Top 7 Session IPAs
Traditionally, beer drinkers have enjoyed spring and summer time beer styles such as light lagers, bocks, Kolsch’s. The game has changed over the past few seasons, as Session IPAs have taken the easy drinking world by storm. No longer does one have to compromise on hop flavor to drink a lower alcohol beer out in the hot sun.
This is arguably one of my favorite styles of beer to drink all year long, however I’m spoiled with warm California weather all year long. After getting to know many Session IPAs in bottle, can and draft, I would like to share with you the top 7 Session IPAs. These are listed in alphabetical order, to not hurt the feelings of these sensitive brewers and associated staff members. One key to the optimal enjoyment of any of these beers listed, is that these beers be served fresh. I know that should go without saying, but particularly with the Session IPA style, these beers fall off quicker than any other style due to the nature of hop flavor and aroma. Here we go!
Firestone Walker Easy Jack IPA (4.7% abv) – Last summer, Firestone Walker unleashed a new seasonal named Easy Jack. This beer joined the “Jack” family along with Union, Wookey and Double. While I always considered their Pale 31 as a Session IPA, Easy Jack and Pale 31 couldn’t be more different. Fast forward to this spring, and this beer in now available in cans and year round. As a worthy Session IPA should , this is big on aroma and big on flavor while clocking in at 4.7% abv. It seems to me that this beer has slightly improved this year, as its more complex with a tad more perceived body.
Founders All Day IPA (4.7% abv) – Founders Brewing hit gold with All Day IPA. Prior to the conception of All Day, Founders had a respectable line up of hoppy beers, but nothing that resembled that true West Coast style. I have it on good authority that this is now one of their top selling beers, and rightfully so. It’s delicious and very easy to drink.
Kern River Gravity Check (Between 4-5% abv) – Sorry to tease everyone with a hard to get beer, but Kern River Gravity Check is the awesome baby brother of the coveted Kern River Citra DIPA. Kern began bottling this beer, so hopefully when they ramp up production, they will spread this beer around for more people to enjoy.
Lagunitas Daytime (4.65% abv.) – Lagunitas is known for their fruity, strong hoppy beers (many resembling IPAs). They broke the cycle with Daytime. This beer manages to deceive the tastebuds, as it still has that familiar Lagunitas flavor profile and body. But after a session of 6, you wonder if you had any beers based on the lack of buzz. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing in some cases.
New Belgium Slow Ride Session IPA (4.5% abv.) – This is the new kid on the block in terms of widely available Session IPAs on the market. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of Ranger or Rampant IPA, so I went into this beer very hesitant. I was happily surprised at how perfectly executed this beer was. Beautiful, unique hop aroma consisting of American and European hops, nice hop bite, and a crisp light malt bill. While not overly “West Coast”, it’s a remarkable hoppy ale.
Pizza Port Ponto S.I.P.A. (4.5% abv.) – Long before Session IPA was a thing, Pizza Port Brewing had been pushing the boundaries of hops with various beers, and Ponto is one of them. Possibly the example for all the newer beers of this style, Ponto looks, smells and tastes like a full bodied IPA. In fact, if you do a side by side with Pizza Port’s Swami’s IPA, you will be all the more impressed with how they nearly cut the alcohol content in half without compromise. Whether in a can or on draft, this is something you need to try if you can.
Stone Go-To IPA (4.5% abv.) – Stone knows how to make aggressive, hoppy, aromatic beers. It was no surprise when word got out about this beer that it would be so good. What I appreciate most from this beer is the perceived full body. After numerous six packs and cases of this gold, I came to a conclusion as to why this beer works so well for me. This beer is a bit more carbonated, and delivers the hops to my nose and tongue more because of it. As I have gotten older and more obligated, this has been heavy in my rotation as it satisfies me as much as a full strength IPA, and it’s readily available.
So here’s the part where you chime in and tell me what I’ve missed. Lay it on me!