A newly emerging trendy style: Milkshake IPA
To IPA or not to IPA
We are living in a world of IPAs is not argument that you could possibly argue. Every brewery, micro or nano, usually enter the craft beer market with a pale ale, with a consistently easy to brew lager and finally with an IPA. They are easy to brew and attract a large crowd, so why take the risk in the very beginning?
As new breweries pop-up, so do new beer styles too. Every year a few new beer styles get added to the Brewers Association’s guidebook. In 2015 it was Gose, back in 2010 it was the Black IPA. I wouldn't be surprised if we have the Milkshake IPA as the next update.
Why is it called "Milkshake" IPA?
A milkshake is a sweet beverage made from milk, ice cream or iced milk and has a thick body. Like your everyday milkshake , a milkshake IPA uses IPA as base beer, has lactose sugar added for that extra sweet, thick and milky mouthfeel. It is common to find various fruity additions to balance out the sweetness and bitterness. Oat and wheat are also welcome to contribute to the body, mouthfeel and head.
Although the definition is along those lines, there is no official description of this style in BJCP or BA yet. You might think that it is rather easy to mix all these ingredients, right? Well balancing is the hardest part of this style. Too much malt can overpower the fruity flavors. Too much pectin, you have yourself a nice jam. Cloyingly sweet? Well because you overshot the lactose sugar. When you know the ingredients that go into your beer, you can guess what to expect from the very first sip.
Who brewed the first milkshake IPA?
Let's all go back to 2008, when Three Floyds Brewing Company launched their very successful Imperial IPA; Apocalypse Cow! Once 9,5% ABV, now clocking at 11%, it was one of the first examples of using lactose sugar in an ale other than a milk stout. Although Milkshake IPA like elements were missing (fruit for example), it was a lactose IPA with a creamy heavy body.
In 2014, the trend setter guys in Omnipollo came up with their "Smoothie IPA" series: Magic #411 - Wild Strawberry/Rhubarb/ Vanilla Smoothie IPA. It was not as thick and creamy as today's milkshake IPAs, but when you check the ingredient list it checks out: strawberries, rhubarb, vanilla, and lactose.
One year later 2 more beers to the series and people are already talking about a new style.
If there is a mastermind behind the Milkshake IPA style, it is again the well known Swedish Brewery Omnipollo. In 2015, they teamed up with Tired Hands Brewing Company's Jean Broillet and brewed their first Milkshake IPA, a 7% ABV beer made with oats, lactose sugar, wheat flour and green apple puree. I should note that green apple has pectin and loads of it. This is a tricky ingredient for brewers as you might end up with a jam like thickness in your beer.
After the fermentation, while still in the primary, they added strawberries, vanilla beans and dry hopped with Citra and Mosaic. They offered two variations: Breakfast Milkshake IPA and Mango Milkshake IPA. Needless to say it was a sales success since the first day.
However something was not right in the beer. People made controversial reviews. Most of them mentioned about a hop burn in the aftertaste. 4 months after the launch, in August 2017 Omnipollo and Tired Hands Brewing Company made an announcement to recall the beer. The official announcement can be read here:
*Our conclusion after numerous sensory tests and with some initial feedback we have received, is that two of the beers (Mango and Breakfast) have a pronounced hop-burn. These beers are indeed intended to be a cross between an IPA and a milkshake, and to allow the hops to shine through all the fruit, lactose, malt and vanilla, we add an extreme amount of to them. However, while there is nothing technically wrong with them, we had hoped they'd be better balanced at launch (...) We've found that since canning, the hop-burn has been subsiding, and we believe it will continue to do so with a bit of time. (...) Prolonged conditioning often mellows out the bitterness, and we'll be keeping an eye on these beers develop in the right direction. In the meantime, please be advised that these beers are absolute hop bombs, and are best recommended for patrons who are enthusiastic about heavy hop loads and don't mind bitterness.(...)
If you have purchased these beers, we will refund them. A proof of purchase, being a receipt and/or a full or empty can is unfortunately required.*
This however did not stop them. Today, based on RateBeer logs, they had brewed 42 different Milkshake IPAs some of them having very unusual ingredients too, like Calamansi, watermelon, zucchini bread (!)...
Nowadays more and more breweries are tackling the Milkshake IPA style. Twin Sails Brewing in BC, Bellwoods in Ontario with their Milkshark series and recently Flying Monkeys with their Live Transmission Milkshake IPA are spreading the word around that new style.