Non-alcoholic beer is undergoing a renaissance, thanks to increased health consciousness in the industry. And with that growth comes an elevation in standards. Among the leaders of the zero-ABV charge is California’s Surreal Brewing. Since 2018, the brewery has been pushing the boundaries of available NA beer styles, starting with a sober-friendly red IPA. Along the way, it has introduced the world to Juicy Mavs Hazy IPA and, more recently, Milkshake IPA, both a first of their kind.
The thing about Juicy Mavs is that its premise just doesn’t work. Delivering a big, juicy beer at 25 calories and 0% ABV is impossible. As such, I was pessimistic about diving into Milkshake IPA. The beer only has 64 calories and 9.8 g of sugar—aren’t those the measures that make this style so great?
Surreal is here tol make you question that notion outright.
Made with oats, lactose, vanilla, and monk fruit, it is undoubtedly the most flavor you’ll get in an NA beer, regardless of style. It smells like a melted creamsicle, with a body that’s indistinguishable from those milk sugar marvels from normal craft breweries. It’s utterly beguiling how low the sugar levels are. Milkshake IPA drinks like a cream soda with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melted in it.
Surreal suggests drinking all their beers at cellar temperature—between 55°F and 65°F—and doing so helps some more of the malt flavors emerge. But its Milkshake IPA emulates the standard boozy offering in all the wrong ways. For all its punchy flavors, it does not actually taste like beer.
The lack of a strong malt backbone is to be expected with any NA beer, but there’s also very little discernible hop character. Milkshakes (and hazies, by extension) are fortified by the juicy hop selection. The monk fruit does accomplish some of that hop fruitiness on its own, but the fact that names like Citra, Mosaic, and Azacca are missing from the label means you're not getting a comparable experience.
Boundary successfully pushed though, Surreal is doing the work their name implies, making beers that re-define what “non-alcoholic” can mean to this health-minded generation of drinkers. That work is far from being completed, and Milkshake IPA is evidence of that.