Inherent Flaw In Session IPA's

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by bfitzge2, Apr 12, 2015.

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  1. kdb150

    kdb150 Initiate (0) Mar 8, 2012 Pennsylvania

    This nails it. There is a clear lack of refinement and, more importantly, a lack of craftsmanship in these beers that bothers me.

    What I don't get is that there are plenty of sub-5% ABV hoppy beers out there that don't lack the mouthfeel I correlate with a well-made beer. Clearly there is a difference between APA and Session IPA, and the difference to me seems to boil down to something that is well made (designed "bottom up" as you say), and something that is merely a brewer cramming hops into a lower alcohol beer without any attention being paid to anything other than the hop flavor. Given the wide variety of APAs out there, these seem not only redundant, but a worse version of a beer style readily available in the marketplace, that is selling well due to better marketing.

    You can put 80 or 90 IBUs of hops into a 4.5% ABV beer and not have be watery and lacking mouthfeel. Brewers are just choosing not to, for the most part.
  2. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Initiate (0) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado

    For me, the inherent flaw is in the pricing. When a six pack of <5% abv beer sells for the same price or $1 less than a sixpack of 7-8% abv beer, it's a no-brainer for me. Instead of drinking all 6, I'll drink 4, save money and still have 2 more to enjoy. Why in the world would anybody in their right mind pay the same and get less? I'll tell you why - marketing.
    We [and I include myself] have been pounded with clever marketing campaigns that make us want something new or feel as though we are missing something if we don't buy the newest or "improved" product. And the "improved" is usually not. We are also constantly fooled by labels and the trust we put in what a label says when often times it is quite misleading.
    And it's deja vu all over again when brewers label their product "session" to cash in on the craze, whether they are under or over 5% [as far as I'm concerned, the cut-off point for a low abv beer] just as brewers have labeled their product "IPA" whether it conforms to the style or not. Ho Hum. Another first world problem.
  3. Scott17Taylor

    Scott17Taylor Poo-Bah (1,805) Oct 28, 2013 Iowa

    I don't see the point in giving up flavor for the ability to drink more, but as soon as a session ipa can have the same amount of flavor as a normal ipa I'll drink them but until then I see no reason to go to a session ipa.
  4. HopBomb515

    HopBomb515 Initiate (0) Jun 15, 2013 New Jersey

    I literally just finished an Over Easy. I thought it had the hop water flavor and Boat doesn't to me. That's why this is fun. Cheers.
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  5. stephens101

    stephens101 Poo-Bah (2,683) May 5, 2006 Oklahoma

    I have yet to try a "session IPA". Not making any kind of statement here trust me. The concept has never seemed quite right to me for a number of different reasons I won't go into. I would not refuse one if someone handed it to me at all. I would embrace it full on and drink the hell outof it, but every time I think about grabbing a "session" IPA, I end up going for the real thing instead. This is not in any way knocking "session IPA's" because I haven't tried any, so I have no qualifications for doing so. Just commenting on my train of thought which may or may not be correct.
  6. G_Z_a

    G_Z_a Initiate (125) Feb 2, 2015 Oregon

    Thanks for the clarification on that. So as I presumed, "sessionable" is a combination of low ABV and drinkability as opposed to just one or the other. I still think the term needs further defining as I feel a 6% ABV beer is totally sessionable as long as the drinkability is high. Are you really going to get that much more intoxicated from 6 beers at 5% than from 6 beers at 6%. If they're going down easy you're going to keep drinking regardless. I think drinkability should be the key component to defining a "sessionable" beer as opposed to mostly strict ABV rules although obviously that needs to be factored in.
  7. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,680) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Yes, yes you are.

    It's not just one more percent per beer. Over the course of six beers, that's ~22 grams more of alcohol. More than one standard beer's worth. And it is drank in the same amount of time....seeing as your body only metabolizes one drink per hour, yes, that makes a huge difference.
  8. G_Z_a

    G_Z_a Initiate (125) Feb 2, 2015 Oregon

    I still think it's pretty subjective. That one more standard beer's worth may put some people over the top, but others will not notice. It's not really any different from drinking beer at 4% and 5%. If you know the ABV, then you know if you have 6 beers at 5% it's nearly the same as having 5 at 6% or 7 at 4%. It all still seems "sessionable" to me.
  9. Tdizzle

    Tdizzle Initiate (0) Dec 19, 2006 California

    I agree. I try each new one that hits the shovels, but I never go back for more. They're just sort of pointless to me. It's like "I need to have hop flavor and aroma SO bad that I'll drink a watery beer just to get my fix!" I would rather drink a hoppy pale ale or a real IPA in moderation than drink four session IPAs.
  10. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,680) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    It will effect your BAC the same in individuals with a similar gender/height/weight, whether you have symptoms of intoxication, yes, that can vary.

    Morever, there is a difference between < 4% and beers > 4%. See the link to the government study below, 4% is the cut-off in which a drink is no longer hydrating. Also, you can't simply drink more water on the side, your body needs time to metabolize the alcohol, and there's more to hydration than just drinking water.

    It also defeats the purpose of "sessioning" if I have to drink less beers because the percentage is higher.

    Above is the link to the study on pubmed. Below I've quoted the section mentioning 4% ethanol as the cut-off.

    "The effects of alcohol on hydration and its diuretic function are historically well recognised. The identification of alcohol as a potent diuretic date back to 1948, where a 10 mL excess urine production was evident following each gram of ethanol consumed [5]. The mechanism subsequently identified is the inhibition of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) by ethanol [21], although this relationship is evident only in beverages containing greater than 4% (w/v) ethanol [21]."
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  11. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,826) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Having done a trip to the o England this spring, where I drank my share of real ale <4%, there is a deference. You can function after a day long pub crawl, and feel ready to do it over again the next morning.
    AlcahueteJ likes this.
  12. Ranbot

    Ranbot Defender (650) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    I like the above, but then there's this...
    You may be interested in this discussion on this exact subject:

    But the take-home message is that for commercial brewing the raw materials is a marginal cost to the final price of the beer. It's more than just packaging and logistics... employee salaries, utilities, purchase/rent/lease brewery space, QA/QC, marketing, equipment purchases/investments, etc. also factor in. All told the difference in malts to ferment a 4% vs 8% beer is a drop in the bucket. If you if you need even more proof that raw materials are a marginal factor in pricing, then next time you're in the store compare the price of O'douls [non-alcoholic] to regular macro beer with alcohol.
  13. G_Z_a

    G_Z_a Initiate (125) Feb 2, 2015 Oregon

    I agree with all that, especially your point about drinking less which defeats the purpose. As far as beers under 4%, all the session IPAs I've seen on the market are above that, so that's somewhat moot.

    I think my main point is that "sessionable" should be defined more by it's drinkability than it's ABV. To me, whether I drink 5 or 6 beers, it's still seems "sessionable." I think if a beer is labeled as "session" it should speak to the consumer more about how easy it is to drink than just that it has a lower ABV. An IPA is an IPA, but a session IPA should be something that you want to drink several of on a hot summer day or hanging out with friends. Something crisp, refreshing, and easy drinking. Again, if I can drink a 6 pack or close to it, that qualifies as a session for me regardless of whether it's 5% or 6%, which is still lower than most IPAs. I feel like it's been a struggle to create a great session IPA at 5% or less, so why not make a great IPA at 5.5% or 6%, which there already are, and rebrand them as a "Session IPA" if the drinkability is also high.
  14. G_Z_a

    G_Z_a Initiate (125) Feb 2, 2015 Oregon

    To clarify further, "session" should tell the consumer that it is lower in ABV along with it's drinkability. There are plenty of IPAs at 7 or 8% that are super drinkable and I'm guilty of putting more than a few back at one time, but I would not call them "sessionable" and there should be a limit on what the ABV can be, but like I said, 6% or below is definitely on the lower end of the spectrum for IPAs these days. So a drinkable IPA at 6% or less qualifies as "sessionable" for me and since there are already some great IPAs out there that fall in this category, why not make more like them and just label them as "Session IPAs" instead of struggling to make one that has to be below 5% and which ultimately seems to disappoint most people?
  15. TheGator321

    TheGator321 Initiate (0) May 29, 2013 Connecticut

    for the record...
    APA's and session IPA's are different styles.

    I'm not a fan of session IPA's. good hop flavor but they def finish thin or watery if you prefer. but some say thats an inherent flaw some say theyre pale ales (wrong) some like the fact they can shove low abv. hop bombs in their pie holes all day.
  16. Ranbot

    Ranbot Defender (650) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    A couple counterpoints:
    1) The main thing you are getting less of in a session beer (IPA or otherwise) is alcohol and if alcohol is really what you value in a beer, there are many good spirits on the market that are a much better value in that department.
    2) For most beer styles the hot, fusel flavor of alcohol is not a desired trait.
    3) There are plenty negative short- and long-term side effects to alcohol that one could easily justify chosing a lower ABV beer, even if they are not sessioning. (e.g. drunkeness, hangover, driving impairment, dehydration, excess calories, long-term liver damage, etc.)
    4) If I'm out for a long night with friends, I would rather keep drinking beer at a comfortable pace, not nurse a boozy beer and/or be drinking more water [which still doesn't increase the speed the liver processess alcohol anyway]. Or to quote @AlcahueteJ above, "It also defeats the purpose of "sessioning" if I have to drink less beers because the percentage is higher."

    I'm not saying I've never had a few too many or never enjoyed being drunk, but there are many situations where I personally value a low-ABV beer over a higher ABV beer. I don't think I have that opinion because of insidious marketing scheme... I am very aware of what alcohol does to my body, but I still like beer, so sometimes I want less alcohol in my beer. It would be nice if there were more low-ABV options besides session IPAs, but I appreciate them being there, nonetheless; and I hope the popularity of session IPAs will pave the way for other low-ABV styles.
  17. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Initiate (0) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado

    Everyone's entitled to their own opinion. As for #4, for me, a long night with friends is 4 hours at a time.
  18. hornet303

    hornet303 Initiate (0) Mar 21, 2014 California

    To add my understanding to the thread:

    I've taken brewing classes at UC Davis Ca and have had discussions with brewers that have one multiple GABF medals. They all seem to think that session IPA's are very important to the beer industry and will likely become something very significant. The reason that sessions taste watery is because the body is so light. You're leaving a lot of the sugar structures back. Its very similar to how "light" (lower calorie) beer is brewed. The goal obviously is to reduce the ABV but keep a lot of the hop profiles that we crave in the higher ABV beers.

    I had a discussion with a Russian River employee over a pint of Dribble Belt in January. The first think I noticed is the crazy nose on the beer. My first response was wow they dry hopped the shit out of this. He said that was exactly right. Dry hopping wont change any bitterness or flavor directly, but will give the great aroma we expect. Dribble Belt was good, and sessions are OK in general, but doesnt really scratch the same itch we have for those big ass doubles.

    I personally think the sweet spot would be around the 5-5.5% mark. Take a Pale Ale, and give it a dose of Hop Stoopid or Enjoy by, without overpowering the malt too much. Dry hop the crap out of it and refine from there.

    Being an avid IPA drinker, drinking 8%'s will take a tole on me. But just like discussed in this thread, session is subjective. If your typical session is 3-4 8% beers then reaching for something with less ABV might be in the 5-6 range. Going all the way down to 4.5% might not be a gamble that someone who loves the 8's is willing to take.

    The race to high ABV I understand, but my dollars would go to the group that can make a lower ABV beer that makes me forget about the 8's.
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  19. Dave1999

    Dave1999 Savant (966) Dec 5, 2011 North Carolina

    There's a few lower alcohol ipa's I like, pinner, sam smiths ipa, daytime, deuchers ipa
  20. jcos

    jcos Initiate (0) Nov 23, 2009 Maryland

    Session IPAs often seem good at first then start to taste like "dirty hop water" after you have it a few more times.

    So far I like Firestone Walker Easy Jack, Pinner is good, usually the ones with more malt to them.

    21st Amendment Bitter American was nearly perfect...then they redid it. Sigh.
  21. G_Z_a

    G_Z_a Initiate (125) Feb 2, 2015 Oregon

    My thoughts exactly. I know at least a few quality IPAs in the 5.5% - 6% range, which is pretty low by today's standards and thus inherently "sessionable" in my view. Why not shoot for that sweet spot instead of trying to create something below 5% which doesn't seem to really work.
  22. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (2,050) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Why not just create a great sub 5% pale ale and call it a "Session IPA" for marketing reasons?

    Works for me! :grinning:
  23. G_Z_a

    G_Z_a Initiate (125) Feb 2, 2015 Oregon

    I think that's the crux of the problem. A pale ale at 5% isn't an IPA, but an IPA at 5% or below just seems to be missing something. You still have to put the same or similar amount of hops into it to call it an IPA, which they've been doing and which is why these session IPAs are around the same price as regular IPAs. The trend in IPAs has been to go bigger and bolder so you rarely see any IPAs below 6.5% these days. So why not shoot for that sweet spot of around 5.5% - 6%, which we know can produce a great IPA, and just label it as a session IPA since most IPA drinkers have adjusted to higher ABVs and therefore will be able to drink more at that lower ABV without losing any flavor.
  24. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,680) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Because it won't be hoppy enough. Some of the session IPAs I've seen are as high as 70 IBUs. A few of my favorite pale ales are around usually less than 40.
  25. jojo2112

    jojo2112 Initiate (157) Sep 24, 2014 Pennsylvania

    Yeah see I find Boat and Over Easy very similar, but Over Easy has a stronger citrus to it that masks the hop wateriness a bit.

    As hard as I've been on sessions in this thread, I still buy them and like some of them. Sometimes it's just nice to have a beer where I can drink a couple and not have to worry about if I'm driving or going somewhere after. I typically get a session for my kegerator which also helps for when I have company over and most people don't want to pound a bunch of 8% IPAs.

    All that said, no session can ever replace a good IPA/DIPA.
  26. brianbeze

    brianbeze Initiate (0) May 27, 2015 Missouri

    mikkeller makes a great session IPA which uses oats to improve the mouthfeel. Still I like session beers as I get less hungover and stay hydrated (great for bike rides). Slow ride is good for me at $13 a twelver and I drink it slower than a hamms. When you have to get up at the crack of dawn and go to school but you still want to hang out it is a tastier option. Maybe people are just soo used to a heavy malt build in their IPA's that they consider a lighter one "unbalanced" but that really is up to the person. IPA's are unbalanced to a lot of people too who want a lighter hop load and a maltier profile. Its a style of beer which is supposed to be very hoppy and have a light profile.
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