Got Milk?

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents -

What is this thing we call a Milk­shake IPA? How do you make one? Should you (or any­one else) make one? Josh Weik­ert ex­am­ines th­ese ques­tions and gives you guide­lines for mak­ing your own—if that’s a path down which you choose to go.

What is this thing we call a Milk­shake IPA? How do you make one? Should you (or any­one else) make one? Josh Weik­ert ex­am­ines th­ese ques­tions and gives you guide­lines for mak­ing your own—if that’s a path down which you choose to go.

IT ISN’T LIKE WE couldn’t have seen this com­ing.

Brew­ers are an al­most painfully cre­ative lot. It’s like Mur­phy’s (Ir­ish Stout?) Law: if it can be brewed, it will be brewed. That in­cludes the likes of beer made with brains (thanks, Dock Street), scrap­ple (Dog­fish Head), ev­ery food prod­uct one could name, and all man­ner of ex­ot­i­cally sourced yeasts (beards and… else­where). So, it re­ally comes as no sur­prise that we wit­nessed the ad­vent of the “Milk­shake IPA.” Heck, by the stan­dards of “weird beers,” it’s not even that un­usual.

What is some­what un­usual is just how pop­u­lar th­ese (and sim­i­lar) beers have be­come. By seiz­ing on the gal­lop­ing pop­u­lar­ity of IPA and adding in­gre­di­ents and pro­cesses that en­hance highly ap­proach- able (or, in the words of Jean Broil­let of Tired Hands, “whim­si­cal”) fla­vors and tex­tures, a few brew­eries be­gan a fad that evolved into a trend. Dozens of Milk­shake IPAS are now avail­able from do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional brew­eries. Even brew­eries that aren’t jump­ing in with both feet are push­ing out hazy, cloudy IPAS and pitch­ing them as fel­low trav­el­ers to the Milk­shake IPA, while older brew­eries brag that they’ve been mak­ing cloudy, thicker beers for years. And yet…

This is a con­tro­ver­sial ap­proach to beer. Many ar­gue it isn’t prop­erly IPA. Some ar­gue it isn’t even prop­erly beer. Oth­ers sim­ply think it sets a bad ex­am­ple and en­cour­ages sloppy brew­eries to rush out medi­ocre prod­ucts and then revel in the pearl-clutch­ing from “tra­di­tion­al­ists” who think that all beer must be crys­tal clear (ex­cept He­feweizen, of course).

We’ll start by get­ting into just what goes into a Milk­shake IPA, dis­cuss ap­proaches you might con­sider for mak­ing your own, and then ad­dress the on­go­ing de­bate of its ap­pro­pri­ate­ness, per­sis­tence, and value. Is “clear” a stale fash­ion in a cloudy fu­ture?

The Milk­shake IPA

So, what is this thing we call the Milk­shake IPA? In­ter­pre­ta­tions vary, of course, but there are some com­mon threads that we can knit to­gether to come up with a de­scrip­tion of the “style.” The IPA moniker sug­gests that it shares some fea­tures of that style, which is cer­tainly true in one way: 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.

Be­yond that, the pa­ram­e­ters and at­tributes start to fan out. Some fea­ture the high-toab­surdly-high bit­ter­ness that can be found in other IPAS/DIPAS, while oth­ers have markedly low bit­ter­ness. In fact, one help­ful brewer in­formed me that it was not only pos­si­ble but de­sir­able to make a beer of this type with zero IBUS (which mo­men­tar­ily broke my brain, since one of the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of IPA is bit­ter­ness, but we’ll get back to that later). Some use fruit as a source of body and haze, tak­ing ad­van­tage of pectin in the fruit to not only add body but also to add a fixed “perma-haze” to the beer that won’t drop clear over time. A wide range of ex­am­ples use fruit as a di­rect fla­vor­ing agent, and we see straw­berry, black­berry, kiwi, peach, and other fruit Milk­shake IPAS on the taps and shelves. Some have spices added (vanilla is pop­u­lar). And a wide range of grist ad­di­tions (oats, flaked bar­ley, wheat malt, and the ever-con­tro­ver­sial flour), unique to each brew­ery, add a range of grain fla­vors and tex­tures to th­ese beers.

We don’t yet have a crys­tal-clear pic­ture (pun ac­ci­den­tal) of this style, but it’s at least as well de­fined as many other beers that we al­ready rec­og­nize. So, is the Milk­shake IPA a real style? I would have to ar­gue “yes.”

Mak­ing the Milk­shake

So, how do pro­fes­sional brew­ers (and you) make th­ese things? There’s a tra­di­tional ap­proach (if that’s not too much of a con­tra­dic­tion here) and a non-tra­di­tional ap­proach, and you can de­cide for your­self just how far you’re will­ing to go down the het­ero­dox road! The im­por­tant thing to re­mem­ber is that our prin­ci­ple goal is to add body and opac­ity, prom­i­nent hops fla­vors and aroma, and prob­a­bly a bit more sweet­ness than might be the norm. One note be­fore we pro­ceed: this is not in­tended to be a clone recipe of any par­tic­u­lar Milk­shake IPA.

Grist.

For a start, we need to con­sider our grist. In terms of base malt, I’m of two minds. On the one hand, if we’re talk­ing about a hops-cen­tric beer, it might be best to go with a clean, sim­ple Amer­i­can 2-row. On the other hand, though, we’re not talk­ing about a typ­i­cal hops-for­ward IPA, so some­thing bread­ier/grainier such as Pil­sner or Maris Ot­ter might be a bet­ter choice. It’s your call, but I’d stick with the plain old 2-row on this one, at least for the first few at­tempts: you’re go­ing to have enough vari­ables to play with! To bulk up and smooth out this beer, you’ll also want to add a hefty dose (up to 30 per­cent of the grist) of things such as wheat malt, oats, flaked bar­ley, and flaked corn. Also, it might be a good idea to add a pound of rice hulls to the grist to avoid a slow or stuck lauter/sparge, down­stream.

Mash.

Sec­ond, let’s go with a high sac­cha­r­i­fi­ca­tion-rest tem­per­a­ture in the mash. Since body and sweet­ness are fea­tures, not bugs, in this style of beer, there’s some value in mash­ing high (say, around 155°F/68°C) be­cause it will re­sult in a less-fer­mentable wort with a higher per­cent­age of long-chain sug­ars that will bulk up the resulting beer.

You might also want to take a look at your wa­ter chem­istry. Check out your chlo­ride lev­els: if they’re rel­a­tively low (below 100 ppm), es­pe­cially if they’re lower than your sul­fate lev­els, you’ll want to bump them up to at least 100 ppm, and maybe as high as 200 ppm (your lo­cal home­brew shop can point you in the di­rec­tion of some cal­cium chlo­ride, if you’re not used to ad­just­ing your wa­ter). It will be im­por­tant later on, when we’re try­ing to limit any harsh bit­ter­ness from our hops.

Hops.

Third, we need to se­cure a load of hops. Then we need to hide them so they don’t get any­where near the boil ket­tle. Well, not re­ally, but most (maybe even all) of your hops ad­di­tions are go­ing to be late-boil, flame-out, and dry hops. The se­lec­tion, weights, and tim­ing are up to you, but I would rec­om­mend a large 10-minute ad­di­tion, an equal-sized flame-out/ whirlpool ad­di­tion, and the same again as a brew-day dry hop (this should yield you some­thing in the range of 20–30 IBUS, enough to act as a bal­ance but not enough to make your beer prop­erly “bit­ter”).

Af­ter that, a late-fer­men­ta­tion dry hop (say, 7 days in) and a post-fer­men­ta­tion dry hop are also war­ranted. This will add an ob­vi­ous hops pres­ence, par­tic­u­larly in the aroma, and will con­trib­ute some haze as well (odd, writ­ing that as though it’s a good thing).

In terms of which va­ri­eties to use, it’s hard to ar­gue with the pure fruit power of Ci­tra, Amar­illo, maybe some clas­sic “C” hops (Cen­ten­nial, Cas­cade, Chi­nook, and Colum­bus), and for those with an ex­otic bent, maybe some of the fruitier New Zealand va­ri­eties to add some interesting stone-fruit and lime fla­vors. We’re talk­ing about roughly 0.5 pound (227 g) of hops

This is a con­tro­ver­sial ap­proach to beer. Many ar­gue it isn’t prop­erly IPA. Some ar­gue it isn’t even prop­erly beer. Oth­ers sim­ply think it sets a bad ex­am­ple and en­cour­ages sloppy brew­eries to rush out medi­ocre prod­ucts and then revel in the pearl-clutch­ing from “tra­di­tion­al­ists” who think that all beer must be crys­tal clear.

(maybe up to 1 pound/454 g!) for a 5.5-gal­lon (20.8 l) batch.

One thing I would def­i­nitely rec­om­mend, though, is to avoid the im­pulse to blend ten dif­fer­ent hops. Stick with three or four. No need to color with all of the crayons in the box just be­cause we can (and you know what color that re­sults in, right?).

Yeast.

Fi­nally, for yeast you could con­sider us­ing a low-floc­cu­lat­ing yeast if you’re para­noid about clar­ity, but frankly, I wouldn’t. First, th­ese beers should not taste par­tic­u­larly “yeasty.” If that’s where you’re get­ting your haze, then you’re prob­a­bly do­ing it wrong. Sec­ond, there should be plenty of haze-pro­duc­ing proteins, polyphe­nols, and par­ti­cles al­ready in this beer—no need to un-gild the lily.

Ad­juncts.

Now, let’s get into some of th­ese other in­gre­di­ent ad­di­tions.

The most ob­vi­ous is lac­tose. It isn’t nec­es­sary, per se, but it’s very com­monly used and it will, with­out ques­tion, add sweet­ness and body to the beer. One op­tion is to add some­where be­tween 0.5 and 1 pound (227–454 g) to the wort about 10 min­utes be­fore the end of the boil (re­move from the heat, stir in, and bring back to a boil). You can also add it to taste post-fer­men­ta­tion or at bot­tling (if you’re go­ing that route). My ad­vice is to at least try some lac­tose, but use it spar­ingly. Too much sweet­ness can wreck the over­all fla­vor pro­file, driv­ing it too far out of bal­ance.

Pureed ap­ples (three or four should do fine, for our batch size) in the mash add a bunch of pectin to the beer, re­ally fill­ing in the nooks and cran­nies of the mouth­feel and adding some haze. To which I say… sure, why not? You won’t ac­tu­ally taste the ap­ple—what small amount of fla­vor would sur­vive is eas­ily masked by ev­ery­thing else and just tastes like ethanol any­way!

But if you want to make this a fruit Milk­shake IPA you’ll need a real fruit ad­di­tion some­where along the way (see “Fruit (not Fruity) Fla­vors,” Craft Beer & Brew­ing Mag­a­zine®, June/july 2017 for guid­ance).

As for that wheat flour ad­di­tion, it’s your call. Ard­more, Penn­syl­va­nia’s Tired

Hands Brew­ing swears by it, and there’s no doubt that it will act as a thick­ener, just as it does in my ham gravy. It’s gen­er­ally added in the boil, and if you’re go­ing to go that route, I rec­om­mend an amount not more than three per­cent of your to­tal grist weight. Try it with­out, first, per­haps. Then, on a sub­se­quent batch, cross your fin­gers, toss it in, and see what you get!

Can vs. Should

This beer rouses some feel­ings on the part of beer drinkers and brew­ers. Just be­cause we can make this beer, should we? The de­bate seems to boil down to three ques­tions:

Is this re­ally an IPA? Is this re­ally a beer? Is it risky to de­lib­er­ately aban­don clar­ity as a goal of brew­ing?

How you an­swer each of th­ese is en­tirely up to you, of course, but each is worth con­sid­er­ing.

Is this an IPA, or is that a mis­nomer?

We clearly live in a time when the def­i­ni­tion of IPA has be­come fluid. The clearly hops-for­ward char­ac­ter of this beer means that it cer­tainly shares some DNA with tra­di­tional IPAS. Is this, though, stretch­ing the IPA brand a bit too far?

Is this even beer? This was a ques­tion I hadn’t even con­sid­ered un­til a friend raised it, point­ing out that beer cock­tails aren’t “beers,” so there’s clearly a point be­yond which we need new names for things. Does the ad­di­tion of ap­ples, flour, oats, straw­ber­ries, ba­nanas, co­rian­der, and more to a beer even­tu­ally make it some­thing new and dif­fer­ent? An al­co­holic malt smoothie, per­haps?

Fi­nally, and this is by far the most com­mon con­cern raised: Are we en­cour­ag­ing bad copy­cats? Not all clear beers are good, and not all cloudy beers are bad, but haze, tur­bid­ity, cloudi­ness, and opac­ity cer­tainly can be signs of a rushed beer, a bad process, or a mis­used in­gre­di­ent. Erik Walp, lab man­ager at Neshaminy Creek Brew­ing Com­pany in Croy­don, Penn­syl­va­nia, notes that what we’re often see­ing are rem­nants of yeast, trub, and flour, and that it often in­di­cates a beer that is mis­treated, rushed, or flawed. Strange as it sounds, cel­e­brat­ing such beers as the Milk­shake IPA could mean an over­all degra­da­tion of qual­ity among craft beer by nor­mal­iz­ing tur­bid­ity. Is this style an in­vi­ta­tion to lax­ity?

The an­swers to th­ese may be moot be­cause…

It Sells

What­ever the con­cerns, there’s no ques­tion that beers of this type sell. They’re pop­u­lar. Not with ev­ery­one—as noted, the purists have ob­jec­tions that may well keep them from par­tak­ing—but cer­tainly with enough beer drinkers to jus­tify their reg­u­lar pro­duc­tion, ram­pant im­i­ta­tion, and con­tin­u­ing evo­lu­tion: at the time this was writ­ten, Tired Hands had a Fluffer­nut­ter Milk­shake IPA on tap. Un­less this is an elab­o­rate prank, no brew­ery does that with­out see­ing some kind of black ink at the end of it. Even those who might be skep­ti­cal are likely to adapt to con­sumer de­mand; Scott Ru­dich, owner and head brewer of Round Guys Brew­ing Com­pany in Lans­dale, Penn­syl­va­nia, says that they’ve upped the dry hopping on many of their beers, haze be damned, and their guests seem to love it.

Where dol­lars go, in al­most any in­dus­try, so goes the prod­uct. All ev­i­dence points to a cloudy fore­cast.

What­ever the con­cerns, there’s no ques­tion that beers of this type sell. They’re pop­u­lar. Not with ev­ery­one—as noted, the purists have ob­jec­tions that may well keep them from par­tak­ing—but cer­tainly with enough beer drinkers to jus­tify their reg­u­lar pro­duc­tion, ram­pant im­i­ta­tion, and con­tin­u­ing evo­lu­tion: at the time this was writ­ten, Tired Hands had a Fluffer­nut­ter Milk­shake IPA on tap. Un­less this is an elab­o­rate prank, no brew­ery does that with­out see­ing some kind of black ink at the end of it.

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