Session IPA

*Initially I could not find Stone Go To IPA , a beer I wanted to include in the original posting on 6/2/14. On 6/12/14 this post was updated to reflect my thoughts on Stone, after finding it, but it did not change my thoughts on the best session IPA of the bunch.

For the past month I have been trying different session IPA to see if they could really give me the flavor I wanted from an IPA and yet still be lighter in alcohol. I tried four of the more highly rated ones I could find on the shelves of New Jersey Liquor stores and one random pick:

Carton Boat Session Ale
Flying Dog Easy IPA
Founders All Day IPA
Schlafly Session IPA
Stone Go To IPA

What do I look for in an IPA? I want a great mouthfeel, great aroma followed my a great taste and balanced bitterness. Normally I gravitate towards beers in the 7% alcohol range because that range allows for a perfect balance of malt to hops. The challenge with lower alcohol beers is that the malt profile isn’t as high to support the normally bitter IPA style. So there in lies a problem, getting the flavor and mouthfeel I want from a lower malt profile beer while remaining balanced and with enough bitterness to satisfy my IPA craving.

The Beers

Carton Boat

Boat drinks very much like a German beer with an American IPA twist. The aroma is grapefruit forward and the taste is a massive punch of German malts and yeast that give me that clean profile with an unmistakably German flare and a hint of American grapefruitiness.

Flying Dog Easy IPA

Easy IPA is the most balanced and closest to the American IPA style without compromising on taste. Grapefruit aroma and taste with a nice malt backbone easily make this the closest beer, in style, to an American IPA.

Founders All Day

Great Aroma! This beer comes in with a huge grapefruit aroma and follows with a piney taste. I’m a fan of grapefruit/citrus tasting IPAs and less of the piney resinous beers. This beer lacked the malt backbone of  the Flying Dog Easy IPA which made it more one sided. This had such a clean light taste that the hops really dominated the beer and made this truly hop forward beer.

Schlafly Session IPA

This was my random session IPA pick. I wanted to pick one beer I had not previously researched and the Schlafly IPA is a great beer so I went with this. While the Founders All Day IPA was a hop forward beer this was more of a malt forward IPA. It had that bready maltiness and a muted hop presence through out the entire beer. Out of the lot, this beer is the most out of style American IPA I tried.

Stone Go To IPA

Everything about this beer started off great. It poured fantastic with a great head but a little cloudy and huge aroma of grapefruit that is easily the best aroma of the lot.  On the front of the tongue had great initial hop flavor but then the feel of the beer on your tongue totally underwhelms. It feels thin on the tongue like if you are drinking carbonated water and it really leaves me feeling uncertain if I want another one. Everything about this beer is great except that mouthfeel I wish they would have used some oats in the mash or used a yeast that didn’t eat away at all those sugars making the beer feel thin.

Which one do I prefer? Flying Dog Easy IPA

Why? Easy Dog IPA provided the most balanced beer of the lot. It had a great maltiness but also had a hop profile that backed those malts. It had the most American IPA uhmph and just reminded me of a beer closest to what I want out of an American IPA. The decision between Stone and Flying Dog was close but ultimately that thin feel of the Stone had me gravitating more towards the Easy IPA. Most will think I’m crazy for not picking Carton Boat Beer but that’s ok because although Boat is a great beer I think it falls outside of the IPA style too much for me.

Flying Dog Easy IPA

Side Note: Two beers I wanted to include in this but couldn’t find on the shelves are Lagunitas Daytime and Stone Go To IPA. Maybe next time.