India Pale Ale, or IPA for short, has always been popular among beer lovers, including myself! It’s known for its strong hoppy flavor and rich taste. But there’s another kind of IPA: the Session IPA, which is a bit lighter. If you’re curious about what sets these two apart, you’re in the right place. In this post, we’ll break down what an IPA is, what a Session IPA is, and the main differences between them.
What Is A Session IPA?
A “Session IPA” is a type of beer designed for extended enjoyment. The term “session” in the beer world refers to a brew that can be enjoyed for a longer time without leading to too much intoxication. Essentially, it’s a beer that’s easy to drink over an extended period. What makes a Session IPA different is its lower alcohol content. They have less alcohol by volume (ABV) than regular IPAs.
What Is An IPA?
An “IPA” stands for “India Pale Ale,” a style of beer that originated in England during the 18th century. The story goes that IPAs were brewed with a higher hop content to preserve them during the long sea journey to India for British soldiers and colonists.
Today, the defining character of an IPA is its pronounced hop flavor, which can range from citrusy and piney to floral and fruity, depending on the hop varieties used. IPAs often have a higher alcohol content than many other beer styles, typically falling between 5.5% to 7.5% ABV, though this can vary.
The combination of unique hop flavors and the higher alcohol content has made IPAs one of the most popular and widely brewed styles in the craft beer world.
Key Differences Between Session IPA and IPA
Session IPAs and regular IPAs both offer their unique flavors and experiences, but they aren’t quite the same. While both belong to the IPA family, they differ in aspects like alcohol content, flavor intensity, purpose, how they feel when you drink them, and even the calories they pack. Let’s look in more detail into the differences between Session IPAs and regular IPAs.
Regular IPAs typically have an alcohol content ranging from 5.5% to 7.5% or even higher. Session IPAs, on the other hand, have a lower alcohol content, usually between 3% and 5%.
Both beers have a strong hop flavor, but making a Session IPA tasty is a bit tricky because there’s less alcohol to carry those flavors. However, brewers work hard to make sure Session IPAs still have a great taste, even with less alcohol.
The whole idea behind Session IPAs is for them to be enjoyed over a longer period. So, if someone wants to have a few beers without getting too tipsy too quickly, a Session IPA might be the better choice.
Regular IPAs often have a fuller body, which means they might feel a bit heavier when you drink them. Session IPAs, because they’re lighter in alcohol, usually feel a bit lighter and can be more refreshing.
Alcohol has calories. Since Session IPAs have less alcohol, they generally have fewer calories compared to regular IPAs. It’s a slight difference, but something to keep in mind if you’re counting those calories.
Session IPA Examples
Neck Oil by Beavertown Brewery
As its name suggests, Neck Oil is something you can drink easily. With balanced flavors and lower alcohol content, Neck Oil is a Session IPA that is suitable for prolonged drinking sessions.
- Strength: Typically around 4.3% ABV.
- IBU Rating: 30-40 (This places it in the moderately bitter range, which is consistent with many Session IPAs.)
- Taste/Mouthfeel: Neck Oil has a clean, refreshing taste with citrusy and slightly tropical hop flavors. It’s well-balanced and has a smooth mouthfeel.
DayTime IPA by Lagunitas Brewing Company
DayTime IPA is your go-to beer when you want a light yet flavorful experience. Perfect for those sunny afternoons or evening get-togethers.
- Strength: Typically around 4% ABV.
- IBU Rating: 30-40 (placing it in the moderately bitter range, akin to many Session IPAs.)
- Taste/Mouthfeel: DayTime IPA has a crisp, refreshing profile with dominant fruity flavors, making it a delightful drink with a smooth, clean finish.
Founders All Day IPA by Founders Brewing Co.
As its name suggests, All Day IPA is crafted for those who want flavor without the high alcohol content. This Session IPA is perfect for all-day sipping.
- Strength: Typically around 4.7% ABV.
- IBU Rating: 42 (This places it in the moderately bitter range, consistent with many Session IPAs.)
- Taste/Mouthfeel: All Day IPA offers a complex blend of malts, grains, and hops, leading to a beer with a prominent hop aroma and a clean finish. Its balanced nature ensures a smooth mouthfeel with hints of citrus and malt.
Guinness Nitro IPA
Smooth due to its nitrogenation, Guinness Nitro IPA offers a balanced blend of hop bitterness and malt sweetness.
- Strength: 5.8% ABV
- IBU Rating: 44
- Taste/Mouthfeel: Smooth from the nitrogenation with a mix of hop bitterness and malt sweetness.
Session IPAs bring a unique offering to the beer table. They provide the chance to savor a hop-forward flavor without the heavier alcohol content of regular IPAs. This makes them a great choice for those wanting to enjoy beer over a longer time. But it’s all about personal taste. Whether you’re new to the world of IPAs or a long-time fan, it’s worth trying both Session IPAs and regular IPAs. Only by sampling each can you truly find out which one hits the spot for you. Cheers to finding that perfect brew!