Tag Archive: Session IPA


Black Isle: 5-A-Day (Scotland: Fruit Session IPA: 3.5% ABV)

Visual: Darkened yellow to brown. Very large off white bubbled head.

Nose: Passion-fruit. Lightly wheaty. Light white pepper. Light hop character and bitterness.

Body: Sour-dough. Gritty bitterness. Gritty hop character. Chalk. Light tart gapes.

Finish: Gritty bitterness. High hop bitterness. Slight charring. Dry guava. Dry passion-fruit. Flour. Chalk.

Conclusion:Ok, this is one of the least fruity IPAs I have ever encountered. Which, considering it is made with passion-fruit is really a bad sign.

First impressions are of just a gritty, slightly chalky and rough thing. The beer seems to have run into the problem that a lot of session IPAs do, which that that unless they are brewed very well then the lower malt base can make the beer feel dry and over-attenuated with little residual sweetness, which can make the higher hop load just acrid rather than flavoursome.

Over time an ,admittedly still very dry, fruit character does out, but it is never anywhere near enough to push itself ahead of the dry charring that is the front of the beer. It isn’t big flavoured except in roughness, it isn’t easy drinking in any way, the hops are rough and the malt is empty. Even worse the added fruit twist does very little resulting in a beer that is both dull and harsh.

So this is a bad beer – chalky and clinging with all the worst elements holding on the longest. This is genuinely one to avoid as it has nigh no redeeming qualities.

Background: Black Isle Brewery was one of the first set of beers I did notes on, back when I was first starting the blog. They were ok but nothing special back then. Since then they seem to have a complete image overhaul and gone more into the craft beer scene rather than the more traditional ales they did before. So when I saw a bunch of their beers at Independent Spirit I decided to grab one and see how they had changed. This is is a low abv IPA made with passion-fruit. Seems simple enough. I put on Testament – Low for music to back this. No real reason, just enjoy their music.

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Moor: All Dayer Deadpunk Session IPA (England: Session IPA: 3.5% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly cloudy yellow with middling off white head.

Nose: Brown bread. Quite fresh. Floral and lemon.

Body: Fresh lemon sorbet. Creamy vanilla ice cream. Pineapple. Brown bread. Prickly nettles. Slight dried apricot.

Finish: Brown bread. Mild lemon curd. Nettles. Mild guava. Vanilla. Peppery. Wheaty. Moderate hoppy bitterness.

Conclusion: A session IPA that is, for once, actually delivered at a session ABV. I haven’t brought this up too much, but most so called session IPAs are not really session abv for me – lower than a standard IPA yeah, but for me you need to be 4% abv or below to be genuinely a session beer. I will admit that very few beers keep to that these days, as abvs have ballooned a bit. This, at 3.5% abv, is nicely in the session bracket for me. So, with that discussion aside, how does it for flavour in this hard to master style?

Average. Which, compared to a lot of its contemporaries in the session IPA range, isn’t that bad. It is quite bready, which seems to be a common theme in session IPAs, but it avoids the excessive dryness that makes many of them wearing.

It also has a general lemon character to it – straying occasionally into fresher pineapple or more peppery finish at times. Not a huge range, but it does the job. Similarly the body is present in feel, and in malt flavour, but not exactly heavy. I guess it helps with the session characteristics but means it is much more average when you are having just the one.

As a session beer it isn’t stand out and it feels more like a lower abv APA than any kind of IPA. However it does do the job – The flavour works over several drinks and it has the abv to carry it.

Not a must have but does what it sets out to do, and is far from the worst session IPA I have had.

Background:Ok, I will admit it – I mainly grabbed this due to the whole “Brewdog trademark the word Punk in beer” controversy. Because I have listened to their arguments, and them pointing out some errors in reporting, and it still sounds bullshit to me to try and stop people using the word “punk” in beer. Seriously – limiting use of “Punk IPA” sure, just punk? Nah, sod off. So this beer, so named for, and made for, the Deadpunk festival amuses me. Also Moor make good beer, so that helps. So, I listened to some punk music when drinking it, right? Nah – still on a metal kick, so went with some Evil Scarecrow. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit, yes again.

Brewdog: Prototype: Tangerine Session IPA (Scotland: Session IPA: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Slightly burnished gold. Clear. Small bubbled carbonation. Medium sized off white head.

Nose: Very clear tangerine. Light hop character. Orange jelly to marmalade.

Body: Brown bread. Moderate hop character. Light greenery. Fresh oranges and tangerines. Orange jelly sweets.

Finish: Tangerines. Moderate hops and bitterness. Popcorn feel. Orange hard sweets. Blackpool rock. Bitterness grows over time. Brown bread.

Conclusion: A few things stand out here. First, and quite importantly, this manages to successfully avoid the overly dry character that seems to come with a lot of session IPAs. You can still feel the dryness and accompanying well attenuated character – especially in the finish – but due to its core tangerine conceit it bursts with sweetness that hides that aspect well.

Onto the tangerine then – it is very fresh and shows itself in several different ways throughout the beer. In the aroma it is very natural feeling, very fresh and very clean – it utterly dominates the nose. In the body it is now working against moderate bitterness – so not quite as dominant. It is still very present, but not as cleanly delivered – now with some soft orange sweets adding to the sweet character. Finally in the finish the sweetness takes on a more artificial kind of Blackpool rock and hard orange sweets feel against a growing hop bitterness. Not bad, but different and less cleanly done, much more artificial feeling.

While the orange is well done, this is not a varied beer in any way – you get orange flavours and bitter hop flavours laid over a dry attenuated bready base. It is well done but the simplicity means that it doesn’t play in the top ranges of beer. A one trick, fresh fruit, session beer. Probably has a place in the line up if they can add a bit of range to it – it fits a needed niche and is nice enough – however it really is not a beer for contemplation.

Background: Prototype time again! A time when Brewdog put out a bunch of new beers and the one I like least is voted to be the one they keep. Sorry. I may be a bit down on the results of voting these days. Mainly for reasons with nothing to do with beers. Anyway… They only put out three beers this time, they had a blond ale but decided it wasn’t up to snuff. All 3 are IPA variants, generally the darkest, strongest beer wins. Because of course it does. So my guess is the black rye IPA will win this year. It fits the pattern. Anyway, this is the session IPA – a style I have had many issues with over the years as 1) IPAs are by definition strong beers and 2) lots of session IPAs are crap. There have been a few good ones though, so I’ll give this a fair shake. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This is 40 IBU, low for the insane scales we have these days, but still a fair decent chunk of hops. Looking at the bottle they use actual tangerine to make this, which may be just what is needed to break the session IPA curse. This was bought from the Brewdog store and drunk while listening to Svalbard – Gone Tomorrow.

brewdog-ace-of-equinox

Brewdog: Ace Of Equinox (Scotland: Session IPA: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed main body. Some carbonation. Moderate sized white head.

Nose: Passion-fruit. Fresh. Digestives. Moderate hop prickle and bitterness. Slight thick musty notes. Dried pineapple. Flour. Slight smoke?

Body: Prickly. Fresh. Vanilla toffee. Flour. Black pepper. Fresh grapes. Slight chalk. Somewhat spritzy.

Finish: Slight musty bitterness. Sulphur. Slight sparkling mineral water. White grapes. White pepper. Charring.

Conclusion: Ok, this is very different to the other “Ace of”s and, in fact, quite different to the vast amount of other session IPAs. Which, good or not, does mean that I can’t just go on my usual session IPA rant here. I actually need to write new material. So let’s have a gander.

While it does not taste it, I have a feeling that the malt base must be as dry as the other ones in the range – they are all based on the same recipe after all – and there are hints of dryness in the character, along with a very peppery character which would normally indicate that the low abv session IPA curse of over dryness has hit here. However, the bullet is neatly dodged by the spritzy, quite fresh, hop feel. Not huge, nor with a large range of flavour – it is kind of grape like (and let’s face it, it is possible that some of the pepper character comes from the hops as well) and even has that kind of mineral in mineral water taste. Not deep, and in fact not notes that you normally hunt out – but the freshness that comes with them really keeps the dryness in check early on.

By the time the dryness comes to a head it is matched by a much bigger bitterness than before; A bigger bitterness than you would expect from a light beer – not so much in the mid body, but when mixed with the charring and pepper in the finish it is quite the punch.

So, the range of flavour is on the simple end of the scale – though on actually making a sessionable yet bitter IPA this does a lot better than I expected when starting it. Heck, the malt base even seemed to bring some of the usual toffee and vanilla notes you would want from an IPA.

So, not as good as the awesome Neck Oil – but a refreshing and punchy beer. Definitely lacking in depth, but I could imagine kicking back a few as long as it is chilling with friends rather than examining them. A fair decent social lubricant, but not one of the greats.

Background: Last of this year’s “Ace of “ series. A single hopped session IPA. Frankly I very rarely get along with session IPAs – this range started off fairly weak, but the has become ok over time. Which is not really high praise. Hopefully this one will break the trend. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer, and this was grabbed direct from Brewdog’s online store. This was drunk to the odd music mix of Propellerheads and Slipknot. Very 90s.

Brewdog Ace Of Citra

Brewdog: Ace Of Citra (Scotland: Session IPA: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Small white head. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Pineapple and apples. Peach. Mild hop character. Generally quite fresh character. Slightly bready. Shortbread. Low bitterness. Vanilla toffee and vanilla custard.

Body: Crisp apples. Light tart gooseberry. Peach syrup. Mild vanilla toffee backbone.

Finish: Tart white grapes. Spritzers. Apples. Fresh. Some hop character and bitterness. Digestives. Slight smoke. Slight cloying hop feel.

Conclusion: After a weak first beer on the Ace of range this …cough.. session IPA range is actually starting to grow on me. The second beer was pretty good, and this one is pretty damn enjoyable.

The body is still slightly thin, however here the hop choice really seems to work with that rather than against it. It is fresh, apply and slightly spritzer styled. The flavour doesn’t seem hurt by the thinner body – instead, due to the fresh character, it becomes a lightly refreshing, mildly bitter drink, using the freshness to fill what the texture lacks. Because of this it manages to avoid being a thin empty drink or a harsh over dry one, so good job so far.

As is expected by this point, the malt doesn’t bring much to the game. A slight vanilla toffee backing is there to work from but very lightly done. Similarly hop bitterness and character is a light dusting over the beer, not a main component. In fact the harshest note is a slight sulphur smoke in the finish. Not the best look, doesn’t match with the other flavours, but it is light enough that it does not ruin what came before.

So, a few nips and tucks needed, but considering my off stated general dislike of session IPA as a style then, yeah, this is a fair solid one.

Background: Third in the Ace of range,a set of single hop session IPAs. I kind of preferred back when they did IPA is Dead as a full IPA single hop range, but this has seemed to improve over time. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was bought straight from the Brewdog website. I had just got back from watching “The Boy With Tape On His Face” comedy gig, so was in a good mood.

Brewdog Ace Of Chinook

Brewdog: Ace Of Chinook (Scotland: Session IPA: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Middling carbonation. Large white creamy bubbled head. White suds left afterwards.

Nose: Crisp hops. Sweet vanilla. Pine needles. Pineapple. Fresh.

Body: Tart grapes. Sweet grape juice. Vanilla toffee and custard. Slightly thin late on.

Finish: White grapes. Vanilla. Light pineapple. Shortbread. Light peppermint. Light greenery.

Conclusion: I nearly passed on this one. Nearly. I am glad I didn’t. Session IPAs are rarely my thing, and the last “Ace of” beer really didn’t grab me. However they seem to have got past that and honed this one in nicely.

While a slight bit thin late on, this seems to have solved a lot of the usual session IPA issues. The base has a moderate sweet backing, the greenery – while present – is far from the dominant note. It becomes drying only in the finish, but avoids cardboard like notes and for the rest of the beer it gives a good solid base for the hops to express themselves.

The hops delivery is straightforward – straight up fresh grapes and light pine needles, there is some hop bitterness but generally more on that tart and fresh flavours, less on the bitter kick.

It fits what a session IPA should do – lots of flavour, easy drinking and without too many harsh notes. Beavertown still have my favourite session IPA with Neck Oil, but this gives me new hope for the “Ace of” range and is an enjoyable beer in itself.

A nice suprise.

Background: I am generally not a fan of session IPAs, I am far from an unbiased actor on Brewdog. So, that is the whole bias thing out of the way. This was grabbed directly from Brewdog’s online store. Drunk while listening to Some Television Villain in preparation to go see them live again. They are currently gigging around the Bath and Bristol area – check them out if you can!

Beavertown Neck Oil Session IPA

Beavertown: Neck Oil Session IPA (England: Session IPA: 4.3% ABV)

Visual: Lemon juice pale yellow. Mounded white froth and large amounts of carbonation.

Nose: Fresh. Lemon on pancakes. Clean. Lightly musty as it warms. Digestives. Kiwi.

Body: Light lemon. Prickly but mild hops. Vanilla and mild toffee. Milky notes. Ovaltine back. Caramel as it warms. Orange juice. Very mild milky coffee.

Finish:Squeezed lime. Ovaltine. Popcorn hop character. Bready. Moderate bitterness. Kiwi. Very mild milky coffee.

Conclusion: Now I am nearly always kind of down on the session IPA as a style, but this is pretty much the one and only session IPA so far that I respect. Time to put it on the autopsy table and see what makes it tick. Or something. That metaphor may not have made sense.

What really stands out is that it isn’t too dry. Dry can work with a big IPA or Imperial IPA, but in the session case it always seems to end up tasting like a badly built American Pale Ale to me. While this does not bring spectacular flavour levels, that slightly creamier body means that it has a lot more leeway in how it brings its flavours. It can make it as drinkable as a session IPA should be, and still let it lean dry at the finish, but by that point it has already delivered the flavours well.

Flavour wise it keeps it simple – soft lemon, mild kiwi back, with hop bitterness present but somewhat understated. It works more as a slow build up than an instant kick. Over time you get a lingering bitter finish, but, again, soft enough to session.

The sweetness rises as it warms, soft toffee into caramel. Because of that sweetness the horrid cardboard notes of many a session IPA are absent. You can feel at the edges where they could come out, but they are kept under control.

Designed for the session, it doesn’t instantly shout to be respected, but it has just enough flavour, just enough body, just enough bitterness to enjoy at that point. Time is what brings it respect, that it holds up to the session it is built for. By half way through the can it is going nicely, and keeps plenty of room to continue growing – lime notes build slowly and an initially simple beer gains enough respect to be one I return to again and again. In fact each session IPA I drink seems to make me respect it more as I see how so many others can fail.

Every brewer, please ask Beavertown for advice. They can do session IPAs. Most of you can’t.

Background: Yes, it is here, the one session IPA I speak highly of. I have mentioned it enough times, and drunk enough cans that I thought I should finally do notes on it. So I grabbed a can from Independent Spirit, and got to work, It is also part of the end of an era. Yet another notebook full of notes. Time to move on to pages new. Here’s to all of you, cheers!

Brewdog Ace Of Simcoe

Brewdog: Ace Of Simcoe (Scotland: Session IPA: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Darkened gold. Clear. Moderate carbonation and moderate off white head.

Nose: Passion fruit. Resinous. Sharp grapefruit. Good hop character. Shortbread. Stewed apricot. Thick. Tangerine.

Body: Bitter. Passion fruit. Cardboard. Quite dry. Tangerine. Slightly gritty. Moderate hops. Light vanilla. Egg plants.

Finish: Passion fruit. Pineapple. Good hop character and bitterness. Tangerine. Egg plant.

Conclusion: What is it about session IPAs that make them so hard to do well? I mean apart from taking a high abv, high hop beer and taking away one of those two parts. I’ve run into less decent sessions IPAs than I can count on the fingers of one hand.

Then again, this session IPA is single hopped with the wonder hop of Simcoe, and brewed up by the experienced hands of the IPA world – Brewdog. It is therefore, only kind of ok. I mean they really do give it their all and the tart tropical notes are floating wonderfully in the aroma, in the body, and even the finish. They have pushed the fruit notes as hard as the possibly can.

So, what lets it down? Well, the malt base really, as is often the case, it just feels muggy. It is slightly dry, musty, and even… cardboard like. When the hops are riding high it doesn’t matter too much, but as soon as they settle down the base beer really feels lacking.

It just leaves bad, gritty, taste. In its defence it is more dull that actively offensive, and because of that the hops can make it a generally ok beer sometimes, but it doesn’t have the foundation it needs to be more than that. The worst part is the finish – the mugginess outlasts everything else and thus it becomes the bad kind of session beer, You have to take a sip to get back that decent flavour and eradicate the mugginess, rather than wanting to take another sip as you are enjoying the experience.

Ah well, so far only Beavertown have turned out a beer of this style that was excellent. I wonder what the heck they do so differently to manage it.

This tries hard, and the hop delivery is done very well indeed, but it doesn’t have the scaffolding to break the session IPA curse.

Background: Ok, Brewdog’s single hop range this year is a session IPA. As someone who generally isn’t a fan of session IPAs but is a fan of single hop runs, that is kind of disappointing, Before I forget, as always, I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Also, Simcoe is a great hop, so hopefully that will make up for the whole session IPA thing. Seriously, why do session IPAs exist? Still, I keep trying them, hoping this one will be the beer that makes it. Drunk while listening to Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Awesome album. The photo for this one was somewhat of a weird exposure, but I kind of liked it, so picked it anyway

Granville Island Van Dame White ISA

Granville Island: Van Dame White ISA (Canada: Session IPA: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy pineapple to lemon juice colour. Small white dash of a head that leaves some suds.

Nose: Really fresh lemon. Light cream and coriander. Pineapple.

Body: Moderate wheaty bitterness. Unleavened bread. Soft avocado. Good hop prickle. Pineapple. Lemon pavlova.

Finish: Good bitterness. Pepper. Soft avocado. Lightly earthy. Wheaty. Pineapple.

Conclusion: Session IPA meet white IPA. Oddly, despite my usual grumbles about the amount of adjectives used with IPA this one does not set off any alarms for me. maybe it is because things have got so insane over the years (Double Session IPA for one…).

Anyway, it works as an interesting mix, you can sense that kind of unleavened bread dryness that is the flavour in a lot of session IPAs, but that is underneath – up front it has that wheaty fresh character that makes the whole thing more manageable. Similarly the light spice associated with the wit style does a lot to round out the beer. It isn’t a perfect match, but I will say that it seems like a genuine way to take the session IPA forwards and give it some real legs.

I think it is because it adds a lot of range to what can be quite one note beers. The lemon wit characteristic work well with the comparatively restrained hop flavour to give a less intense but well ranging flavour profile.

Overall it doesn’t quite overcome the oft found flaws of session IPAs, that base character needs to be a bit less leaden, but it definitely works very well with it. The bitterness does build up nicely over time, slow enough to take your time with, but it doesn’t rely on just that to overcome the weak base.

Not the best, but, as I say, this definitely seems like a way to take the style forwards, and it is on the better end of session IPAs to say the least.

Background: As well as 4.5% abv this has an OG of 10.9 and 50 IBU. I do love how much info they give you in Canada. It is also very noticeably influenced by the Belgian wit beer style. Granville Island in Vancouver was awesome, tons of experiences and foodstuff to try. Including the ever addictive Nanaimo bars. At the taphouse I tried a few beers, but with a name like Van Dame this had to be the one I tasting noted.

Granville Island Brewing

Central City Red Racer ISA

Central City: Red Racer ISA (Canada: Session IPA: 4% ABV)

Visual: Light grain to yellow. Thin white head and some carbonation.

Nose: Lemon. Quite dry. Peach.

Body: Lemon and cream. Light crisp bitterness. Lager like crisp texture. Lightly bready. Slight dried apricot. Light honey and lime.

Finish: Bready. Lightly earthy bitterness. Light lime. Shredded wheat. Honey touch. Pineapple.

Conclusion: Session IPA. Session IPA. Grrr. Then again, Central City has done so far with their Red Racer IPA range while I have been trying them here in Canada. Might as well see what they can do with this often hard to pull off style.

Actually, this is very solid. While it has that bready, shredded wheat backing in common with a lot of session IPAs, one that doesn’t seem quite as drinkable as the style should be – it benefits from the fact that it isn’t nearly as highly attenuated as most seem to be. They manage to keep a light honey sweetness and an easy drinking lager style crispness that combine to be enough to keep the beer flowing freely. A vital element in a session beer I am sure you will agree.

It feels kind of like a highly hopped lager, which is not entirely a bad thing. The hop flavour comes through very clean and citrus filled, less so mid body but it just plain explodes in the finish. The hop character is not excessively bitter but does have this very fluffy feeling. It gives the impression of a lot higher bitterness than there actually is – an impressive trick for a session IPA.

Downsides? Well the aroma really doesn’t sell the beer very well, and while it has nice flavours it doesn’t quite rock the range of Beavertown’s Neck Oil – but I still rate it very highly for a session IPA.

Red Racers continue to race ahead.

Background: Yay, I got to try one of the Red Racer IPA range! Technically I got to try several, but this was the one I did tasting notes on. This is cool for me as I always got Red Racer from Central City, and Racer 5 from Bear Republic mixed up. Now I’ve tried both. This was drunk in Dubh Lin Gate in Whistler. I was confused, Irish theme pubs in the UK are nigh invariably shit, yet this place was highly recommended. Turns out to be a good pub. Huh, everything is different in Canada. ISA stands for India Session Ale by the way, took me embarrassingly long to find that out.

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