Craft breweries have been experimenting with IPAs for decades, adding and subtracting hop varieties and malt bills, as well as changing up yeast strains and adjunct ingredients like fruit and spices. There have been Belgian-style IPAs, Cascadian (black) IPAs, red IPAs, wild IPAs, oak-aged IPAs, fruited IPAs (which was a big trend in 2016 and 2017), American-style, English-style and hazy New England-style IPAs.
So what's on tap for 2018? Let us introduce you to the milkshake IPA. Made with milk sugar and lactose to give it a creamy, milkshake-like mouthfeel and appearance, this style also typically includes the kinds of sweet treats you would find in a milkshake: strawberries, peaches, chocolate, vanilla, mangoes and the like. Most milkshake IPAs are spinoffs on the popular New England-style IPAs, which have tropical flavors and low bitterness.
"I think it is a really unique take on what the New England-style IPA style has become and in many ways the natural progression from the direction hazy IPAs are moving," says Tommy Bibliowicz of 4 Noses Brewing in Broomfield. "The other thing is that this is about as far from a traditional IPA style as we have ever made or I have ever tried. Whether that is a positive or negative trait is really up to the drinker. But it is a really pleasant beer to drink; I know that is not very descriptive, but it's one of the first adjectives that comes to mind on it."
Bibliowicz will tap the first 4 Noses milkshake IPA, Orange Velvet, this Saturday, February 10. It is one of at least four different milkshake IPAs that will be available at breweries this month.
The origin of the style is sometimes credited to a 2015 collaboration between Pennsylvania's Tired Hands Brewing and the Swedish brewery Omnipollo, which created a beer called Milkshake IPA. Since then, the combination of hops, lactose and vanilla and/or fruit has caught on at several breweries across the country.
Cerebral Brewing was one of the first Colorado breweries to make milkshake IPAs; that was last year, when it tapped both Blurpleberry, made with lactose, vanilla beans, wheat, oats and boysenberries, and Fantastic Planet, made with blueberries. Weldwerks also used fruit and lactose in its Fruity Bits series in 2017; Blood Orange Creamsicle, for instance, was brewed with blood-orange concentrate, vanilla beans, lactose and five pounds of hops per barrel.
But Station 26 Brewing appears to be the first to really embrace the "milkshake" name — something that can be controversial, because many people don't like the association with milkshakes when it comes to beer. In October, the Denver brewery rolled out a series of milkshake IPAs. It began with Strawberry Milshake IPA before moving on to Peach, Blueberry and Chocolate; that last one will be tapped on February 17.
In a blog post on the brewery's website, Station 26 brewer Allen Anderson acknowledged that hazy New England-style IPAs have become the subject of "contentious debate among beer folks." He added, "While the argument rages on (at times inside our own brewery) about the virtues of a hazy IPA, the debate among beer enthusiasts has done nothing to diminish the popularity or demand for the brew. ... I think that a lot of the supposed 'opposition' to hazy beers comes from a fundamental misunderstanding or misapplication of the chemistry at work. ... Personally, I think the hazy beers are easy-drinking and fun to make. I say, if it’s genuinely made and tastes delicious, there shouldn't be anything to worry about."
Since then, several other breweries, including 4 Noses, Outer Range Brewing in Frisco, Fiction Beer Company in Denver, Weldwerks Brewing in Greeley, and Odell Brewing in Fort Collins have used the word "milkshake."
"The Milkshake IPA is another evolution in craft-beer experimentation," says Fiction Beer co-founder Ryan Kilpatrick. "What we love about the milkshake style is the approachability. Folks who say they don’t like IPAs or that they don’t like hops are going to like this beer. Folks who say they drink beer because of hops are going to like this beer. It is something nearly everyone can enjoy — although some may not, and that’s okay.
"This beer style is also a bit of a curiosity in the taproom," he adds. "We do a lot of customer education and answer a lot of questions about the milkshake IPA; it’s a conversation-starter, for sure. Anything that gets people talking about beer, whether positive or negative, we consider a win."
Here's a rundown of what is available this month.
Orange Velvet Blood Orange Milkshake IPA
4 Noses Brewing, Broomfield
To make this beer, 4 Noses used a similar malt bill and dry-hopping level as it does with its Whimsy New England-style IPA. But it also added lactose sugar and more than ten pounds of blood oranges per barrel. "Many examples of this style use vanilla, but after tasting the flavors the lactose imparted in the first batch, I am a little hesitant to do so, since I think it will muffle the dry-hopping," Bibliowicz says. "I think the blood orange really brings out the citrus flavors of the Citra, Amarillo and Jarrylo hops that we used." The beer goes on tap at 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 10, and will be available in cans to go, as well.
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Magic Wallet Passion Fruit Milkshake IPA
Fiction Beer Company, Denver
Tapped last week, Magic Wallet was Fiction's first milkshake IPA — and it probably won't last through this weekend — but the brewery will have a second one on tap later in the month. Magic Wallet was brewed with passion fruit, lactose and vanilla beans, in addition to oats, wheat and Golden Promise malts. Then it was double-dry-hopped with Medusa, El Dorado and Citra. "What you get is this amazing sensory experience where you smell the beer and get a big hit of hop aroma, and when you drink the beer — rather than being overwhelmed by bitterness — you get a balanced, rich, full and fruit-forward sip that accentuates the hops," Kilpatrick says.
Fruity Bits Mango Milkshake New England IPA
Weldwerks Brewing, Greeley
Part of the brewery's Fruity Bits series, this one will be similar to other beers Weldwerks has made, using vanilla, lactose, hops and mangoes. But it appears to be the first to have "milkshake" in the name. The beer taps this Friday, February 9, at noon. It will also be available in Crowlers to go.
Chocolate Milkshake IPA
Station 26 Brewing, Denver
Loaded with liquid cacao, vanilla, lactose and Amarillo and Citra hops, the fourth iteration of Station 26 Brewing's milkshake IPA series is "silky" and "delectable," the brewery says. It goes on tap at 1 p.m. on Saturday, February 17. There will also be 300 Crowlers for sale.
Odell Brewing, Fort Collins
Odell Brewing dished up a Milkshake IPA in its taproom in January as part of its rotating Today IPA program, in which it brews a very small amount of a new or different IPA each month. This hazy IPA was brewed with "ample hops of citrus and tropical fruit. Lactose was added to create the milkshake effect on the sweet side."