Tag Archive: Session IPA

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.

Grizzly Paw Rundlestone Session Ale

Grizzly Paw: Rundlestone Session Ale (Canada: Session IPA: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Grain yellow. Thin ripe banana skin touched head that leaves suds. Clear body with no evident carbonation.

Nose: Prickly bitter hops, lightly done. Kiwi and lemon sherbet. Very crisp.

Body: Good clean bitterness. Dry malt back. Mild caramel and soft lemon. Soft toffee and lime notes.

Finish: Fudge. Hop air. Chocolate notes. Kew lime pie. Light bitterness.

Conclusion: Ok, first if I can get out of the way my ever evident pedantic and over opinionated nature. Session beers should be below 4% in my ever so humble opinion – I have given a lot of ground in this fight over the years in the fact of abv increases all around, but still I think for the perfect session beer it holds true. However, with that said, this is sessionable as hell.

It keeps the body fresh and crisp the entire way through – lager like in feel but with a real high quality crisp bitterness. It just slips down – and, even better, as seems to be common so far in Canada, the carbonation – while present – is minimal so you don’t get bloated. For that last point your experience may vary depending on where you drink it, but at the brewpub it used just enough to keep it crisp.

The trick seems to be that while it has a whole mound of flavour, it keeps it soft. The fruitiness and sweetness is gently applied, as if dragged across your tongue on a velvet cloth. Metaphorically. If it was literal that would be horrible.

It reminds me of a ramped up version of “How To Disappear Completely“, despite being a far lighter coloured beer, and the extra weight of abv really overcomes what I found to be the few weak points in that beer. The toffee and fudge notes are soft but solid enough that the feel feels like it has weight rather than feeling empty at the core. The fruitiness feels akin to a good pale ale, but without as much hop kick.

If this had been below 4% I would have called it the perfect session beer. As is it is a damn good session beer.

Background: Had to work hard to get this one, I first hit the Grizzy Paw Brew Pub on a Sunday. Which turned out to be the Sunday on a three day weekend. It was insane busy and I ended up having to give up. The next day, thankfully I managed to grab some beer and poutine. By the way their poutine was the best I had in Canada, very nice indeed. This has an IBU of 28, and I was amused that despite being called a “Session” beer, it was only 0.5% abv lower than the vast majority of their range. A lot of Canadian beers seem fairly tightly clustered around the 5% abv. Ratebeer seems not to like this beer, odd, ah well, also they call it a golden ale – possibly, but session IPA seemed closer for me so I went with that.

Firestone Walker Easy Jack IPA

Firestone Walker: Easy Jack IPA (USA: Session IPA: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow. Moderate white head. Some carbonation to the body.

Nose: Resin. Lemon. Popcorn. Hop bitterness. Passion fruit.

Body: Good bitterness. Crisp and dry. A lot of hop character. Dried fruit and trail mix. Grapes. Some vanilla toffee as it warms.

Finish: Bitter and hoppy. Dried passion fruit. Flour air.

Conclusion: You know, people are going to think I don’t like session IPAs- that isn’t true. Beavertown’s Neck Oil for example is bloody fantastic and I can drink it for ages. However, that is not the beer I am talking about now. I am talking about this, a session IPA from the highly reputed Firestone Walker, and I find it, like many others, leave me slightly cold.

I think it is something in the drier body that comes with the lower abv – a similar impression I get from the American Pale Ales – The body seems to give the hop bitterness grip – no problem – but it really seems to find it hard to use the texture to give grip to the fruity flavours that the hops should showcase.

It is all a bit dry, it almost feels like someone dusted flour over it. I was hoping the legends that are Firestone Walker could do something with the style to overcome the oft found shortcomings but, while it feels competently put together – crisp and well textured – it feels like it has the same flaws and merits as the majority of the style I have encountered. Unique to it is how much the bitterness clings so it doesn’t even feel that sessionable in flavour. Without the contrasting sweetness the roughness builds up too quickly – it is interesting to drink as a single beer, but not as one of many.

Ah well, back to Neck Oil I should review that one day.

Background: Firestone Walker are awesome, and make brilliant IPAs – so when I saw that they were doing canned beers – found at Independent Spirit, I had to grab one for a try. Drunk whilst listening to some Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Alleujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! to be exact.

Brewdog Hello My Name Is Little Ingrid

Brewdog: Hello My Name Is Little Ingrid (Scotland: Session IPA: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Browned gold. Moderate off white head. Clear body with some carbonation.

Nose: Musty hops. Tart berries. Loganberry. Toffee and digestives.

Body: Prickly. Turmeric. Some bitterness. Brown bread. Light kiwi. Tart sour berries. Moderate prickly hops and bitterness. Dry. Toasted teacakes.

Finish: Brown bread. Turmeric. Tart gooseberries. Bitter hops. Earthy. Peppery touch. toasted teacakes. Toffee.

Conclusion: There are session IPAs out there I like. Honest. Despite the style’s stupid name there are ones I highly enjoy and would recommend. This is not one of them.

OK, bit of a bad start there. May have put some of you off. Let’s work on this. For all I would not recommend this overall, it does have the base elements down pat. The texture is nicely thick, especially considering the lower abv. They have the bitterness level racked in just right so to give a kick but still leave room so you could drink more. All the workman elements are locked down. However that is it. The part where it should shine is instead where we start hitting issues.

The hops feel slightly earthy, with a distinct lack of the huge amount of fruit that the hop load described should be capable of turning out, the added berries give some tart notes which are pleasant but without a real heft to them. If the hop flavour was up to the job then the berries would back it up well, on its own it can’t do much against the base bitterness.

A much weaker beer than grown up Ingrid, and not just in abv. I think if they want to do this again in the future with other of the “Hello My Name Is” series then they really need to rework the recipe as this is not it. It delivers about the very base of what I would expect from an IPA but little more.

Background: So, I enjoyed Hello My Name Is Ingrid – a cloudberry infused double IPA, when it first came out – and later batches have gone from good to awesome. This is the session IPA take on the idea. Session IPA .. still sounds wrong as a term.. anyway. I think this is intended as a Sweden only release in bottles, but I could be wrong. As you may guess from the fact I am writing this, that is not 100% strict. Anyway, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Drunk with a bit of Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables in the background. Always up for a bit of old school punk, and it seems to suit Brewdog beers for me.

Wild Beer Co Bibble

Wild Beer Co: Bibble (England: Session IPA : 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Reddened amber. Thin white dust of a head. Cloudy. Leaves lace.

Nose: White grapes and hops. Malt drinks. Dried apricot.

Body: Moderate bitterness and hops. Malt drinks. White grapes. Cream. Big apricot. Slight sherbet meets cream feel.

Finish: Malt drinks. Good citrus hops and bitterness. Kiwi. Key lime pie. Light lemon sherbet. Apricot. Grapes. Pineapple.

Conclusion: Keg vs cask, the eternal debate. Well, I say eternal, its only really been a debate in the UK for about five years at a guess. Keg before that really didn’t have very many defenders due to the poor quality beers it was used for, but I digress.

Anyway, the reason I bring it up is that I’ve tried this a few times on cask before and it is great fun. Maybe not an all time best, but definitely a go to for a night’s session drinking.

So, review kit in hand I encounter it on keg, and it shows a very different character here, if still recognisable as the same base beer. So, this will be part the usual tasting notes and part comparison of how the two versions hold up.

First up, let this warm a bit – the cooled down character in a keg kills the best elements – It made me think that this was intended first as a cask ale, though the fact they are releasing this soon in cans does make me reconsider that. Here it is a crisp beer with good green fruit flavours and a moderate bitterness.

An interesting element, and one that holds over from a more pronounced expression in the cask’s version, is a slight creaminess to the beer. Here it is only a side note but an interesting one, in the cask it really mixed with the fruit to create a very solid base for the beer. Here the crisper nature seems to mean that the malt base is more evident as a separate component – the blended nature of the cask shows off the combined elements to better effect.

The hops are a tasty mix of kiwi, grapes, pineapple and the like – a bright and fresh expression as benefits the advantage of a keg. Here they are used as a fine wake up call, the keg was more soothing in its flavours – though in both they are backed by a big apricot sweetness.

So, here you get a slightly over malt emphasised beer but with a nicely done set of hop flavours, in cask you instead get a relaxing well balanced beer that slips down nicely and indulges you as it does so. So I would say, in keg – not bad – but on cask well worth hunting out for a night’s enjoyment. Like that it is definitely a beer that doesn’t get dull.

Background: Bibble! Seriously, why do I never have my review kit around when this is on tap. Or did I anyway, now I have got notes on this. This is brewed with Vienna malts and oats along with Amarillo and Mosaic hops. Found on keg at Brewdog Bristol, the day after they had a Wild Beer Co tap takeover.

8 Wired Semi Conductor

8 Wired: Semi Conductor (New Zealand: Session IPA: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Lemon yellow. Small white head that leaves white suds. Low carbonation in the body.

Nose: Peach and orange. Kiwi and prickly hops. Touch of brown sugar and dry malt.

Body: Grapes. Unleavened bread. Bitter. Soft texture. Gooseberry and pineapple. Toffee malt. Prickly nettles. Apricot and peach. Vanilla.

Finish: Unleavened brown bread. Some charring. Grapes. Pineapple. Kiwi. Nettle prickle. Apricot. Dry.

Conclusion: 8 Wired and hops. 8 WIRED AND HOPS IN AN IPA! Well, hellloooo nurse. This is a very soft and gentle beer. Well, it feels soft and gentle as a texture and base flavour , hop wise it prickles with bitterness.

Now, it, of course, cannot live up to the sheer joy and weight of hopwired and superconductor. Its bigger cousins have the advantage of having larger range to play with. Here the flavour is a mix of soft toffee malt and vanilla, to juicy fruit and slight tartness, that styling that 8 wired excel at.

Now, for all this is sounding awesome so far, there is a very noticeable drawback that seems to have been brought in by the session style. There is a not exactly unpleasant, but not enticing unleavened bread style mid body, that becomes a harsher burnt charring at the end. It feels like a side effect of unhandled hop bitterness, kind of like the runoff from the main body. It isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t help the session style, and is far from the polished masterpiece that make up their other IPAs.

Still, it is very easy drinking for the bitterness, and it is still well done for flavour. It does the job ok, but does highlight the problem in trying to make a good session IPA, a style that is still a bit of hard sell for me.

Background: An IPA, from 8 Wired you say. On tap. Seriously I could not order my schooner fast enough. Or my 2/3 of a pint for those of you who hate the term schooner. Yeah, 8 Wired have a very good rep with me. This was drunk while chatting with friends in the midday sun outside Brewdog Bristol. I still hold that session IPA is an odd term, but that fight may be long lost. Oh, and the term for someone electronically breaking into a computer system is cracker not hacker. #stillfightingoldlinguisticbattles.

Crew Republic Detox

Crew Republic: Detox (Germany: Session IPA: 3.4% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon to apricot. Large sudded yellowed head. Unsure on carbonation due to the cloudy nature.

Nose: Pineapple. Pine cones. Custard. Sweet lemon curd. Crisp. Cream. Present hops. Apricot.

Body: Good bitterness. Malt drinks. Hop character. Slightly chalky. Dirty water. Kind of lemon touched.

Finish: Malt drinks. Bitterness. Granite. Dried apricot. Malt chocolate. Kind of floral.

Conclusion: Ohh, and it was doing so well! Interesting look on the pour, a nice hazy character and it follows that up with an appealing smooth, fruity, and slightly hoppy aroma. So, all that going on and it has a low abv that should make it a session beer.

Then I took a sip.

Yeah, well, you know what I said in my last review about beers that don’t live up to their aroma? That would be this beer. This so does not live up to its aroma.

The main body is just kind of malt drink, mixed with muddy water. OK, tad over harsh, it does have admittedly good bitterness, but the rest of the beer’s body is so leaden. It is so very disappointing. Then the finish just puts the nails in the coffin of the beer. It is just granite, malt and bitterness. There is no good hook to this beer. You can feel the ghost edge of fresh fruit flavour trying to push past the muck, you almost get lemon and apricot. Almost, but failing.

So, it is just dull, not chemically and offensive. The dirty water bit is pretty bad, but that is a quite minor touch thankfully, mostly it is just really dull. Like drinking stale bread and hops.

Ah well, can’t win them all.

Background: So this is called a session IPA. Now at 3.4% BAV it even fits my definition of session, but the idea of a session IPA confused me so I had a look and…that is an actual recognised style now? Ok, huh, erm, ok. But, but an IPA is supposed to be high alcohol, that is pretty much the definition! Ah screw it, I accepted Black IPA, White IPA, Red IPA and Brown IPA. I can live with session IPA. Anyway, on first glance I thought this was a Czech Republic, but no, it is actually part of the small craft beer scene of Germany. This was drunk while nursing my aching hands after failing to complete the final level of “They Bleed Pixels” with all pages after TWO HOURS. I have since managed it. Ouch that was hard. I’m just rambling now…Oh, did I mention I bought this at Independent Spirit? Because I did.

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