Over the past few years, we have seen a rise in the intriguing style of milkshake IPAs as IPA enthusiasts scramble to get their hands on bottles and cans.

The majority of the nationally and locally known craft brewers took advantage of this opportunity and began experimenting with the style, coming up with deliciously crafted variations as a result. From Breckenridge Brewery Ice Cream Man to 2nd Shift Brewing Little Big Hop to Odell Brewing Company Cloud Catcher, many brewers have developed their own versions as they caught on to the trend.

But for some, the very words “milkshake” and “IPA” in the same sentence can send chills up the spine. Questions arise of what actually makes up this tantalizing style. The first ingredient, of course, is hops—and plenty of them. The next step is adding lactose to the brewing process, as well as unfermentable sugars and adjuncts, such as vanilla. Together, these ingredients create a hazy, smooth, slightly creamy, and full-bodied IPA that resembles a milkshake, hence the term “milkshake IPA.”

The milkshake IPA is a substyle of the New England IPA with its hazy, juicy characteristic and full body. One of the primary differences is the creamy mouthfeel that is quite unlike other IPA styles, which many times helps settle the higher bitterness profiles present in most IPAs. Some of these creamy oddities tend to have a sweet character, but are often balanced by the hop and malt characteristics found in the beer.

To get the milkshake IPA to brew and ferment just right, the brewers have to be precise when it comes to the brewing process and timing of ingredients used. “The now very popular style uses a specific technique of adding extra-large hop additions at just the right time and temperature,” says Chris Cain of Martin House Brewing Company in Fort Worth, Texas. “When done correctly, this method will capture a juicier and less bitter hop flavor. Our milkshake IPA recipe includes the addition of lactose and flaked wheat to add sweetness and mouthfeel. This increased ‘thickness’ of body coupled with the sweetness of the milk sugar is surely where the style got its name.”

Bubble Haze Milkshake IPA, cans and glass

Bubble Haze Milkshake IPA

Photo Courtesy of Martin House Brewing

Martin House Brewing Company has been experimenting with the style more with its second IPA that’s being released in the local market, Bubble Haze IPA. This IPA is not only a milkshake-style brew, but it’s coupled with the hazy style as well. “This was originally a pilot system test batch brewed by our Dallas sales rep, Blake Waldron,” Cain says. “Bubble Haze is a bubblegum milkshake IPA, and the change to this style, besides different hop varieties, is that we used a Belgian strain of yeast to obtain the unique bubblegum flavor found in the brew.”

So the next time you come across a milkshake IPA, don’t think you’re getting some weird mix of ice cream and beer. Rather, this style can appeal to a variety of beer drinkers, especially those who find traditional IPAs too bitter.