This blog documents my attempt to drink a beer from every country in the world and every state in the United States.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Country #18: Malta

Beer: Farsons Lacto Milk Stout

Brewery: Simonds Farsons Cisk, Mriehel, Malta

ABV: 3.8%

Is there some EU or Maltese law that says you must disclose that "caramel color" has been added as conspicuously as possible on your product label?
Farsons Lacto Milk Stout sounds like a chocolate bar you’d pay 5 pounds for at Harrod’s in London. Instead, it is a beer from Malta that I paid 3 dollars for at Palm Springs Liquor in La Mesa. The world is a weird place. So, when 80% of your country's name consists of the word "malt," you better make good beer, especially since most people probably know absolutely nothing about your country.

I bet you twenty bucks that these are the only two Maltese things you've ever heard of.
More important to ask, though, is why exactly does Malta, a couple of islands south of Sicily, collectively smaller than Andorra (yet a full-fledged member of the European Union), produce a beer that sounds like an English candy bar? 

Found it! It's right here! About the same size and population of Omaha, Nebraska, if you were wondering.
The simple answer is that until 1964 Malta was a British colony. So, Maltese language and culture is a weird mix of English, Italian, and its own native heritage. I worked on a research project with a professor from Malta who had an Italian first name and an English last name, but whose first language, Maltese, was more closely related to Hebrew and Arabic than either. Watch the clip of a newscast below to hear it being spoken, and try pronouncing some of the words on the ticker at the bottom. 

And so it was that the Farrugia family anglicized the name of their brewery to Farsons in the 1920s, perhaps to better fit in with their English overlords. The styles of beer they made were also very Englishy; a pale ale at first, and then, by the end of World War II, Lacto Milk Stout. Milk stouts get their name because lactose, or milk sugar, is added after the beer ferments, giving it a creamy, sweet, milky taste. 

Mine was clearly not from the pub. I guess it was kind of special, though.
Usually when you get one on tap at a pub it will be nitrogenated, giving it an even creamier texture and bigger head, but my bottle of Lacto was lacking this, of course. It still hit well on the sweet, creamy, and milky fronts, but was generally a lot thinner than, say, a Guinness. It was especially sweet, though not cloyingly so, like every brown and amber ale ever. I found myself thinking “I could drink five or six of these in a row!” when I was halfway through mine, and then, when I was done, I found myself thinking “yeah, that’s about enough of that.”

So maybe you don't quite live up to the fact that the word "malt" is in your country's name. Still looks worth visiting to me (lots of great picture of Malta, including this one, taken by this guy)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jon,

    I would like to get in touch with you, as soon as possible, regarding featuring updated bottle shot of Farsons Lacto (Simonds Farsons brewery) from your website that we require in our upcoming book. We were wondering if you could supply us these high-resolution images for using in our book. My contact e-mail address is Do let me know if this sounds ok to you. Thanks!

    - Aditi Batra
    (Editor, Dorling Kindersley)