along with a java chip coffee stout. “People went crazy for it,” Pleskow says.
The brewer also delighted a local Girl Scout troop by ordering twelve cases of Thin Mint cookies for a chocolaty, minty stout.
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While ditching the lactose started with milk stouts, Pleskow knew he had to take the same concept to the increasingly popular milkshake IPA, which typically uses lactose to add sweetness and a creamy mouthfeel. The brewer says the flavors of coconut milk and vanilla go well with many of the new varieties of hops. Alternation's Nut Shake Milkshake IPA has been made in several different variations, including coconut, berries and cream, mango, and even an Elvis brew with banana, chocolate and peanut butter. One of the most popular IPAs was a recently released Orange Dreamsicle, brewed with forty pounds of fresh orange zest and citrusy hops.
On July 20, Alternation plans to release the latest in the nut-shake lineup: a strawberry milkshake coconut IPA, brewed with 400 pounds of strawberries. The release event will also include dessert and cheese pairings.
Pleskow says the feedback on both the lactose-free stouts and milkshake IPAs has been fantastic, by both dairy-free drinkers and non-vegans. “Both beers are super-approachable,” he says. “If it didn’t say it was vegan, you probably wouldn’t know.”