|
|
|
|
Chillicothe News - Chillicothe, MO
  • The Beer Nut: A look at the best session IPAs

    • email print
  • More and more sub-styles of India pale ales keep showing up. First, it was just IPA. Then it was American IPA and English IPA. Next it was West Coast IPA. Then double or imperial IPA. The sub-styles kept coming – Belgian IPA, black IPA, white IPA.
    Now the IPA sub-style du jour is the session IPA. Session beers are meant to be low-alcohol beers where a person can have a drinking “session” that lasts several hours without the worry of getting intoxicated. So basically, a session IPA is a low-alcohol IPA.
    On the surface, that seems like a good idea. IPAs are the most popular style of craft beer there is, but many of them are beers that are higher in alcohol. So, in theory, making a low-alcohol IPA so hopheads can have a few of their favorite beverage is a great idea.
    But the reality isn’t as great. Most session IPAs seem to have missed the mark. To keep the alcohol low, brewers need to use less fermentable sugar, in other words, malted barley. However, the barley adds an important component to an IPA – balance.
    And most session IPAs are missing it. Brewers seem to load the beer with the same amount of hops as a normal-strength IPA, but without the sweetness from the barley malt you’re left with a beer that is bitter and not a pleasure to drink.
    However, there are some exceptions. Here are my top three choices for best session IPAs on the market today.
    Notch Brewing’s Left of the Dial is right at the top of the session IPA mountain, which kind of makes sense. Notch specializes in brewing session beers – every one of Notch’s beers are 4.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) or less.
    Left of the Dial comes in at 4.3 percent ABV. The key is balance. There is plenty of hop flavors – pine and citrus – but they do not overwhelm. Notch, which brews its beers at Mercury Brewing Company in Ipswich, Massachusetts, does not load the beer with too many hops, and you get flavor, not bitterness. It is really worth seeking out if you want to drink half of a 12-pack while working outside in your yard this summer.
    Another winner is Boulevard Brewing Company’s Pop-Up Session IPA. The Pop-Up is 4.2 percent ABV. Boulevard does a good job of realizing that, since there isn’t a lot of malt in the beer they do not have to load up the beer with hops to get the flavors they want.
    This beer has plenty of citrusy, fruity hops, and they really come through, with just a hint of a caramel malt background. I could drink this beer all day.
    The final of the three session IPAs worth looking for is Stone Brewing Company’s Go To IPA, a 4.5 percent take on the style.
    Page 2 of 2 - Stone is known for its big, hoppy beers, such as Arrogant Bastard or Ruination. How would they do with a low ABV hoppy beer? The answer is pretty darn good.
    When you first take a whiff of this beer, you get loads of citrus and herbal notes, and it just smelled like it was going to be a bitter bomb, but when you take a sip there’s no bitterness but lots of hop flavor.
    The Go To IPA is not as balanced as the other two, but the pure hop flavor, with just a hint of malt, really works well in this case.
    Now, go out there and give them a try and let me know what you think.
    Email Norman Miller at nmiller@wickedlocal.com or call 508-626-3823. Check out the Beer Nut blog at blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut. Follow him on Twitter at @realbeernut. Also check out “Norman Miller, The Beer Nut” on Facebook.

        calendar