The Milkshake IPA combines two of humanity’s finest achievements — milkshakes and beer! And while the style is new, it’s based on a decades-old dream. Just check out this quote from 1945:
“If a man ordered a beer milkshake, he thought, he’d better do it in a town where he wasn’t known. But then, a man with a beard, ordering a beer milkshake in a town where he wasn’t known — they might call the police.”
That’s from Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, and is perhaps the first-ever reference to a beer milkshake.
Fortunately, things have changed since the 40’s — beards are no longer considered a sign of moral decay, and breweries all over the country are making beer milkshakes in the form of Milkshake IPAs!
What exactly is a Milkshake IPA? It depends who you ask, but according to Craft Beer and Brewing, these are the basics:
- Plenty of Lactose! This milk sugar doesn’t ferment, so it survives in sugar form, making the beer taste sweet.
- Vanilla! For extra creaminess.
- Fruit or Fruit Puree! Not always, but often. Just like an actual milkshake.
- Any ingredient you might find at a sundae bar! Plenty of brewers are getting weird with ingredients like maple syrup and cinnamon sticks.
Though the style is relatively new on the craft beer scene, its popularity has exploded. To help you narrow down all the choices, here are 10 of our favorite breweries that make delicious Milkshake IPAs!
Tired Hands Brewing Company - Ardmore, Pennsylvania
You can’t make a Milkshake IPA list without mentioning Tired Hands. This crew is arguably the OG inventor of the style!
It all started with their Hop Hands Pale Ale. Although it seems tame compared to many of today’s adjunct-loaded brews, back in 2015, its super thick, oat-soaked body and lack of bitterness represented a serious departure from IPA normalcy. BeerAdvocate co-founder Jason Alström famously rated it a disgraceful 2.74 out of 5 stars.
“Staff at the pub should not be pouring it,” he wrote at the time. “Milkshake beers are not a trend or acceptable with traditional or even modern styles…”
In 2016, Gear Patrol called it The Most Controversial Craft Beer in America. But, Tired Hands’ head brewer Jean Broillet IV didn’t let the haters get him down. By the end of that year, he’d created 22 new Milkshake IPAs!
Tired Hands’ brews are notoriously hard to find, but if you can get ahold of one, try the Milkshake IPA (Extra Vanilla), Milkshake IPA (Strawberry), or the 9% ABV Milkshake IPA (Double Peach). Or really, any of the others. They’re all delicious!
The innovative Swedes released their Magic #411 - Wild Strawberry/Rhubarb/Vanilla Smoothie IPA way back in 2014! And unlike Tired Hands’ first foray into the style, this lactose-loaded brew contains all the modern hallmarks of a true Milkshake IPA.
Omnipollo created their Milkshake IPA (Strawberry) in collaboration with Tired Hands just one year later, and both breweries still make their own versions today!
And, with brews like Oaxaca Milkshake IPA, brewed with mango, lime, and grapefruit, they’re still pushing the boundaries of what an IPA can be.
Great Notion Brewing - Portland, Oregon
Great Notion might not be able to claim the invention of the Milkshake IPA, but they sure weren’t far behind. They released their Orange Creamsicle IPA in 2016!
Loaded with real orange puree, this sweet sipper tastes just like those delectable creamsicles you’d get off the ice cream truck when you were 12 years old. You know, the ones that used to melt all over your hand but you didn’t care because they were so friggin’ delicious.
Since then, Great Notion has kept fans coming back with the Mochi IPA series — each one features a different fruit, and they're all awesome. Guava Mochi and Passion Fruit Mochi are particularly delicious. And, you don’t have to chase down an ice cream truck to get ‘em.
The Brewing Projekt - Eau Claire, Wisconsin
There’s a good chance you haven’t even heard of The Brewing Projekt. But this crew’s Milkshake IPA mastery earned them a spot as one of Food and Wine’s 19 Craft Breweries Worth Going Out of Your Way For.
And their Resist Milkshake IPA series truly is worth the trek.
The original Resist isn’t fruited — it just swims with hops. And it’s ludicrously tasty. But, if you’re going to travel all the way to Wisconsin, you should really try more than one.
Get weird with Resist Piña Colada, or keep it tropical with Resist Mango Smoothie. No matter which variation you sample first, you won’t be able to resist trying more. That’s probably why they named it that.
Narrow Gauge Brewing Company - Florissant, Missouri
Speaking of breweries you’ve likely never heard of, Narrow Gauge makes some of the finest Milkshake IPAs anywhere. Their fans are so ravenous, when The Full Pint launched a Readers Choice Poll, this tiny operation beat out Tree House and WeldWerks to take first place!
Pretty impressive for a brewery located in the basement of an Italian bar and grill in north St. Louis.
But, once you taste their To the Yard Milkshake IPA series, you’ll understand why locals are so enamoured with Narrow Gauge.
Try To the Yard Pink Guava, To the Yard Peach, and To the Yard French Toast. They make that last one with real cinnamon and maple syrup, proving once and for all that milkshakes — and Milkshake IPAs — are a perfectly acceptable breakfast item.
Untitled Art - Waunakee, Wisconsin
Untitled Art is a mysterious crew. They’re gypsy brewers, so they don’t have a taproom or even their own brewery. And they’re extremely tight-lipped about the details of their brewing process, because they want to “let the beer speak for itself.”
Luckily, their intensely creamy and flavorful Milkshake IPAs talk loud!
Take a sip of their Tikki Milkshake IPA, and its tropical flavors practically hula dance across your tastebuds. Their 9% ABV Peach Double Milkshake IPA is kinda like getting peach-pied in the face by Peaches the Clown, but without risking any whipped cream up your nose.
If you’re looking for a delightful Milkshake IPA in Chicago, head to the basement of an old cookie factory just east of I-90. That’s where you’ll find Illuminated Brew Works.
They don’t actually have a taproom, so when you get there, you’ll just have to bang on the door and beg. But it’ll be worth it, because this crew crafts some spectacularly creamy brews! Even CraftBeer.com called them one of the best in the country for Milkshake IPAs!
And, while they don’t have a ton of beers in the style, what they do make is glorious. Try their Spoonful of Sugar IPA, featuring hops from Australia and New Zealand, or their flagship Astronaut Eye Scream.
If you’re looking for something fruitier, reach for a can of the super-citrusy Astronaut Dreamsicle, or Astronaut Pushpop with Raspberry and Orange.
If you make the hour-long drive south from Seattle to little Olympia, Washington, there are two places you absolutely have to stop.
First is Big Tom Burgers and Shakes for a bite and a creamy beverage. Second is Three Magnets Brewing Company for a different kind of beverage. Or, you can head straight to the taproom and experience both at the same time with a pint of Big Tom’s Milkshake IPA!
The brewers worked with actual milkshake artisans from Big Tom to get the creamy flavors just right, and it shows.
Make sure you try all the different flavors, like Big Tom’s Peach Melba, Big Tom’s Blood Orange Creamsicle, and Big Tom’s Ch-Ch-CHERRY BOMB!
Mountains Walking Brewery - Bozeman, Montana
Maybe Bozeman isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of craft beer, but that’s only because you haven’t tried Mountains Walking. If you’re not hip to this brewery yet, it’s time to get a sip straight from Big Sky Country.
Even HopCulture ranked their Opaque Thoughts Milkshake IPA as one of the 5 Best Milkshake IPAs in the Country!
Yes, this guava and vanilla-packed nectar really is that good! And, it’s the first in a whole series of Opaque Thoughts Milkshake IPAs with different fruits and spices. Try one, and you’ll understand why all the Montana craft fans are begging for more.
Monday Night Brewing - Atlanta, Georgia
Because, the only thing better than launching yourself headfirst down a slip and slide is drinking a cold pint of Pirahan Dealer IPA afterwards. The brewers make it with strawberries and vanilla and it goes great with a burger!
If you don’t have access to a slip and slide, don’t fret. You can still enjoy a can or two of Depeche A La Mode Milkshake IPA with white chocolate and Vietnamese cinnamon. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit more subtle, go for their Slow Churn Milkshake IPA.
If there were such a thing as tropically hopped ice cream (and there really SHOULD be) this is what it would taste like.