Unfiltered IPAs are enjoying a massive surge in popularity throughout the country.  For many of us who started in the brewing industry before the advent of “juice bombs”, the idea of an intentionally hazy beer was anathema unless it was a Hefeweizen or Belgian Witbier.  However, consumer expectations and preferences have shifted dramatically, and many breweries’ tap lists reflect these developments.  By both using new products and changing the way a few “oldies-but-goodies” are utilized, the Unfiltered IPA style is changing the face of the craft beer world.

At the core of an Unfiltered IPA are three premises:

  1. The malt profile should be very mild and serve as the canvas upon which the brewer paints his or her masterpiece of hops.
  2. The addition of hops during the brewing process should be primarily or completely done toward the end of the boil or later, which restricts perceived bitterness to low levels while allowing fruity and complex hop flavors and aromas to dominate the consumer’s palate without conflict; and
  3. The beer maintains a moderately full body and mouthfeel, primarily through unfermented sugars in the beer.

Haze in Unfiltered IPAs serves as the visual suggestion to the customer that significant body and mouthfeel exist, as well as confirming the use of the mountain of hops needed to render the beer opaque.

While high mash temperatures and low-attenuating yeast strains can maintain a higher level of unfermented sugar in the beers, brewers are starting to experiment with a wide range of ingredients to achieve these results.  Borrowing from British breweries who have been using them for years, oat malt and lactose are surging in popularity.  Many beer lovers have exclusively associated them with stouts and porters, but their mild and pleasant flavor profiles and hard-to-ferment sugars are also ideal for using in Unfiltered IPAs.  Thomas Fawcett Oat Malt is the industry standard for brewers who are looking for a mild cracker character in addition to mouthfeel, and Canada Malting will be releasing an Oat Malt in the next few weeks that has subtle notes of biscuits and bread.

 While the term “Milkshake IPA” often can be synonymous with Unfiltered IPAs as a whole, some brewers are using large amounts of lactose to truly create beers that more accurately capture the spirit of the phrase.  Not only has this inspired a new way of viewing how to construct an IPA, but it’s opened up a whole new world of possible flavor profiles.  Brewers have for years attempted to use additional ingredients such as grapefruit peel to complement the inherent flavors and aromas in the hops they were using.  However, by embracing the “milkshake” concept, ingredients such as mango, raspberry, coffee, and many others have recently been used to both complement the hops as well as create a beer whose flavors might be found in an actual milkshake.

LupuLN2™ hop powder and pellets, also known as Cryo Hops™ or lupulin powder, is a product from YCH Hops that is perfectly suited to be used in Unfiltered IPAs.  Cryo Hops™ powder and pellets are intact lupulin glands that have been separated from the rest of the hop, which means that consumers can appreciate all of the juicy goodness of the hop oils and acids found in the lupulin glands without experiencing the unwanted vegetal qualities found in the flavor compounds of remainder of the hop cone.  Dissolved oxygen levels are typically low as well because the oils and acids are still held within the lupulin glands, which have not been ruptured.  An added production benefit of using Cryo Hops™ products are the increased yields that come from not having vegetative matter sucking up liquid in the kettle or fermenter.  Unlike hop hash, which has very high dissolved oxygen levels, significant vegetative matter, and low consistency, Cryo Hops™ products offer the purest and most unadulterated form of hop oils and acids on the market while also benefitting shelf stability and consistency.

Between the pure “juiciness” of the Cryo Hops™ lupulin powder and pellet products, the re imagining of Thomas Fawcett Oat Malt as a source of body and mouthfeel in a primarily hop-forward beer, and the emergence of the lactose-enhanced “Milkshake IPA”, the ways we define and create Unfiltered IPAs have been rapidly changing.  The evolution of the style has brought with it new horizons that have only started to be explored, and it’ll be fun to see what the next few years bring.  One of the few things we know for sure is that Unfiltered IPAs are here to stay, and oat malt, lactose, and Cryo Hops™ lupulin powder are integral parts to their success.