The feasibility of anaerobic digestion of dairy wastewater at 10 degrees C was investigated in a high height : diameter ratio EGSB reactor. Stable performance was observed at an applied organic loading rate (OLR) of 0.5-2 kg COD m(-3) d(-1) with chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal efficiencies above 85%. When applied OLR increased to values above 2 kg COD m(-3) d(-1), biotreatment efficiency deteriorated, with methanogenesis being the rate-limiting step. The bioreactor recovered quickly (3 days) after reduction of the OLR. qPCR results showed a reduction in the abundance of hydrogenotrophic methanogenic Methanomicrobiales and Methanobacteriales throughout the steady state period followed by a sharp increase in their numbers (111-fold) after the load shock. Specific methanogenic activity and maximum substrate utilising rate (A(max)) of the biomass at the end of trial indicated increased activity and preference towards hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis, which correlated well with the increased abundance of hydrogenotrophic methanogens. Acetoclastic Methanosaeta spp. remained at stable levels throughout the trial. However, increased apparent half-saturation constant (K-m) at the end of the trial indicated a decrease in the specific substrate affinity for acetate of the sludge, suggesting that Methanosaeta spp., which have high substrate affinity, started to be outcompeted in the reactor.