Session IPAs; Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing, Baby

I was browsing earlier today and found an interesting piece on session IPAs.  For the uninitiated, session IPAs are a lighter bodied and less bitter version of my very favorite style of beer.  They are called “session” because they are designed to be consumed serially as you would at a party or barbequeue.  Since most modern IPAs tend to push 7% abv and beyond, the idea is that you can consume more session IPAs without as much risk to your level of sobriety.

What the author of the article contends, and I agree, is that in order to keep the alcohol content low, you make too many sacrifices.  Alcohol content is dependent on the amount of sugar in the wort.  That sugar comes from the malt, whether it’s malted barley, malted rye or malted wheat.  Sometimes fruit sugars or maltodextrin can be used as well.  During the fermenting process, the active yeast in the beer converts that sugar to ethanol.  So, it’s a fairly straightforward equation; more sugar, more alcohol.  In order to reduce the amount of alcohol in session IPAs, the amount of malt used is reduced.


This results in a beer that doesn’t quite taste or feel like an IPA.  Mouthfeel is an important component of a beer or style of beers, and session IPAs tend to feel thinner and more like a lager.  The bitterness of session IPAs also tends to be muted, with more floral hops included instead of bitter resin or citrusy hops that figure prominently in most West Coast style IPAs.  I’ve tried a few session IPAs and they were not unpleasant and could certainly be very apt selections at a hot outdoor event.  For me, a high abv is not a turn off.  I would rather have fewer of the beer I want than more of a beer that’s not quite what I’m after.

I’ve had Founders All-Day IPA as well as The Just Beer Project’s Just IPA.  They were indeed very crisp and floral, almost more akin to an India Pale Lager (a style of which I’m not fond) but just a notch higher in the body department.  I certainly wouldn’t turn either of them down if offered to me, but if I’m shopping for myself, they probably wouldn’t be my first choice for purchase.  I would, however, recommend the All Day IPA as an excellent starter beer for those looking to get a little more bitter without committing to an 80+ IBU hop bomb.

~ by schlippo on March 11, 2014.

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