09 February 2012

Is "Session IPA" a Nonsense Term?

I'm not fucking around here: the beer community needs to put to bed the idea of "sessionable IPA." The concept makes no sense. In the most generic definitions, "sessionable" refers to a beer under about 4.0% abv with well-balanced malt and hops profiles such that you can have several throughout a drinking session without getting shitfaced.

When brewed to style, IPA's are generally around 6-7% abv and are hopped the fuck out*.  That description could almost be paraphrased as "non-sessionable beer." If you have three or four IPA's and aren't drunk or pretty close to it, you've got a very high functioning liver. If you have three or four IPA's and can still taste anything after all those hops, you've got a stronger tongue than I or you're drinking a lightly hopped beer that probably shouldn't have "IPA" on the label. Standard IPA's are not sessionable, no matter what anybody writes in a beer review or on-the-bottle description.

But say you're a brewer and you really want to concoct that elusive "sessionable IPA." What do you do? Reduce the alcohol content and tone down the hops, of course. What do you get when you do that? A FUCKING PALE ALE. And there's nothing wrong with that. For the love of god, though, just call it a pale ale! If you get the alcohol content low enough, pat yourself on the back, call it a sessionable pale ale and go enjoy a whole six-pack of 'em.  You've earned it.

For everyone else, say it with me: IPAs are NOT SESSIONABLE.  Never will be.

* That's a technical term for a beer with high bitterness, 50-70 IBU, and lots of aromatic hop characteristics.


  1. "Session IPA"
    "Imperial Mild"
    "Blonde Stout"
    "Double Blonde"

    (I've seen all of these terms used, together, in beer names)

    I'm all about blurring the style guidelines and freedom of expression in brewing, but I agree. Come the Fuck on, Craft Beer Community.

    Don't cheapen your unique creations by labeling them with tacky (and misaligned) Beer Geek keywords. These poor labels cover up your creativity.

    I'd rather a beer name give me absolutely no information about the beer (i.e. "Bad Kitty", "Six", "Red Poppy") than be laden with marketing jargon and gimmicks.

  2. I had a "Black Kolsch" at St. Arnold in Houston last November.

    Thanks for the afternoon laugh, Chris. Well done!

  3. OK, wait, double blonde sounds okay, but kinda stupid. Black Kolsch, well that's truly fair as well, because to make a beer black...well all you have to do is add some dark malt.

    Everything else aside you *could* actually get a black kolsch with virtually no roast grain flavor using Sinamar.

    Otherwise, you are spot on with the refreshing rant.

    Tuxedo Park Brewers Supply

  4. Meh, semantics

    I desire low-ABV, hop-forward beers and companies can market or label them however they want - just keep em coming. And bring Founders All-day-IPA to the Indianapolis area, please and thanks.

  5. Why doesn't anyone make a double imperial black mild??!?!?!?

  6. So what if a pale ale has higher IBU's than the style guidlines? Is it a hoppy pale ale or a low ABV IPA? I think that both "Extra Hoppy Pale" and "Session IPA" are both good descriptors.

    I would always label it an IPA (either with the ABV listed or as "session IPA") if it is more bitter and more hoppy than the average pale ale... Why? Because that's what I intended for it to be and that what people buy! Does it really matter? No, just drink your beer.

  7. Do you have a rant for Black IPA. It's such an oxymoron. Black and Pale? Doesn't work.

  8. I agree so much. Why use the acronym "IPA"? IPA describes a specific OG, IBU and SRM set of parameters. Go outside those guidelines a little and it's not a big deal either. But if it's not an IPA, don't call it that! IPA is a real term, with a real meaning.

    The worst is Evil Twin's Bikini Beer...a 2.7% "IPA".

  9. While I enjoy a good rant and all the above apply, I have to take exception to Mike Steeles' comment. In full disclosure we distribute Bikini Beer, and the following is just for fun, not meant to stir an argument.

    While todays market has redefined the IPA and in context your comment has some merit, I think we sometimes forget where and when the style originated. The original IPA was brewed as a low ABV(circa 4%), heavily hopped Pale Ale. Aside from the preservative aspect, IPAs were brewed with a low ABV due to tax issues on higher ABV beers. Today, Fullers makes an IPA that comes in at 4.9%; I would think they know IPAs. Granted it is an English version, and 4% is greater than 2.7, but I think it a bit harsh to call out Bikini Beer. At the end of the day, we will most likely agree to disagree. Is 2.7% too low?, possibly, but Bikini has a lot of hop nose and character for what it is. People who like hop forward beers and do not want to get hammered in the process will enjoy. Those that want a bigger, American style IPA will scoff. To each his own, as they say, and that is what makes the Craft Beer business so enjoyable. Cheers, Tim - Starlight Distribution.

  10. Wrong. Try Stone Go To IPA. It's hoppier than 90% of regular IPAs, and is 4.5% abv.