A session IPA is called so because it is designed to be a beer that you can enjoy over an extended period of time, or a “session,” without feeling overwhelmed by its flavor or alcohol content. The term “session” in the beer world refers to a drinking session where multiple beers are consumed, typically in a social setting, such as a pub or a gathering with friends.
The concept of a session beer originated in the UK, where the traditional pub culture encourages socializing and enjoying beer in a relaxed setting. In this context, a session beer is one that allows people to have multiple pints without becoming too intoxicated or feeling excessively full. It is meant to be a beer that can be enjoyed throughout the course of an evening without the need to switch to a lower-alcohol alternative.
When it comes to IPAs, which are known for their bold hop flavors and higher alcohol content, the idea of a session IPA was born out of a desire to create a more approachable, lighter version of this popular beer style. While traditional IPAs can be quite intense in terms of bitterness and alcohol, session IPAs aim to provide a similar hop-forward experience but with a lower ABV (alcohol by volume) and a more balanced flavor profile.
The term “All-Day IPA” used by craft brewers is a clever play on words, suggesting that you can enjoy this beer all day long without it becoming too heavy or overwhelming. It implies that it is a beer you can drink leisurely throughout the day, whether it be during a BBQ, a day at the beach, or simply while relaxing at home.
The key to a successful session IPA lies in finding the right balance between hop character, malt backbone, and alcohol content. These beers typically have a lower ABV, often ranging from 4% to 5.5%, compared to the higher ABV found in traditional IPAs. This lower alcohol content allows for more extended and more enjoyable drinking sessions without the risk of becoming overly intoxicated or fatigued by the strong flavors commonly found in IPAs.
In terms of flavor, session IPAs often showcase the aromatic and citrusy characteristics of hops, providing a refreshing and crisp taste. They may have a lighter malt profile, allowing the hops to shine through without overwhelming the palate. The goal is to create a beer that is flavorful and enjoyable, yet light enough to drink multiple pints without feeling weighed down.
Personally, as a sommelier and brewer, I appreciate the concept of session IPAs. They offer a great option for those occasions when you want to enjoy a few beers without feeling the effects of higher alcohol content. I have found session IPAs to be particularly enjoyable during social gatherings or outdoor activities where I can savor the flavors of hops without feeling the need to switch to a lower ABV beer or compromise on taste.
A session IPA is called so because it is a beer that is designed to be enjoyed over an extended period of time without overwhelming the drinker with its flavor or alcohol content. It is a lighter, more approachable version of the traditional IPA, allowing for a more extended and enjoyable drinking session. Craft brewers often refer to session IPAs as “All-Day” IPAs, suggesting that you can drink them throughout the day without feeling weighed down. These beers offer a flavorful and refreshing experience, showcasing the aromatic and citrusy characteristics of hops while maintaining a lower ABV.