How to Brew Milkshake IPA

Getting your hands on a fresh can of milkshake IPA can be a struggle. As such a popular and hyped-up beer style, breweries sell out their latest releases almost instantly. Why not brew your own at home?

Milkshake IPA is a velvety, creamy, and rich take on New England IPA. Homebrewing milkshake IPA can be a fun and creative experience. Using a few innovative techniques, brewing milkshake IPAs at home is a great way to experiment with obscure flavors in beer. We’ll tell you how to get the most out of using lactose, vanilla, and loads of juicy hops to create your very own milkshake IPA.

strawberry milkshake and a new england ipa next to each other

What is a Milkshake IPA?

As a subgenre of New England IPA (NEIPA), milkshake IPAs are hoppy, rich, and smooth. What makes the milkshake style unique is the addition of lactose and vanilla. Since NEIPA is already brewed with lots of oats and low flocculating yeast, they come across rich and fruity as is. On top of this, milkshake IPAs add creaminess and a velvety texture with lactose and even more oats.

Fruit-forward and tropical hops are used in massive quantities to provide a hoppy backbone to the beer. Bitterness is almost non-existent but the richness of the lactose should not be so much to make the beer undrinkable and cloying.

Since the guidelines are very open to interpretation, defining a textbook milkshake IPA is difficult. It should be somewhere between 5.5% and 10% ABV, cloudy and pale (depending on fruit additions), very hoppy, and vanilla-forward. Fruit additions are common – the most popular being strawberry and orange. Tropical fruits like mango and guava are also used for an exotic touch.

Milkshake IPA can be summarized by a few key components:

  • Use of lactose for richness and sweetness
  • Creamy, thick body, and full mouthfeel from a large percentage of oats in the grist
  • Low bitterness
  • Prominent vanilla flavor
  • Tropical and juicy NEIPA hop profile
  • Optional fruit addition for juicy, tropical, or exotic flavor

There’s nothing traditional or restrained about brewing this style. The more crazy, outrageous, and individual the better.

How to Brew Milkshake IPA

Get ready to throw convention out the window – brewing milkshake IPA goes against many rules of brewing.

Since milkshake IPA is basically a subset of New England IPA, a lot of the brewing techniques remain the same. See our complete guide on how to brew NEIPA for an in-depth overview. There are, however, a few main variations that set the milkshake version apart.

Brewing milkshake IPA requires a few advanced techniques. With so much going on, you need to make sure every step of the brewing process is done with care and precision. Also, kegging is absolutely required at the homebrew level. Bottle conditioned milkshake IPA is far too susceptible to the negative effects of oxidation. As one of the most expensive styles to brew, it is really not worth the risk of ruining an entire batch of beer.

Let’s take a look at what makes brewing milkshake IPAs different and unique. We’ll guide you through the process and share a great recipe to try out this outlandish style.

Body and Mouthfeel

Milkshake IPA should have a rich mouthfeel and substantial body. Most homebrewers opt for a 60 minute single infusion mash between 152F and 155F. Mashing on the higher side ensures some unfermentable sugars in the wort which will contribute to a rich and sweet finish.

Lactose

Lactose has been used for years to give beer a fuller body and richer mouthfeel. Once reserved for milk stouts, lactose is now a very popular additive for NEIPA brewers. For milkshake IPA, lactose is necessary for a smooth, creamy body and residual sweetness. Since lactose is unfermentable by the brewer’s yeast, lots of sugars are left over to add sweetness and roundness to the beer.

Use about 1 pound of lactose per 5 gallons of beer. It should be added to the end of the boil.

Grist

The grain bill for milkshake IPAs can be almost identical to NEIPA. A slightly higher percentage of oats can add extra mouthfeel and creaminess, if desired. Be careful though, exceeding 30% of the total grain bill will give you issues with sparging. Use rice hulls to help with grain bed filtration.

A light SRM is ideal. Like NEIPA, milkshake IPAs are extremely hazy. A darker body will appear extra murky if many colored malts are used.

We’d recommend sticking to 2-row pale malt as the base grain. Flavor contributions from the grain should be minimal. The hops, vanilla, and fruit additions should take center stage.

Extract brewers can choose the lightest possible dried malt extract. Dextrin malt, like CaraFoam or CaraPils, can be steeped to help boost mouthfeel and add some fresh malt flavor. On top of that, flaked oats can be steeped to add some protein and body.

Haze and Texture

Adding pectin to the boil, in the form of apple puree, is a great hack to ensure your beer has a permanent haze and a thicker body.

If you want to try this technique, core and peel 5 Granny Smith apples (per 5 gallons of beer), or similar tart variety, and puree in a food processor. Add the puree with 10 minutes left in the boil.

The original milkshake IPA recipes also called for some all purpose flour in the boil to help with haze. This step is definitely optional, as the beer will be plenty hazy already from the other ingredients. Try it out if you’re curious. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour with 10 minutes left in the boil.

Hopping

Despite the eclectic and over-the-top nature of milkshake IPAs, hops should still play an important role in both aroma and flavor. Losing sight of the core of the style – IPA – can make these beers taste more like dessert than beer.

Bitterness is present but should be kept to a lower level than typical NEIPA. Most of the hop bitterness will come from the flameout addition. It’s also a good idea to include a boil hop addition to ensure some balance and maintain drinkability. Aim for about 10 IBU from a 60 or 30 minute high-alpha acid hop addition.

Follow the whirlpool and dry hop amounts and schedule for typical NEIPA. A double dry hop will help add another layer of tropical fruitiness and add extra haze.

Type of Hops

Choose only the freshest and most pungent hop varietals. Fruit-forward and tropical hops like Citra, Galaxy, Mosaic, and Vic Secret help contribute to juiciness. They also pair very well with various fruit additions.

Avoid earthy or floral hops, like Noble-type hops. The herbal and grassy flavors can clash with the sweet vanilla character of the milkshake IPA.

Flavoring

One of the best aspects of brewing milkshake IPA is the endless creativity. There are so many possible flavor combinations that can be explored. Since there are basically no rules, feel free to try out anything you can think of. Not everything will turn out delicious, but if you follow a few basic principles, you should have a good idea of what will work.

Vanilla

Vanilla is one of the key flavors to nailing this style. There are two ways to get vanilla flavor in the beer:

  • Vanilla bean: Get the best flavor using whole vanilla bean. For 5 gallons, you’ll need 1 or 2 whole vanilla beans. Split the bean, scrape out the seeds, and chop the casing. Add the paste and casing to a small jar and cover with vodka, about 1 ounce. Let this steep for one week. This is called a tincture. The alcohol extracts all the flavor from the vanilla bean for a more expressive profile in the beer.
  • Vanilla extract: Use 2 ounces of pure vanilla extract per 5 gallons of beer. Extract will give you a nice vanilla profile but not as fresh and bright as the whole bean.

Vanilla beans are very expensive but it is worth the investment for the best possible flavor.

Whichever vanilla you go with, it will be added to the fermenter with the dry hops. For the whole vanilla bean, add the tincture including the seeds and casing directly to the fermenter.

Fruit

Most fruits work well in milkshake IPA. Think about any ice cream flavor or pie served with cream. Citrus fruits like orange, lemon, and lime are great candidates. Berries like strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry all pair extremely well with milkshake IPA as well. Even tropical fruits like mango, passionfruit, and guava blend excellently with a fruity hop profile.

Ideally, all fruit should be aseptic – meaning there is no yeast or bacteria present in the fruit that could spoil the beer. Companies such as Oregon Fruit or Vintner’s Harvest offer a range of products that work well.

Practically, at the homebrew level, most brewers use frozen fruit. Buying frozen fruit and making a puree is easy. Let the fruit thaw and blend in batches in a blender or food processor. To pasteurize, if desired, heat the puree to 160°F for about 15 minutes. This step avoids potential contamination in the fermenter.

You’ll need to use a lot of fruit to get expressive flavor. Use between 4 and 6 pounds of fruit per 5 gallons of beer.

For milkshake IPAs, the best time to add fruit is during the second dry hop, when primary fermentation is over. Allow the fruit to fully ferment, at least 3 days.

Other

Experimenting with milkshake IPA flavor combinations is fun and open to even the most outrageous ideas.

Chocolate additions can be tasty. You can add cocoa powder or cocoa nibs at the end of the boil like you would in a chocolate stout. Coffee or even tea, like Earl Grey, are also nice compliments. Marshmallows, cookies, and cakes – don’t be scared to get a little childish! If you have a flavor profile in mind, a milkshake IPA is a great beer style to test it out.

Fermentation

Yeast

Milkshake IPAs benefit from estery yeast characteristics from English ale strains. We recommend going with a low flocculating, low attenuating strain like Wyeast 1318 London Ale III, or similar.

For a dry yeast option, Safale S-04 works well but is a bit less expressive.

Ferment at around 68-70F for 1 to 2 weeks.

Always make sure you’re using fresh yeast and a healthy pitch rate using a yeast starter.

Water

Aim for a chloride to sulfate ratio of about 2:1. A good starting point is 200 ppm chloride and 100 ppm sulfate. Calcium, about 100 ppm, will help with yeast health.

Water chemistry should be adjusted using calcium chloride and calcium sulfate (gypsum).

Use very clean, low mineral water as a starting point. Reverse osmosis (RO), distilled, or carbon filtered water are ideal. Chlorine and chloramine found in many municipal water supplies will destroy hop expression. Make sure your water is free from those or treated with a Campden tablet, if necessary.

Packaging and Conditioning

Kegging is required to limit degradation due to oxygen.

As mentioned before, we recommend against bottle conditioning milkshake IPA. Oxidative flavors are highly likely and it is not worth the risk.

Not only is kegging imperative, extra steps should be taken to avoid oxygen exposure. Purging the keg with CO2 helps further limit exposure to oxygen. Better still, is to do a closed transfer from your fermenter to the keg. A closed transfer does not expose the beer to oxygen. The beer is transferred from the fermenter to the keg by applying head pressure with CO2.

Blueberry Lime Milkshake IPA Recipe and Process

Blueberry and lime is a classic flavor combination that seems to work well in every dessert. For a seasonal late summer beer, this milkshake IPA is refreshing and complex. The lime-like Motueka hops and orangey Centennial are great additions to round out this hazy purple beer.

Aim for a fermenter volume of nearly 6 gallons, if possible. You’ll be dry hopping with almost a pound of hops and adding vanilla and fruit puree, which will absorb quite a bit of beer.

Final Volume Original Gravity Final Gravity ABV IBU SRM
5.5 Gallons 1.062 1.012 6.7% ~25 ~20

Mash

Amount  PPG °L
9 lb 2-row Malt 37 1.6
3 lb Flaked Oats 35 1.5
12 lb Total  

For extract brewers, use 8 pounds of light dry malt extract and steep 1 lb of flaked oats.

Hops and Boil Additions

Hops
Amount Variety AA Use Time IBU
0.5 oz Centennial 10% Boil 60 min 15
3 oz Motueka 7% Whirlpool at 170F 20 min ~7
1.5 oz Centennial 10% Whirlpool at 170F 20 min ~3
2 oz Motueka 7% Dry hop @ high krausen 5-7 days
2 oz Centennial 10% Dry hop @ high krausen 5-7 days
4 oz Motueka

7%

Dry hop 3 days
2 oz Centennial 10% Dry hop 3 days
15 oz Total    
Lactose, Apple Puree, and Lime Peel
Amount Addition 

Use

Time
2 cups Apple Puree  Boil 10 min
1 lb Lactose  Flameout 0 min
1 oz Lime Peel  Flameout 0 min

Fruit and Vanilla Additions

Amount Addition  Use Time
5 lbs

Blueberry Puree

  Fermenter 3 days
2 Vanilla Beans*  Fermenter 3 days

Add the blueberry and vanilla at the same time as the second dry hop.

*Use tincture or substitute with 2 ounces of pure vanilla extract

Yeast

Healthy starter of Wyeast 1318 London Ale III

Water

Use RO, carbon filtered, or distilled water. Aim for the following water profile, making adjustments with calcium chloride and calcium sulfate:

  • Sulfates – 100 ppm
  • Chloride – 200 ppm
  • Calcium – 20 ppm
  • Magnesium – 20 ppm
  • Mash pH – 5.2

Process

  1. Adjust brewing water with calcium chloride and gypsum as needed.
  2. Single infusion rest at 152F for 60 minutes. Sparge full volume into the kettle.
  3. Bring wort to boil.
  4. Add 60 minute hop addition.
  5. Boil for 50 minutes.
  6. Add apple puree.
  7. Boil for 10 more minutes.
  8. Add lime peel and lactose.
  9. Chill to 170F. Turn off the chiller.
  10. Add whirlpool hop additions. Cover kettle. Steep for 20 minutes at 170F.
  11. Chill to yeast pitching temperature, 68F.
  12. Transfer wort to fermenter, leaving trub, lime peel, and hops in the kettle.
  13. Oxygenate wort.
  14. Pitch yeast starter into fermenter and seal with airlock or blow-off tube.
  15. Ferment at 68-70F.
  16. Add first dry hop addition at high krausen, usually after 1 or 2 days.
  17. When signs of fermentation stop, add second dry hop, blueberry puree, and vanilla bean tincture.
  18. Let fruit fully ferment, about 3 – 4 days.
  19. Cold crash and condition at 38-40F for 2 or 3 days.
  20. Keg beer into CO2 purged kegs, ideally with a closed transfer to avoid oxidation.
  21. Force carbonate to 2.2 vols CO2.
  22. Cold condition in keg for at least 1 week to allow harsh hop flavors to mellow. If hop burn persists, condition one more week.

Final Thoughts

Milkshake IPA is a conversation starter, a crowd-pleaser, and a delicious beer to have on tap at home. Although the brewing process is a bit more involved than a typical IPA, the extra effort is well worth it.

If you love getting creative and experimenting with new flavors, homebrewing a milkshake IPA is a great idea. We hope you embrace the obscure, nostalgic, and over-the-top mix of textures and flavors and try brewing a milkshake IPA!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best milkshake IPA flavor combinations?

Milkshake IPAs can highlight an almost endless combination of flavors. A great start is brewing a straightforward tropical hopped milkshake IPA. Using lots of pungent and fresh hops like Galaxy or Mosaic will produce great beer, without the need for fruit.

For fruited versions, here are a few ideas to spark your creativity:

  • Orange: Add orange peel and orange juice for a creamsicle-like beer.
  • Strawberry: A classic combination – strawberry and cream – is nostalgic and tasty.
  • Raspberry: Think raspberry pie and whipped cream – timeless.
  • Pineapple and coconut: Taking inspiration from piña colada, this is an amazing summer flavor combination.

Feel free to experiment with blending different fruits. You can also pair fruit and hops with specific flavors characteristics. Motueka, for example, has lime-like flavors. Why not try a lemon meringue pie inspired milkshake IPA, dry hopped with Motueka? Have fun and don’t be afraid to try something new!

Can I brew a milkshake IPA without lactose?

For vegans and people with lactose intolerance, experiencing milkshake IPA can be difficult. But homebrewing a dairy-free version is definitely possible!

Substitute the lactose for maltodextrin. It won’t have the same creaminess but, since maltodextrin is mostly unfermentable, there will be plenty of sweetness and a nice rich body. You can also boost the vanilla addition by 50% to accentuate the ice cream-like characteristic.

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