It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
When I think of the classic beer styles that have filled our glasses for a good number of years,
I think of the greats like saisons, stouts, lagers, and pilsners, just to name a few. But each of
these famous styles were once revolutionary in their own time. They all disrupted the status
quo, forever changed the landscape of beer, and have continued to evolve and shift as time
goes on. But who would have guessed a thick, sweet, and fruity beer would emerge from the
beautiful and bitter India Pale Ale? Nevertheless, here we are in 2020 and drinking a lot of
milkshake IPAs. At least I am Bill.
To say a milkshake IPA is similar to a classic IPA would be like saying a cotillion is similar to
Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street—sure, they’re both formal gatherings, but that’s about where
the similarities end. There is a massive gap between the realities of these two liquids.
Even though the definition can be ambiguous, most people agree on the basics of a milkshake
IPA. It’s a New England-style IPA (NEIPA) with: Irresponsible amounts of unfermentable sugars
(i.e. Lactose) vanilla, fruits and purees, spices, and a slew of ingredients that you could find at
an ice cream shop
Bill, I'm guessing I like this style and you'd be right. To me it's a beautiful beast of a beer. It is
freedom in a glass. It’s an open invitation for any brewer to just have fun, and a chance to
explore beer in a way that doesn’t require adherence to heritage. The near-total lack of
expectations and standards is liberating in a way for the drinker and I'm betting for the brewer
Yes Bill, I realize that it still isn’t recognized by the Beer Judge Certification Program nor has it's
own specific category at the GABF but maybe that's part of the fun of it all. Far be it from me to
call you a curmudgeon despite the times you've shaken your head when I order a milkshake
IPA but I have a feeling you'll be seeing more and more of them along with, dare I say,
smoothie IPAs and slushie IPA.
Up until it caught on “milkshake” had until then been a somewhat derisive term for particularly
thick, New England-/Northeastern-style IPAs or pale ales—most of us now call these beers
“hazy” or “juicy”—the nomenclature had now been co-opted in the positive. So maybe if you
just call it something else you might enjoy a milkshake IPA too.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time!
Hello Gina -
II will say one thing to show you my support of your love of milkshake IPAs. By the standards of
“weird beers,” it’s not even that unusual. I'm not sure that's a compliment however. Essentially
it's a thick, sweet beverage with milk sugar and an okay level of hops flavor so I guess the name
makes sense. I would however prefer it to be called Lactose IPA which is more accurate and
might get people to realize it's quite different than a normal IPA.
The craft-beer scene is constantly evolving, as brewers are always in search of the next big
thing that will get customers to belly up to tasting-room bars. The explosion in popularity of hazy
New England-style India pale ales in recent years has been a good thing for drinkers and the
industry. And I can see how it gave rise you newest IPA subset..
To create these beers, brewers introduce copious amounts of fruit, vanilla, and other flavors to
the hazy brew before topping it off with one key ingredient: lactose. This sugar, which is found in
milk, adds a creamy sweetness to the beer that mimics the flavor and mouthfeel of a classic malt-
shop treat as you said. Since lactose can’t be fermented by yeast, this addition is done strictly
to alter the flavor and texture of the brew without upping the alcohol content.
Look Gina, I realize that 90% of what makes a beer acceptable is simply “Does it taste like what
it’s supposed to taste like?”. That’s it. We can talk about clean draft lines, clean glasses, proper
glassware, and serving temp but most of those things will modify the taste, and if they don’t,
well, I’ve enjoyed plenty of beer out of marginally clean shaker pint glasses. Sometimes you
have to pick your battles. The beer doesn’t need to taste good, because good is subjective, but
as long as it’s a fermented beverage with malt and hops served to a pretty close approximation
to what the brewer intended, it’s acceptable to me. It's not up to me to tell you what's good or
bad. If you like it then it's good, if not, then it's bad.
A cloudy beer is not offensive to me. I know it's caused by flaked grain, or hop haze, probably
not flour, being unfiltered, and/or specific yeast strains. Remember though, Gina, that overly
yeasty beer is generally not going to taste good, but unless you filter your beer there is yeast in
it. All beer, even if it appears clear, contains yeast. Some breweries, and most homebrewers,
bottle condition their beer meaning they use the yeast to create the carbonation..
Obviously you know I'm not a fan of Milkshake IPAs. They're simply too sweet for me. That
however doesn't mean I'm against the style. In almost every one of them I've tasted I'm fairly
sure it was brewed the way the brewers intended them. Often with exquisite care. You’re
welcome to not like them and to drink something else, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad, or
unacceptable, or not beer. It just means they're not for me.
Here's looking at you, Gina.