We all scream for fruity beer

Are milkshake IPAs the next craft beer trend?

Marin Brewing’s No Shame Milkshake IPA.

Marin Brewing’s No Shame Milkshake IPA.

Photo courtesy of Marin Brewing Co.

Brewing good beer is often an art of nuance and restraint.

But recently, Marin Brewing Co. chucked any such principles of brewing out the window and—shamelessly, it seems—brewed a fruited milkshake IPA called No Shame. The trending style is so delicious, so fruity, so thick and so creamy that it’s like candy—or a milkshake, anyway—to consumers, and a point of some indignity for some brewers.

“I’m kind of an old-school brewer, and I always swore I would never put fruit into an IPA,” Marin brewmaster Arne Johnson said.

Then he became intrigued by the style, which a few Northern California brewers have dabbled in following an uptick in popularity on the East Coast.

“I thought I’d try it, and I just figured I’d go all out and do all these things I said I’d never do, like adding fruit to an IPA, and using vanilla and pectin and lactose,” he said.

For his No Shame Apricot Milkshake IPA, he added pureed apricots in the secondary fermentation stage, as well as lactose, which creates a smooth and velvety mouthfeel, and vanilla.

“Because vanilla ice cream is often the first ingredient in a milkshake,” Johnson said.

The milkshake IPA style seems to have emerged as a sort of exaggeration of the New England-style hazy IPA that has boomed into popularity in the past year on the West Coast. New England hazies, which appeared about a decade ago along the Eastern Seaboard, are brewed with certain strains of yeast that leave particulates floating in the beer. Adding hops once the boiled beer wort has cooled, and not filtering the beer, can have the same effect, leaving vegetal matter suspended in the haze. Some brewers even add flour. Overall, the effect is largely visual but brings with it a characteristically smooth flavor and mouthfeel. Many trraditional brewers tend to scorn—or at least roll their eyes at—hazy IPAs.

Milkshake IPAs, similar in concept, go a few steps further as brewers add things like lactose, malted oats, flour, vanilla and fruits containing pectin. This creates a thick and frothy—and vanilla-fruit flavored—result that Jason Alström, co-founder of BeerAdvocate magazine, described as “extremely cloudy and a mess” when he tasted what might have been the first such beer in 2015. It was a strong pale ale made in collaboration between Tired Hands Brewing Co., in Pennsylvania, and Omnipollo, a brewery in Stockholm, Sweden. In his review, Alström says he basically hated “milkshake beers.”

The name stuck, and milkshake IPAs have grown into a popular substyle in the years since.

At Marin Brewing, Johnson said the beer—thick, juicy and reminiscent in taste, if not entirely in texture, of a milkshake—doesn’t last long.

The appeal of a beer that is half IPA, half milkshake is apparently powerful and universal. But don’t worry—for his part, Johnson says he is not too proud to someday make another batch.