Published: Sat, September 09, 2017
World | By Lorena Waters

Session IPA

Session IPA

This is part of a continuing series on IPA variants. So far, I've tackled black IPAs / Cascadian dark ales, Belgian IPAs, and wheat IPAs. See also the article on rye IPA, by Denny Conn. In addition, I wrote a whole series of articles on "regular" American-style IPAs, along with American pale ales and double IPAs.

Founders All Day IPA. Not quite an IPA, but is it just a pale ale? (Also, it's a tasty beer, so does the name matter?)

Beers with "IPA" in their name tend to sell well and commercial brewers are keen to have those three letters on their Labels. One style (or substyle) of beer that has emerged recently is IPA session. The IPA session supposedly combines the hoppiness of an IPA with the lower alcohol content of a session beer. Founders Brewing's All Day IPA was one of the first entries in this category, and continues to be one of the best-known.

When session IPAs first arrived, they tended to get one of two reactions. Beer drinkers either said, "Awesome, now I can get more hoppy goodness, and do not have to stop after a couple," or, "Hey great idea, but I liked it better when it was called pale ale."

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I do not really care about beer styles. Historically, some combinations of techniques have yielded great beers, and many of these have been enshrined as beer styles. And that's great. However, you can also formulate beers without regard to style and have them be wonderful.

On the other hand, as a writer, I have this crazy idea that words mean something. If you label a beer "session IPA," that ought to have a meaning - and there should be some way of distinguishing it from other things, in this case pale ale. Otherwise, why make up a new name for something that already has a perfectly recognizable name? (Money would be one answer, of course.)

Whatever you think about the name, let's consider for the moment if we brew the beer called IPA and make it distinct from pale ale. How would we do that? Pale ales and IPAs are similar beers, of course, but they have some key differences. IPAs are stronger than pale ales, but of course that difference will either disappear - or be inverted - in the IPA session. IPAs are more hoppy than pale ale; That we can manage And finally, IPAs are usually more dry than pale ales - and frequently this means a smaller contribution of crystal malts. Using these criteria, we could perhaps slice out a little piece of "space space" that could reasonably be called IPA.

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This definition might slightly overlap with pale ale, but that should not be too much of A problem American amber ales and American pale ales overlap somewhat. Ditto all the British pale ale substyles. What does "Session" mean?

If you want to do this, Beer enthusiasts differ on what they describe as session beers. The basic idea is that you have more than couple - a session of beer drinking - and not be incapacitated by the alcohol.

This is a bit easier - if a beer has IPA in the name, it should be hoppy. The BJCP gives 40 IBUs as the minimum level of bitterness for American IPAs, so that would be good as a guideline to accept any. (Founders All Day IPA has 42 IBUs.)

Along with higher levels of hop bitterness, compared to most pales ales, IPAs should also have more hop flavor and aroma. As such, you can probably just use your favorite IPA hopping schedule in your IPA session and get the hop character you want. Alternately, you might want to keep the BU: GU ratio (at least roughly) the same and lower the amount of hops you use. And this should be fine as long as they fall within the range that qualifies them as an IPA. Even if you shoot for the same target IBUs, you will need to use less hops to do so. In a lower gravity beer, your hop utilization will increase.

A Dry Beer

The final major thing that distinguishes IPAs from most pale is that IPAs are relatively dry and lighter in body . Compared to pales ales, that commonly contain about 10% crystal malt, IPAs generally contain less than 5% crystal malt (and usually a lighter color). Additionally, paleas are mashed to achieve moderate to medium full body, while IPAs are mashed yield to more fermentable wort. And of course, most double IPAs use sugar as a kettle adjunct to make their worts even more fermentable.

For an IPA session, if you used less than 7.5% crystal malt (20 ° L or lower) or Less than 5% crystal malt (between 20 and 35 ° L), your beer would lack the level of caramel flavor that typifies most pale ales. Likewise, if you only infusion this grain bill at 150-152 ° F (64-66 ° C), you'd end up with a fairly dry beer.


Make it nice and hoppy (over 40 IBUs), but not as strong as an IPA (less than 5% ABV). Hold the caramel flavor, color and body that comes with crystal malts below the usual level of pale ale. (As a guideline, use less than 7.5% of light crystal malt.) If you do that, you'll get an IPA-like level of bitterness in a beer with less alcohol. From a "words have meanings" point of view, I think it's reasonable to label that beer to IPA session. And even if you do not find that labeling reasonable, it could still be a tasty beer. To me, that's the most important factor.

If you enjoy Beer & amp; Wine Journal, please consider supporting us by purchasing my book - "Home Brew Recipe Bible," by Chris Colby (2016, Page Street Publishing). It is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can also find the nearest independent bookstore that sells it on Indiebound.

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