Beer and chocolate were invented in the same place

Next time you're looking for the perfect dessert pairing, think beer. A good dessert brew, said CBC beer expert Matthew McFarlane, "would leave wine out in the cold ... This is the perfect pairing."

He joined Sheryl MacKay on North by Northwest today to talk about the history of milk and chocolate beers, and recommended a few of his favourites.

You got milk in my beer! You got beer in my milk!

The first milk stout was born in England in the early 20th century, when brewers decided to add lactose — the sugar found in milk.

Their thinking was it would make a beer more nutritious — "almost like a meal in a glass," said McFarlane.

Mackeson`s, a Kentish brewing company, sold the fist milk stout in 1910, claiming that "each pint contains the energizing carbohydrates of ten ounces of dairy milk."

Soon enough, milky beer became a health fad. It was marketed to workers as a nutritious midday snack, and to nursing mothers as an aid in their milk production.

Of course, that was bunk. And when the British government cracked down on the false advertising in 1946, the milk stout lost its popularity.

But McFarlane says that adding lactose to beer is going through somewhat of a resurgence due to its creamy, slightly sweet flavour profile.

McFarlane's top pick: Russell Root Beer Milk Stout, a brew with "an ice-cream-like taste to it," he said. "It reminded me of a float on a hot day."

In the beginning, there was beer

According to a 2007 study by UC Berkeley professor Rosemary Joyce, you can thank ancient beermakers for modern day milk chocolate.

Around 3,000 years ago, ancient Central Americans made beer with cocoa pods. Eventually, they figured out that the discarded seeds could make an entirely different drink.

It was 100 per cent cocoa and intensely bitter. But when Spanish explorers took it back home, Europeans put milk in it to tone down the harshness, giving us milk chocolate for the first time.

Today, brewers use real chocolate or chocolate-flavoured malt to give their beer a deep, rich flavour.

"It's delicious. It's sweet. It's a real treat," said McFarlane

For the chocoholics

McFarlane's top pick for chocolate beers: Young's Double Chocolate Stout.

"It's a classic from England and it's really, really good," he said, calling it the "gold standard as far as chocolate beers go."

A few more:

- Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout is a perfect "gateway beer" for people who don't think they like beer, said McFarlane. "It smells like chocolate milk." Bonus: it contains no lactose, so it's vegan.

- Spinnakers Chocoholic Chocolate Milk Stout is "lovely, rich and creamy. There's a lovely head on this beer — very frothy." The beer is a time-traveller, brewed using the ancient method of chocolate husks for flavour.

- Phillips Longboat Chocolate Porter. McFarlane notes the "root beer like flavours to this beer — raisin flavours as well. It's the least dessert-y of the recommended beers, meaning it feels more like a drink than a meal.

With files from CBC North by Northwest