The American IPA has long been the fan favorite in beer style within the craft beer industry. However, some beer lovers have found the higher ABV a bit too much, especially when indulging when out with non-craft beer drinking friends.
While many macro beers feature ABVs ranging from 4 to 5 percent, typical IPAs are 6 to 8 percent ABV, which means a shorter night for some craft beer drinkers when compared to their friends. Craft brewers have come to the rescue though with a wide array of fantastic and highly sessionable IPAs with an ABV range from 3 to 5 percent.
This variant on the popular IPA has taken off quickly and many breweries now offer their own take on the session IPA. But with so many choices, what are the best ones to try?
Here is a short list of some of the best session IPAs currently available, all are must try beers for craft beer lovers and newbies alike:
1. Stone Brewing Co.’s Go To IPA: Stone has built a huge fan base on their IPAs with a strong emphasis on aggressive flavor and balance. This definite West Coast styled IPA has strong presence of pine and overall dankness that true hopheads seek out. Stone IPA is still a fan favorite and their Go To is perfect for those looking for a hop punch with a lower ABV. Easy drinking does not even begin to describe this world class beer.
2. Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s Easy Jack: Firestone Walker has a loyal following of hop lovers from their Union Jack and Double Jack IPAs so their scaled down Easy Jack is, not surprisingly, equally delicious. Wonderful hop notes of oranges dominate and sit nicely in a bed of semi-sweet malts. The 4.5 percent ABV makes for a beer that can be enjoyed by the quart and after one sip you will most definitely want at least a quart of it.
3. Founders Brewing Company’s All Day IPA: Founders has a strong reputation for brewing world class beers so it should be no surprise that their All Day IPA is frequently listed as a favorite by many. Perfectly balanced between citrus hops and smooth malts, this beer is beyond easy drinking. It is available in both bottles and cans making for the perfect portable session IPA.
4. Harpoon Brewery’s Take 5: This brand new release from Harpoon is the first new beer to be introduced to their year-round lineup in a number of years which shows the brewery really believes in this beer. After one sip you will believe in it, too. The wonderful notes of tropical fruits, oranges, and a touch of pine sit wonderfully in a semi-sweet malt bill that is surprisingly full. The 4.3 percent ABV may also surprise you as this IPA drinks and smells like a much bigger beer.
5. Oskar Blues Brewery’s Pinner: This throwback IPA has wonderful notes of tropical fruits, citrus juices, pineapple and spice berry up front in the aroma and flavor, the biscuit & toasted bread at the back balance out all the hops and make a great finish. The 4.9 percent ABV and newly released stove pipe (19.2 oz.) cans make for a beer that is extremely sessionable and brewed to be enjoyed and consumed in mass quantities.
6. Carton Brewing Company’s Boat Beer: A fairly complex IPA with a depth of aroma and flavors with a wonderful mouthfeel but still manages to maintain a light 4.2 percent ABV. Notes of grapefruit, stone fruit and pine find balance with crisp refreshing cracker-like malts. Unbelievably easy drinking and a perfect session IPA that is taking the craft beer community by storm.
Session beer may be all the rage right now, but the moderate ABV and full flavor will make them something here for the long haul. If you want a beer that packs a punch but won’t knock you down these are all absolute must try craft beers.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon every Sunday on 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.