My Milkshake Brings All The Beers To The Yard…

I don’t know about you guys, but I have never been one to follow fads. I have never been up on the latest fashions or honestly even cared what was popular. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just never been my thing. That being said, beer trends have fascinated me from the very beginning of my craft beer journey. It is incredible to me that, in an ever-growing world full of endless possibilities, enough people can still come together to agree on a certain style of beer.  We have previously discussed the beer trend of the New England style IPA. Today, however, we will be looking at a new up-and-comer. The Nitro Smoothie/Milkshake beer.

This is one of the coolest styles I’ve seen in awhile for a multitude of reasons. The first is that it is a nitro beer. Nitro being short for, ya know, Nitrogen. Most beers use carbon dioxide, so this is already a bit different. The main reason for using Nitrogen is to cause smaller bubbles so the head seems thicker and creamier. Which leads us to the smoothie part of the beer. Depending on the brewery, I have seen these referred to as milkshake but, more commonly and perhaps more aptly, as smoothie beers. I have seen so many varieties from Stouts to IPAs, but the main things they have in common are they are brewed with lactose (which adds some body and definitely some sweetness) and they typically have smoothie/milkshake flavors, such as mango or vanilla.

The Drink Along: Whipped |  Stillwater Artisanal and Oliver Brewing collaboration

There are actually several different versions of the Whipped collaboration, including an IPA. However, I chose the style that most called to me: Sour Raspberry Nitro Smoothie Ale. (Most are referring to this as Volume 3, I believe.)

Whipped- Stillwater, Oliver 3.jpg

The first thing that caught my eye was the vintage can design which is, frankly, groovy. The second is the instructions. Shake up and then pour. Well, alright. Typically counter-intuitive to most beers, however this actives the nitrogen and doesn’t make nearly the mess it would with other beers.

Whipped- Stillwater, Oliver.jpg

Just a little mess.

The head on this beer was gorgeous. Full, thick, and creamy. Make all the inappropriate jokes you want but it was impressive.

Whipped- Stillwater, Oliver 2

The major downside is it came out smelling very much like burnt rubber. I have talked with several people who have tried this and haven’t had this issue so it is definitely just the particular batch. It could come from a couple different issues but I won’t really fall down that rabbit hole.  The main thing is it definitely wasn’t kept cold enough (can instructs to keep ice cold) so I will definitely have to get another one…..for science.

While very off-putting at first, I gave it a chance and let the smell dissipate. And I’ll tell you, I wasn’t disappointed. It certainly has a heavier, denser feel than most sour ales and tastes super creamy, as well. It really lives up to the smoothie descriptor. To be honest, it was so close I half expected to accidentally wind up with a raspberry seed in my teeth. The fruit flavor comes through smoothly and very balanced. Surprisingly, even with the added sweetness, the sour aspects came through as well.

Hands down, I think the two most important things to keep in mind when drinking craft beer are to have both an open mind and a decent amount of bravery. Some batches or even entire beers don’t turn out and can have some…interesting…side effects, like a rubber smell. Admittedly, there is also a level of common sense on when to abandon that particular ship for more more flavorful –  I mean, favorable- seas. But, in this case, my bravery was rewarded. I certainly understand why so many people have become enamored with this style and, if anything, this experience has made me even more curious to see what others are doing. And to even try a different batch of this one.

So la la la la the beers are waiting.

Cheers.

 

The Balancing Act (Hops)

“Life is all about balance and following what the universe provides for you.”
-Gnash

For all the sweetness that malt provides for a beer, there must be a balance, otherwise it would be like drinking liquid candy. And while this may not be unappealing to many in theory, in execution it would pretty rough. Thankfully, hops steps in to even things out. You can think of hops and malt as Yin and Yang, or like a Sour Patch Kid. They are complete opposites but it just wouldn’t feel right if one were missing.

Hops are naturally occuring and are plants or, more specifically, flowers (Humulus lupulus.) The acids and oils contained within these flowers are what give bitterness to a beer. They can also add quite a bit of flavor, aroma, and stability. Hops also have the added bonus of being a preservative, which was especially helpful before the dawn of refrigeration.

Hops are a curiously fun part of the brewing process. Like with most ingredients, there are a multitude of hop varieties to chose from. Mixing and matching different hops can lead to some pretty interesting tastes, as can where and when you add the hops to the beer. Some hops additions are primarily to contribute flavor and/or aroma, while others are for going full-on bitter.

Hops is generally suspect #1 when it comes to people stating they don’t like beer.  Most people do not have palates at the ready like Spartan soldiers, and tend to find the taste off-putting at first, especially in hop-heavy beers. It does take some time and it has to be more of a Trojan Hops situation until either you conquer the hops or the hops conquer you. Eventually, once you do develop a palate, there can be something quite refreshing and magical (much like its scientific name sounds) about a hoppy beer. There are even people that fall in love with what hops can do in a beer and subscribe to the philosophy that the more, the merrier- these people are known as “Hop Heads.”

The Drink-Along: Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA

Fresh Squeezed- Deschutes

While hops do make an appearance in almost every beer, an IPA is where the hops really take center stage and it becomes evident how large their role really is. An IPA makes its presence known. A very distinct smell of hops is the first thing that will hit your senses. There are several different ways that hops can present themselves and, in this case, it is very fresh and citrus-y. This comes from the types of hops used which, in this case, are Citra and Mosaic. Not only do they make the beer stand out, they have really fun names too. The lovely thing about this IPA is that you know exactly what you’re getting from the name. The citrus notes in both aroma and flavor permeate every sip from start to finish.

However, if this is your first IPA rodeo, it definitely might be too much. So, let’s take a different approach.

The Drink-Along: Mother’s Sunshine Chugsuckle

Sunshine ChugSuckle- Mothers

While this is technically still an IPA, it is a New England style IPA. This particular style has been creating quite a stir in the beer world, quickly evolving into the new up and comer that no one expected. So why all the fuss? Well, for a couple different reasons. First, just by looking at it, it becomes quite apparent that this beer is a little different. It is quite hazy, for one. But, beyond that, most of them look like your typical morning glass of orange juice. And, admittedly, the taste isn’t far off either. The enchanting thing about this particular style is that it bridges the gap between hops lovers and those that would just…rather not. This style allows for all of the flavor and aroma of hops but leaves out quite a bit of that bitterness, all while contributing a surprising juiciness. My favorite brewer likes to jokingly describe this style as “a beer and a mimosa had a baby.” And while that sounds like the wind-up to a really cringy punch-line, this beer is no joke.

So whether you’re a Hop Head or a Hops Shoulders, Knees, and Nope, it’s important to realize their impact on America’s second favorite past-time. And, who knows? With time, maybe everyone will jump on this hops craze-y train.

Cheers.