There might not be a more divisive sub-style of beer than “milkshake IPAs”, a version of New England/hazy IPA that is brewed with lactose, a type of sugar that brewing yeast cannot ferment, so it adds noticeable sweetness to the beer. While lactose has been used in other beers, mostly milk/sweet stouts, the addition of this sugar to hoppy beer is relatively new. The reasoning makes some sense, NEIPAs tend to have some sweet qualities, either perceived sweetness from the fruity hops or actual sweetness due to residual sugars from the fermentation. Beer Geeks and brewers are heavily divided on this sub-style, many consider the beers to be a disgusting abomination, while others love them. I fall in the middle, there are some lactose infused IPAs that I’ve really enjoyed, and others that were a cloying mess. I usually avoid the versions with vanilla and added fruit, that is just too much sweet for me, but a subtle lactose addition can be a great complement to a fruit-forward NEIPA. One beer I recently tried which falls firmly into the later category is Roving Jewel from Battery Steele Brewing in Portland, ME. Roving Jewel is a NEIPA brewed with Citra, Galaxy, and Motueka hops, a healthy dose of oats for added body, along with a bit of lactose. It is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz cans.
Battery Steele Roving Jewel pours murky deep yellow with a solid white head. The aroma features loads of hops, heavy on the tropical fruit. The hops also dominate the flavor, notes of pineapple, white grape and guava along with a very mild bitterness, this is a NEIPA all day. A solid malt body adds balance along with hints of crackers and bread dough. The lactose is very subtle, just a hint of sweetness, which nicely complements the fruity hops. Roving Jewel is medium to full bodied, very smooth but packs some punch at 7.6% ABV. The finish is crisp with a coat of lingering hops on the tongue. This is an excellent lactose infused NEIPA, too many overdo the lactose make the beer overly sweet, but this one hits the proverbial sweet spot. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
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