“Milkshake beers are not a trend or acceptable with traditional or even modern styles…No excuses. [sic]”-Jason Alström, co-founder of BeerAdvocate.
Don’t worry, Milkshake IPA -- Provi’s got your back. As much as we love BeerAdvocate, we respectfully disagree with Jason’s analysis. Invented in 2015, the Milkshake IPA is one of the newest additions to the ever-growing family of craft beer varietals. And like any new kid on the block, it’s sure to get some amount of hate from the old vets amongst us. Not us, though. We’re believers. Today, we’re going to make a case for the Milkshake IPA. As one of our favorite craft styles to emerge in recent years, we’re happy to play advocate for this unique and exciting style of brew.
New beer styles being added to our lexicon is nothing extraordinary or new. Every couple of years, we see a few new names on the list. Some of them become the ‘hot new thing’, while others tend to fizzle out into relative obscurity (we're lookin' at you, Black IPA). With the IPA being such a wonderfully versatile style of beer, it’s really no surprise that we’ve been inundated with variations on the hop-heavy genre. To find the point of inception for the Milkshake IPA, though, we need to look at the Hazy IPA.
The Hazy IPA is sort of the foundation for the Milkshake IPA. In a Hazy IPA, brewers toss aside the idea that great beer is nearly-translucent, instead opting for a murky, cloudy look. This unfiltered style creates a fuller mouthfeel and a creamier texture. Our best comparison: think orange juice versus apple juice.
As the Hazy IPA came into popularity, it became the subject of experimentation.
Jean Broillet IV of Tired Hands Brewing Company is generally considered the father of the genre. We’ll talk more about him in a bit. But, the first brewery to introduce lactose sugar into a beer was actually 3 Floyds Brewing Company from Munster, Indiana. In 2008, they created Apocalypse Cow, a truly revolutionary brew. At least, it would have been, but Apocalypse Cow didn’t quite seem to ‘take’. A few years later, the aforementioned Jean Broillet IV would make his mark on the craft brewing landscape.
In 2015, Broillet teamed up with off-the-wall Swedish brewery Omnipollo to breathe new life into the stalling IPA category. Broillet and Omnipollo made the bold addition of un-fermentable, lactose sugar into their new IPA. This gave the brew a combination of extra sweetness as well as an undeniably ‘milky’ texture. Because lactose sugars cannot be fermented into alcohol, this addition didn’t change the ABV of the brew. Instead, it only affected the final flavor and texture. This lactose would eventually become the defining ingredient of a milkshake IPA, but Broillet didn’t stop there...
Miskatonic's yummy Milkshake IPA, courtesy of Miskatonic Brewing Company
Deciding the addition of lactose wasn’t creating a ‘thick’ enough texture, fruit pectin was introduced. Pectin is a natural thickening agent found in fruit, most often used in creating jams. Pushing the dial even further, pectin-heavy strawberries were also added post-fermentation. Vanilla beans were introduced, and the beer was given another round of dry-hopping. The resulting IPA was something unlike the beer-drinking world had ever seen. BeerAdvocate be damned, the Milkshake IPA was a hit.
Not long after, Broillet found himself experimenting non-stop with the style. Amongst these early experiments? Double Watermelon Milkshake, Blackberry Milkshake, and even a Zucchini Bread Milkshake. Some of these went to production, and others...well, not so much.
Since then, the Milkshake IPA has become something of a ‘beer du jour’. Early versions of the brew were either ignored or scoffed at by brew snobs of the world. But, since Broillet and Omnipollo’s Milkshake IPA, things have changed entirely. Breweries across the nation are reveling in the quirky, fun idea of a beer/milkshake hybrid. And beyond our borders, the Milkshake IPA has gone global -- Australian brewery Moon Dog recently created a beer called “Splice of Heaven”. Pineapple is featured in the brew, and then lactose sugars are introduced to give the beer an ice-creamy texture.
While the Milkshake IPA is still decidedly in the camp of ‘trend’, only time will tell how long we can expect to enjoy its company.
Still not convinced? You’re in luck -- we’ve put together a handful of our favorite Milkshake IPAs for you to check out.
A raspberry-blackberry double ice cream milkshake IPA from Omnipollo
Brickstone Brewery Milkshake IPA
This fruit-forward milkshake IPA is a real crowd-pleaser. Vanilla, mango, and pineapple all sing in harmony, creating a tasty brew that’s vaguely reminiscent of a piña colada. At 8.5% ABV, it’s not playing games either -- patrons will be happy to pay an extra dollar or two for this high-octane brew.
Central Waters Brewing Company Strawberry Shoppe
Straight from the dairyland itself, this Wisconsin-made brew is delightfully indulgent. A heavy addition of strawberries and vanilla make Strawberry Shoppe taste like a real-deal milkshake. Meanwhile, a 6.7% ABV makes for something just shy of sessionable. Don’t be surprised if you find yourselves selling these two or three at a time.
Brickstone Brewery Milkshake IPA Peach Apricot
While you may not have had a Peach-Apricot Milkshake (we sure haven’t), this full-flavored Milkshake IPA is an absolute winner. We will say this IPA’s texture doesn’t quite reach the soaring milkshake-y heights of some others. So, if you’re unsure about the creamy, lactose thing, this could be a good entry point. This brew doesn’t quite go for the full milkshake mouthfeel, but has enough flavor to leave you wanting more.
Miskatonic Milkshake Mountain
This dangerously-drinkable offering from Miskatonic Brewing Company is equal parts creamsicle and piña colada. If that doesn’t sound like a winner...well, we don’t know what else to say. On the palate, orange and vanilla notes are wonderfully balanced in a delightfully creamy texture. And at just over 7% ABV, Milkshake Mountain gives patrons some bang for their buck.
Central Waters Brewing Co. Mango Milkshake
Another one from Central Waters, this Milkshake IPA is nothing short of solid. Clearly, they know how to make a milkshake over there. With a very heavy dosage of Lactose sugar, this is about as milkshakey as they come. Mango aromas are undeniable in the glass, and the fresh, bright mango flavor is equally present on the palate.