"Session" IPAs: What's the difference?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by 57md, Mar 1, 2014.

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  1. 57md

    57md Poo-Bah (2,983) Aug 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

    I was just wondering if there was any practical difference between a "session" IPA and an APA?
  2. HighWine

    HighWine Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 Illinois

    Yes. Practically every beer noob will skip past an APA but will buy a session IPA.
  3. BeerBeast

    BeerBeast Crusader (762) Oct 9, 2012 Florida

    The final word on Session IPA: Stone Go To IPA. Unbelievably great!
  4. chefmikeanderson

    chefmikeanderson Initiate (189) Feb 1, 2009 Georgia

    According to the style definitions APA's can range from 4 to 7%. Session "IPAs" should be below 5% for americans and for English folk it should never exceed 4%. Is it practical... no. Is there a difference... yes.
  5. NiceTaps

    NiceTaps Meyvn (1,158) Nov 21, 2011 New Jersey

    I'll chime in (and hope that I don't get hammered :grimacing:).

    For me: The lighter session IPAs like Founders All Day IPA or Lags Daytime are hop forward with lighter body. I enjoy the style and find that these beers have less malt backbone than an APA (like SNPA, ie). Even Terrapin Recreation Ale, listed as an APA, seems more like the first two beers that I cite. Of course, that's no knock on APAs. I dig those, too.:slight_smile:
  6. denver10

    denver10 Poo-Bah (2,937) Nov 17, 2010 New Mexico

    I feel like session IPA's have far less of a malt backbone than most APA's.
  7. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,553) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I would like to hear a brewer or two chime in who's made a session IPA. My personal tastes are telling me there's an IPA-level of hopping with less malt than your typical American pale ale. This creates a beautiful floral and fruity nose, but a more bitter (and still quite hoppy) taste, with a thinner body.

    Your average American pale ale will have a more balanced ratio of hops to malt, creating (obviously) a more balanced beer. To make this beer hoppier, you'd balance it out with more malt, but you also increase the alcohol. As a result you'd create something akin to a Dale's Pale Ale or Zombie Dust.

    Peronally, I'll take a Firestone Pale 31 or Victory Headwaters over most of the session IPAs out thus far. They may not be as hoppy in the nose, and less bitter in flavor, but the body is still there in these balanced beers. My take, if you want to get your hop fix and leave the alcohol at the door, by all means pick up a session IPA. If you want a more mild hop adventure, but a better beer, go for a top shelf American pale ale.
    Kyrojack, ericj551, ToriBug13 and 8 others like this.
  8. Harnkus

    Harnkus Initiate (0) Oct 31, 2013 New York

    They are different. Less malt, less reliant on cascade, and seemingly more apt to use brighter hops
  9. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,767) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    My bottom line with those beers that self-identify as 'Session IPAs' is that they really aren't good for a true session. After a bottle or two there just isn't enough complexity to maintain interest- pure one-trick ponies; and that really does belie the whole 'session' moniker. It should not be only about abv, but also how the beer develops during a prolonged experience.
  10. jmw

    jmw Initiate (0) Feb 4, 2009 North Carolina

    session ipas are basically hop water.
  11. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,553) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I agree. I had a Coniston Bluebird Bitter tonight (and 3 mugs of it at Lord Hobo a few weeks ago) and it just gets better and better with each one. Not one-dimensional at all.

    I have not completely written off session IPAs, and have gone out of my way to try multiple. A few are enjoyable, but most are disappointing. With the wild popularity of All Day IPA, I feel brewers will continue to improve these beers, which is why I have not written them off. My favorites so far are Notch's Left of the Dial and Daytime. Bouncy House from Smuttynose was decent as well. And the bad ones are simply awful. As some have appropriately phrased, they're like "hop water" (see the post above). And the bad ones make me crave a simple, original plain old IPA.
    Rekrule and TongoRad like this.
  12. tjensen3618

    tjensen3618 Devotee (400) Mar 23, 2008 California

    Session IPA is what every Pale Ale created after 2013 is going to be called.

    Session IPA's and Pale Ales are just as different beers as an IPA created in the 90's and an IPA created today.
    checktherhyme and tkdchampxi like this.
  13. TheNightwatchman

    TheNightwatchman Devotee (494) Mar 28, 2009 Pennsylvania

    My experience with session IPAs vs. APAs is that session IPAs tend to be hop forward, with less balance. APAs tend to have a decent hop character, but more malt to balance the hops.

    I really enjoy All Day.
    Monstro and 57md like this.
  14. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,767) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Bluebird is fantastic, even in bottled form. Too bad it's relatively pricey for how it should be consumed.

    I haven't had that Notch beer (or any Notch beer, for that matter), so I will definitely keep it in mind if I do come across it. Most styles usually do have a few that do manage to get it right, so I would definitely like to give it a shot with that in mind.
  15. Jwhere

    Jwhere Initiate (0) Feb 25, 2014 Indiana

    Going by the BJCP guidelines, a session IPA is a misnomer; they are too low in alcohol to fit in the IPA category. That said, like others have mentioned they tend to be less malty then an APA.

    Mouserat and 57md like this.
  16. marquis

    marquis Champion (801) Nov 20, 2005 England

    Session IPA has been around for a century or so , that's what they eventually evolved into, Usually called bitter by the customers. Look up Greene King IPA.
    It's of note that 19th century brewers considered 4.2 % ABV to be the ideal strength for an IPA but tax reasons kept eventual strengths around 5.5%
    These were just names , nobody really cared what they were called.
  17. fatsnowman22

    fatsnowman22 Initiate (142) Feb 2, 2011 Nevada

    Session Ipas are something you should learn how to brew and have on tap at the house.
  18. CapnTrav

    CapnTrav Initiate (0) Feb 27, 2014 California

    does anyone have an opinion on ballast point's Even Keel Session IPA?
  19. JuniperJesus

    JuniperJesus Aspirant (240) Feb 26, 2011 Illinois

    Session IPAs are iced hop teas.
  20. patto1ro

    patto1ro Zealot (564) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    I wouldn't personally try to define the difference between a Pale Ale and an IPA. Both have been different things at different times. In the late 19th century, at some breweries the IPA was stronger than the PA, at others the opposite was true. There is no consistent pattern. The two terms seem to have been used pretty randomly.

    For example, the beer often called Bass IPA was always officially named Pale Ale.
  21. bulletrain76

    bulletrain76 Defender (622) Nov 6, 2007 California

    But what about now? Right now? That's what we are talking about. The history of the terms is important, but as you know, their meanings are constantly evolving. The current usage is what seems to the the main concern here.
    beerindaglass likes this.
  22. bulletrain76

    bulletrain76 Defender (622) Nov 6, 2007 California

    In general, session IPAs right now are lower gravity pale ales with high levels of hop aroma that border on excessively hopped. Pale ales in general tend to be more balanced between hops and malt, and are usually higher in alcohol (in the US) than session IPAs.

    I believe that this is part of a general shift in IPAs right now, from a definition that favors higher alcohol, to one that is basically any pale ale with a hop-domonated balance, of any gravity. Pale ales will be more balanced, while IPAs will be hop-showcases, whatever the gravity.
    Hoptoria, ToriBug13 and upsbeernut like this.
  23. patto1ro

    patto1ro Zealot (564) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    In the UK it's probably even more confused than ever, with on the one hand beers like Greene King IPA and on the other American-style IPAs.
    Flibber likes this.
  24. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,817) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Founders All Day IPA has become their biggest seller. What would you say if it used adjuncts? This phrase from their web site says adjuncts to me - "brewed with a complex array of malts, grains and hops."
    SFACRKnight likes this.
  25. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,127) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina

    IPA Lite.
  26. upsbeernut

    upsbeernut Aspirant (284) Sep 22, 2011 Georgia

    What' the abv have to be to call it a sessional ipa? My favorite is Lagunitas Day Time. You still get that back of the throat zing just before it goes down with a refreshing citrus grapefruit aftertaste.
  27. geneseohawk

    geneseohawk Initiate (0) Nov 4, 2008 Illinois

    I really like Boulevards Pop-Up session IPA- I don't really care what style you call them- I just say drink them if you like them.
  28. Rekrule

    Rekrule Defender (604) Nov 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    Left of the Dial was legit. It's the only one I've had so far that did anything for me at all.
  29. Ri0

    Ri0 Poo-Bah (3,034) Jul 1, 2012 Wisconsin

    APA's have much more flavor that Session IPA's. I prefer some malt with my hops. I have tried a handful of session IPAs and they all have been meh for me.
    MooseBoose likes this.
  30. willpedalforbeer

    willpedalforbeer Initiate (0) Feb 13, 2012 Missouri

    IMO, they are made for the American light lager drinkers. Regular 5-7% IPA's and Pales are my "session' beers. I will pass on the lemon water unless it is priced like natty light.
  31. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (4,956) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
    Moderator Society Trader

    Yes: malt profile, generally. Plus, there's no rule that says APAs have to be sessionable. Some brewers are putting out Imperial Pale Ales (essentially IAPAs) that clock in at super high ABVs (ST 2xOne comes to mind, but it's not the only one). Totally not sessionable, and not IPAs, exactly, either.

    On the other hand, I think you can make an APA that has a lot in common with a low-ish ABV IPA. Maybe in some instances its a matter of semantics, but I think there can be a clear difference between, say, All Day IPA (which still tastes like an IPA, not an APA), and a highly hopped APA like Edward, Zombie Dust, etc. SNPA may be both hoppy and sessionable, but I don't think anyone refers to it as a session IPA. :slight_smile:

    Good question to ponder, though. I think the distinction is ultimately up to the brewer, depending on just how clear they want that line to be drawn.
    JayORear and rozzom like this.
  32. Beric

    Beric Initiate (0) Jun 1, 2013 Massachusetts

    I'll bet a 15 pack of Founders All Day IPA that an AAL drinker who hasn't had craft beer before will spit out their first sip of a session IPA right back in your face. These beers are too flavorful and too hoppy to appeal to an AAL drinker.

    Guessing that most BAs at this point are converted AAL drinkers, by your logic, session IPA would be the biggest, most popular style, and this forum would be filled with people bragging about how many cans of All Day they can slam down in one session, rather than saying how anything under 100 IBUs is lame as shit and that anything under 10% ABV just won't cut it for them anymore.
    NavyGuy, rozzom and Tut like this.
  33. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Meyvn (1,011) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    Session IPA = IPA Lite
    NHhomebrewguy and herrburgess like this.
  34. Flibber

    Flibber Initiate (0) Jul 27, 2013 England

    I wouldn't have an issue with it. Lots of good beer contains adjuncts like sugar and flaked maize.
    Monstro, ThisWangsChung and TongoRad like this.
  35. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,467) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado

    American adjunct pale ale? Welll played founders, well played.
    From my distorted world view, I think the session ipa is a ploy to sell more beer to the people who are following the ipa trend. By definition they are apa's. Think apa's can't be hop bombs? Alpha king and zombie dust both have a bu/gu ratio that is out of this world. But in the end, I feel it is simply a marketing ploy to sell beer... "gotcha thinkin' that buyin' is rebellin'".
    05Harley likes this.
  36. 05Harley

    05Harley Crusader (713) Feb 8, 2008 New Hampshire

    Zombie Dust rocks...
    And I'll throw in Edward as well as a top choice APA.
  37. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (2,994) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
    Society Trader

    I just think the new trend is citrus/fruity hop flavored beer. Call it APA (Edward/Zombie Dust) or a session IPA really doesn't matter. Bottom line is the en vogue IPA of 2013-2014 is now very juicy and fruity in aroma and flavor and bitterness is diminished as well compared to both APA's and IPA's of around 10 years ago which were more bitter and piney. We're seeing this in both the double/Imperial IPAs as well as the low ABV variety. Its just what the masses of BAs want right now.
  38. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,553) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I agree with this statement. That being said, I find the session IPAs lacking that "pop" (this is the best way I could describe it personally) in the citrusy/fruity hop flavor without the malt to back it up. As a result the bitterness makes itself more apparent. This is just my personal tastes and opinion.
  39. NHhomebrewguy

    NHhomebrewguy Zealot (559) Apr 9, 2012 New Hampshire

    I actually saw a beer called an Light IPA. I shit you not!!!
  40. crowellbw

    crowellbw Aspirant (261) Dec 1, 2010 Washington

    You can't generalize the difference. You must look at it on a brewery by brewery basis, and you need to put it in context with their entire portfolio. One brewery's pale is another's IPA.
    pixieskid likes this.
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