Adding lactose to beer isn’t new, but it has some polarizing effects on fans. Initially, hardcore beer enthusiasts would turn their noses up at anything brewed with lactose sugar, claiming it was “barely recognizable as beer” and that it was more akin to an alcoholic milkshake than an IPA. Initially, this may have been true, but as brewers have tested out and played with proportions, beers like Secret Island IPA from Barebottle Brewing Company are becoming more mainstream.
Lactose is just another kind of sugar, but it’s less strongly sweet than traditional sugar and adds a rich, pillowy mouthfeel to beer. When lactose is added to beer, initially it was categorized as a milkshake IPA. These days, that designation is reserved for a very specific type of lactose IPA. When used sparingly and without a lot of fruit additions, we get a beer like Secret Island.
Rich without being heavy and still crisp and refreshing, Secret Island IPA is a citrus-forward IPA thanks to the Citra hop used in the brewing process. Citra is backed by Mosaic and Amarillo that results in a lightly bitter brew that isn’t overwhelmingly juicy, but certainly has juice-forward characteristics. If you’re a fan of New England style IPA, you’ll definitely enjoy Secret Island.