Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA is Available Now!
This week’s release has a lot going on. Not only did we take our inspiration from gooey and decadent chocolate-covered strawberries, but we decided to get them right into the beer, along with turning it into a milkshake IPA, because… well… at that point… why not?
Chocolate and strawberry and lactose and maltodextrin and hops and hops: there’s a lot to talk about here.
Regardless, Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA — even typing it is a workout — releases in the Tasting Room on Friday, with distribution to New Jersey and Delaware on Monday and Pennsylvania on the 22nd.
“Like the great Dr. Malcolm said, ‘Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should,’” says Lab Manager Lauren Appleman. “I guess that’s what I enjoy most about this beer: the fact that we pretty much did everything that goes against the beer purist. There were a lot of logistical gymnastics that went into scaling this beer up, but we ended up making it work. Life finds a way….
“…I may or may not be on a Jurassic Park kick.”
Regardless of Lauren’s love of early 90s sci-fi, Production Planning and Specialty Brewing Manager Brian Hink agrees with the sentiment.
“Yeah, this one is a lot,” he says. “I wanted to see if we could pull it off because there are a lot of flavors going on here — not a whole lot of room for nuance.”
Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA was originally slated to be a Tasting Room-Only offering, but we decided to scale it up to a full distro release.
“I thought that Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA was a mouthful to say and that there was a lot going on in the beer, but luckily it was going to be a small, Tasting Room-Only release,” Lauren says. “Then the powers that be said, ‘Do three hundred barrels’. I thought it was a joke!”
To mimic the flavors of chocolate-covered strawberries, we used a hefty serving of strawberry juice, but less than what we’d add to a beer like Crushin’ It or one of its extensions.
“It’s in line with the amount of fruit that we add to The Bog,” Brian says, “but because there’s so much more going on that the fruit doesn’t take center stage like in The Bog. It’s definitely there, but you also get the chocolate, and the vanilla, and the hops. It’s a symphony of flavors, with each part pulling their own required weight.”
And, instead of using chocolate malts that would have created a much darker and maltier beer, we just threw a bunch of cocoa into the boil.
“The whole brewery smelled like hot chocolate on the days we were brewing this beer,” Brian laughs.
Regardless, Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA is incredibly well-balanced, with the strawberry and chocolate coming in on the nose and the vanilla, lactose, and maltodextrin providing a nice, sweet, full-bodied back end.
“I think it came out pretty balanced,” Brian says. “You can definitely place each of the ingredients, but it’s definitely a lot. But I guess that’s kinda the point, right? I mean, when you go to your favorite ice cream shoppe you don’t slug back multiple milkshakes. You have one, and then you’re good for at least the night. Not something like Crushin’ It where you’re going to want to crush it again and again, this is more of a dessert.”
And it took us a few trials to dial everything in properly: one pilot batch was close in color to Honey Porter and another close to Mop Water — we definitely didn’t want this beer anywhere near as dark as the two of them.
“This beer was a delicate balancing act of hitting you over the head with massive flavors while not being too obnoxious with any one standout,” Brian says, “and the malt bill played a huge part of setting the table for every other ingredient.”
Consisting of pilsner, oats, wheat, and midnight wheat, dialing in the malt bill was paramount in determining the final flavors of Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA.
“While the different points on the color spectrum didn’t change the overall flavor terribly much,” Brian says, the visual of the differences was a huge part of the whole picture.”
The first sip of beer is always with your eyes, so the darker, more Honey Porter-like this beer looks, the more likely you are to perceive it as a porter or a stout.
“That was pretty strange because, besides being dark in color, there was nothing stout-like about it,” Brian continues. “No roastiness, no rich maltiness, no coffee or burnt toast characteristics, but, visually, it was closer to a stout than a milkshake IPA, so your mind tricked you into thinking the malt bill was more layered than it actually was.”
“That allowed the midnight wheat to add a reddish hue to the finish and allowed the strawberry juice to contribute a little more color,” Brian says, “bringing out this gorgeous, deep garnet color we finally found.”
And, while the malt and the strawberries and chocolate are all very important, Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA is, after all, still an IPA, so dialing in the perfect combination of hops was important, as well. We decided upon Belma and El Dorado.
“Belma is a cool hop that has this nice, strawberry shortcake-like thing going on, which obviously worked well for what we were going for here,” Brian says. “El Dorado has a nice, generic, ‘whole orchard’ kind of fruitiness to it, and we figured these hops would play nicely off one another to get some additional fruity characteristics out of the beer.”
And, while Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA is definitely an IPA, the Belma and El Dorado don’t overwhelm all of the other flavors and aromas in the beer. We played down the hotside hop additions and, instead, focused on a complementary dry hop character to play off the other components.
“There’s little to no bitterness to the beer,” Brian tells us. “Instead, we opted to let the hop aromatics come through to balance out the chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla, so it’s definitely not a hop-bomb of an IPA.”
Then, to bring this all together on the finish, we knew we needed to bring in that perception of sweetness that you expect from a milkshake IPA. We didn’t want to leave anything on the table, so we used both maltodextrin and lactose.
“We needed a lot of unfermentable sugars in there,” Brian says. “Getting to this level of sweetness by using either maltodextrin or lactose on its own could’ve made for a cloying, distracting finish, but by deploying both of these sugars — which definitely have different flavor contributions of their own –, we get the big, full, sweet finish we set out for, but without making it distracting. Because with as much else as is going on here, the last thing we’d need is the lactose to hit you over the head, or the maltodextrin to come across as fakely sweet.”
“I’m not a milkshake IPA drinker,” Brian says, “but I’ll definitely grab a 4-pack to have one here and there when I’m looking for that sweet treat.”
He says that Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA is decadent enough to live up to its rather lengthy name.
“It’s definitely not a beer for crushing back multiples of — save that for Two Versions of Me or the upcoming Key Lime Corrosion –, but I’m really surprised and happy with how this one came out. It’s a brew that has a lot going on with it, and I always find that to be intriguing to the palate.”
Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA is available this Friday in the Tasting Room and Brewtique, with distribution throughout New Jersey and Delaware to follow on Monday. Distro to eastern Pennsylvania is planned for February 22nd.
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