One does not find too many reasons to like the city of Medicine Hat: its proximity to Saskatchewan, the Medicine Hat Tigers (we kid, we kid).
However, in the last year I have found not one, but two great reasons to visit Gas City.
The Alberta craft beer boom has finally trickled down south. This gave birth to two breweries that began making noise as soon as their doors opened. Hell’s Basement Brewery and Medicine Hat Brewing Company have both proved their worth in the province in just under two years.
Hell’s Basement opened in August 2016 touting a lineup consisting of pilsner, blonde ale, pale ale, and IPA, later adding a rye brown ale and a second IPA. Though each of these is a solid brew on its own, brewmaster Mike Gripp is turning heads not with his flagships, but his series of seasonal and limited release brews.
Gripp’s out-of-the-box ideas have given birth to hazy, juicy New Zealand-style pale ales to spicy rye saisons. What’s standing out in the Alberta beer scene is their milkshake IPA series, all too appropriately named The Yard.
Get it? Milkshake … boys .. to the yard … and they’re like … shut up and tell me about the beer.
For those not familiar, milkshake IPA is a relatively new style. They’re hazy upon hazy, and filled with loads of fruity hop varieties. What sets them apart from other IPAs is that they have a big fruit addition, and also the addition of lactose.
Lactose is a milk sugar. Its molecular chain of polysaccharides are too long for beer yeast to ferment, so the sweetness doesn’t disappear during fermentation. The result is a smooth, creamy, fruity, and bright beer.
Hell’s Basement has done two renditions: mango and blackberry. Though I have not had the pleasure of trying the mango edition, the blackberry milkshake IPA has a plethora of flavours.
The beer pours a hazy purple which, I will admit, is slightly off-putting at first glance, but does resemble what you would expect if served a blackberry milkshake.
The aroma is prominent. Very prominent. Before you even approach the glass, sweet aromas of fresh blackberry and juicy hops come at you full force. For an IPA, it is still quite sweet. The milk sugar and blackberries, however, are well balanced by the bittering hops. This creates a beer that is sweet, but not overwhelmingly sweet.
Whether you’re an IPA fan or not, the blackberry milkshake IPA is worth a try. They’re a great introductory beer for those not yet familiar with the craft beer craze taking the province by storm.
For those already obsessed with craft, there’s some crazy stuffing coming down the pipe from Hell’s Basement. Rumour has it a strawberry edition of The Yard is on the way, and even a few barrel-aged editions.
Keep your pint glass full and your ear to the ground.