Sometimes you find yourself in need of a hops fix, but you want to drink a few of them...like, a bunch of a few. The problem? You don't want to be falling down drunk. Let's say your at an all day cookout with friends, and those friends are pretty serious cornhole players (not that I'm talking from personal experience or anything). How do you keep sipping all day without letting your buzz get the best of you?
In the past, IPAs were a serious beer. If you found one around 6% abv, that was a weaksauce IPA. But oh how times have changed! Over the past couple years, a new, more gentle side of IPA has surfaced: the session IPA. Made with all the hop goodness of an IPA, but the alcohol content of a beer you can drink a few of without stumbling, it's the best of both worlds. And, come summer of 2014, this style has blown up in a way that many never dreamed. It seems like every brewery is putting one out, and who can blame them? There's been a bit of a recoil from the "bigger is better" days of craft beer led by the "extreme beer" movement and 10% double IPAs. We gathered up our favorites, so let's check out the lighter side of IPA.
New England Local
Notch Left of the Dial IPA (4.3%)
If you follow our Instagram, Twitter or Facebook then you’ll know that this beer is a staple at our cookouts and other summer events. If you buy the beer, you’ll find out why. As you bring it to your mouth, you get orange and citrus fruit smells. As you sip you get a clean, but present, malt and a deep hop flavor that coats the tongue gently and then is gone. It’s not resiny, it doesn’t linger. You enjoy it and then you’re done. The point of session beer is to be able to have a bunch and not have the beer be the focus. Left of the Dial does that. Like I said, there’s a reason this shows up at our cookouts.
Smuttynose Bouncy House IPA (4.3%)
If you want to know what hops smell like, buy this beer. This has got the sweetest, most fruity and aromatic hop aroma I have ever smelled! Smuttynose crafted the first IPA I ever fell in love with (Finest Kind) and they have another homerun here. It’s bitter up front, with a resiny finish that lingers for quite a while. And malt? What malt? This is hops through and through. It’s delicious, but good luck tasting anything after this!
Two Roads Lil’ Heaven Session IPA (4.8%)
Yep! This is a session IPA that we’ll be drinking a lot of. In cans? Check! Crisp? Clean? Nice hop bite? Check, check, check! Aroma? Big and fruity! Does the taste linger? Not too long. It ticks all the boxes. This really is a lil’ bit of heaven!
Jack’s Abby Session Rye IPL (3.8%)
The only lager in the bunch, rye spice kicks you in the face a bit. Longtime readers will know that Devon and I love rye in our hoppy beers, so this is right in our wheelhouses! It’s smooth, crisp and eminently drinkable. Aggressive spicy American hops compliment the rye in a great way. This really balances flavor with the ability to drink several without blowing away your ability to taste. Now if they’d only put it in a six-pack!
Lagunitas DayTime Fractional IPA (4.65%)
You can smell the juicy, orangey hops on this one as soon as you pop the cap, and it only gets more intense once it’s in the glass! A light bitterness leads off for a crisp, crackery body with hop flavor that mirrors the aroma. This is the one of the most highly alcoholic of all the beers today, and will be argued about on the “session beer” label as it’s over the 4.5% limit. But it’s good and the point is lower alcohol options, which this helps us get to. If you want hops without the high alcohol, this is a great choice!
Founders All Day IPA (4.7%)
I loved this beer from the first time I sipped it at a beer fest years ago. Hops are the first thing you’ll notice here, with some fruity notes kicking in if you look for them. There’s a medium bitterness, they don’t take it too far, but it definitely lingers in the back of your throat. This session IPA is definitely focused more on the bitter than the flavor, so if that’s your style then check this one out. At 4.7% this one is also over the technical “session beer” limit, but we’re not too worried about absolute rules. Again, the point is having more low alcohol options and, with the brisk sales of All Day that Founders has enjoyed, this is helping to get us there. Look out for it in cans as well.
Stone Go To IPA (4.5%)
Stone Brewing is known for big, overbearing IPAs…well this is certainly a welcome departure! You can smell the hops as you pour the beer, the citrusy goodness filling your nose. It’s got a full, smooth hop flavor accompanied by a slightly biting bitterness. There’s malt there, but it’s a blank canvas to paint a picture with the hops. Highly enjoyable!