It's short-sighted, even ignorant, to call the burgeoning session IPA an American invention. It's true that until Founders All Day IPA was launched in 2012, the idea of a lower alcohol (typically sub-5 percent) pale ale with the big aroma of an IPA had failed to gain much traction. Our hat is off to Founders for helping establish the session IPA as a staple of today's craft brewery, but across the Atlantic, British brewers had never stopped making easy-drinking India pale ales.
Take Samuel Smith's lovely 5 percent India Ale, for example. Or look north to Scotland's Harviestoun, which has been making the bright, hoppy, and 4.2 percent ABV Bitter & Twisted for decades. But while these are wonderfully complex beers, they lack the hop-laden firepower of American session IPAs we love. Two of our top picks this summer are All Day and Stone Go To IPA.
Founders All Day IPA opens with a big aroma of classic American hops — lots of grapefruit and pine. Like many tasty IPAs from the Midwest, All Day still keeps a mild, toasty barley character. It weighs in at 4.7 percent and 42 bittering units. That puts the bitterness on the high end for a pale ale, while the aroma could be any strong IPA.
Stone Brewing's Go To IPA hit the session scene in 2014 and became an immediate favorite of ours. It follows the West Coast IPA tradition of packing juicy hops on top of a dry, crisp body without discernable barley flavor. Go To also features a juicier and melon-like hop aroma, thanks to a mix of traditional and new American hops. It hits 4.8 percent alcohol with 65 bittering units, which is a healthy number for any strength of IPA.
The summer heat is on, and we're putting our 8-percent hop bombs on hold — at least until the AC kicks in. In the meantime, which session IPA would you rather crack open on a hot day?