Stylin’ & Profilin’ – What is a Milkshake IPA?

Stylin’ & Profilin’ is a brief look at different beer styles that will help you learn whether they’re right for you. Ultimately, words can’t truly turn you on to a solid craft beer. You have to smell, taste, and savor each sip to truly discover if it’s one you’ll come back to in the future. But the background info obtained in this post won’t hurt anything either. In addition, Stylin’ & Profilin’ takes a glance at various elements of craft beer culture to further enhance your knowledge and know-how!

What is a Milkshake IPA?

Oh, IPA. Your rugged good looks, striking bitterness, earthy, floral, and citrus aromas, and overwhelmingly glorious,palate quenching goodness have changed the landscape of beer forever. Perhaps one of the most polarizing styles in the history of ever, you’ve found a way to become the coolest kid at the senior prom while a great many of your detractors refuse to conform. Is it because they don’t understand you? Is it because they’re jealous of you? Is it because you stole their girlfriend? Is it because you said I could hang out with you and your crew on Friday night, but then you left me standing outside the Y in the pouring rain with no poncho and no umbrella and a dead phone battery and…

I lost my train of thought…

The IPA has become the stuff of legends in the craft beer world, evolving far beyond its original incarnation and said incarnation’s purpose. In 1774 in merry ol’ England, the British Empire appointed its first governor to India and began heavy trading. Beer was among these items and was leveraged within the market due to it being such a necessity at the time, a staple of one’s diet even.

With the invention of paler colored malts in the 1800s came the birth of the Pale Ale, a style that was discovered to have stability problems when shipped long distances. So, based off the Pale Ale style, English brewers began brewing a more stable beer to withstand the long and rigorous journey to India. A common method was to heavily hop the beer and take advantage of the acids in hops which act as a natural preservative. The second method was to reduce the gravity (amount of soluble sugar in solution) of the beer as much as possible, thus creating a product with much less residual sugars, which in turn would attract less micro-organisms that might spoil the beer on its long journey. This left a lighter colored, bitter, dry and higher alcoholic beverage compared to other ales brewed at that time.

Fast forward a couple hundred years, and we beer drinkers have just one thing to say. Thanks, you guys.

So that was then and this is now. And today’s IPA takes on many, many faces. You’ve got your West Coast IPA (hopped to the hilt and as bitter as the day is long), New England IPA (soft, juicy, hazy…Cover Girl…), Black IPAs, Session IPAs, Brut IPAs (more on this in another S&P installment), and so on and so on.

As styles evolve, so do ingredients. Brewers have tinkered and tweaked hop varieties and malt bills for years while dialing in their IPA offerings. With the softness and subdued bitterness of New England IPAs garnering the lion’s share of the spotlight these days, brewers have not rested on their laurels while mastering this fundamentals of this hazy, juicy style. Hop additions in these beers are in high quantities and the final product to hit your glass can often times resemble a glass of juice. Or…even a milkshake.

Photo courtesy of Loveland Aleworks

So, that brings us to the style of right now: The Milkshake IPA. These beers are made with lactose and milk sugar and boast a hazy appearance with a creamy mouthfeel comparable to – you guessed it – a milkshake. Or a smoothie. Sometimes, even a slushie.

The New England IPA is at the root of these beers, meaning they feature low bitterness and deliver tropical, citrus flavors. But many breweries have captured the true essence of a milkshake by including additional ingredients your father probably never thought he’d see in his beer: strawberries, passion fruit, peaches, blueberries, vanilla, chocolate, caramel, donuts, cookies, cereals. Spice additions have also been dropped into these offerings. In other words, if there was an out-of-bounds line for what can be added to create the next best Milkshake IPA, it looks like a tiny speck in the rear-view mirror.

According to Westword, the origin of the Milkshake style is credited to a collaboration project between Pennsylvania’s Tired Hands Brewing and Swedish brewery Omnipollo in 2015. These breweries joined forces and created a beer called Milkshake IPA. Tired Hands famously went on to brew over 20 more Milkshake IPAs by the end of 2016. Since then, the combination of hops, lactose, and vanilla and fruit has caught on at many breweries across the country and the trend continues to gain momentum.

The addition of fruit to beers has become popular practice, extending beyond the IPA. Many Goses, Saisons, Hefeweizens – even Marzens – have been subject to the addition of fruits to add new layers of flavor and complexity to traditional styles. Not only does this bring new liquid to the market for beer enthusiasts to experience, it continues to push the envelope of ingenuity and create new definitions and sub-definitions to an ever-growing portfolio of beer styles inhabiting today’s world.

Three years and many, many creative beers later, the Milkshake IPA has caught on with Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Beerdrinker in mainstream fashion and shows no signs of a backslide in today’s hazy landscape. If anything, more innovation will abound as brewers ponder what ingredients to use next as they strive to bring the next big, sweet, refreshing milkshake creation to our glasses.


What’s your favorite Milkshake IPA?! Let us know in the Comments below or fire up the Twitter machine and let us know!













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