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Photo Courtesy of Odell Brewing Company

When it comes to beer classifications, none might be more versatile than the India Pale Ale.  Over the course of the last several years, the IPA has been reconstructed to take on many different forms, some of which include the West Coast IPA, the Black IPA and the Session IPA.  The IPA trend has led to brewers over-hopping their concoctions, to increase the dank bitterness, but it can be difficult to keep up with all of these beers.  And now there’s a new IPA making the rounds, though don’t worry if you’re not familiar with it.

This new IPA experiment, which is the hot new beer, is known as the Milkshake IPA.

While believed to originally be the creation of a Swedish-based brewery called Omnpollo, a company ambitious to change the way beer is perceived, the Milkshake IPA is open to interpretation, though it’s typically brewed with lactose for a full body and features a heavy fruit and vanilla presence, as key ingredients for flavoring.  One of the defining qualities of this beer is haziness, with a thicker mouthfeel and a much higher sweetness than other IPAs, giving it the look of a milkshake. Instead of sitting here, trying to explain the Milkshake IPA, why don’t we just have Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine explain it:

“Milkshake IPAs routinely feature prominent hops flavor and aroma, generally (though not necessarily exclusively) using American hops, and particularly the fruitier, tropical varieties. They are also, of course, hazy; some are flat-out opaque, exhibiting a solid wall of beer behind the glass. Along with this usually comes a thicker mouthfeel and more body than one might expect out of a traditional American IPA. The source of that extra body and a background sweetness that is relatively high compared to other IPAs is lactose (milk sugar), an unfermentable sugar common in the style. So, we have a thick, sweet beverage with milk sugar and high levels of hops flavor. Voilà. Milkshake IPA.”

Those above characteristics are essentially the foundation for this beer, though brewers can really take it in any direction – some incorporate an extreme bitterness or a lack of bitterness, some mix in fruits such as strawberry, blackberry and peach as a source of haze, while others add various spices like vanilla.  Each of these ingredients can give the Milkshake IPA a wide range of textures and flavors and since it is in a developmental stage, there’s no clear definition for this beer style yet.  And creating the Milkshake IPA can be fairly traditional or fairly complex, it just really depends on the brewer, though the goal of this beer is to create an IPA with an abundance of body and opacity, hops and aroma flavors and sweetness that’s on the back-end of the sip.  In today’s over-saturated booze landscape, breweries are quickly flooding the market with Milkshake IPAs, with no two appearing to be exactly alike. And beer drinkers are buying them up in quantities.

Take the latest limited release from Colorado-based Odell Brewing Company, for example.

“We were flying through kegs of this pilot Milkshake IPA,” said Eli Kolodny of Odell Brewing Company said in a statement regarding its Cloud Catcher Milkshake IPA.  “It was only a matter of time before it moved off the pilot system and into the big brewhouse.”

No one knows if this trend will last, or if the bubble will pop on it quickly and wannabe beer snobs like ourselves will then move to the next big thing in craft beer.  For now, if local experimental breweries like Hop Butcher and Tired Hands keeping making it, we’re going try it and see if it adds to our love of IPAs, or if it’s just another overhyped beer.