Monday, March 16, 2015

Finally, a Session IPA Done Right

The session IPA trend has been one of the most perplexing of recent years. Tons of breweries have tried to create a low-alcohol hop bomb, but even those that make exceptional IPAs have, for the most part, produced beers that taste like watered-down pale ales short on the hop characteristic that makes their regular offerings shine.

It has been a great relief, then, to discover Oskar Blues' Pinner IPA, which is the first session IPA that seems to have nailed the goal for which this style was reaching. And while it may not be that surprising that the Longmont beer maker did something remarkable with hops, it is, frankly, a little shocking that a brewery that considers 7 percent ABV the low bar for most of its creations has come up with one of the most successful beers to date in the lower-alcohol genre.

To start, cracking open a can of Pinner is equivalent to sticking one's nose into a freshly crushed hop flower. The vibrant pine-tinted grass scent that comes at you is half of the battle to master the session IPA niche — it tells you this is a hop-forward beer, even if the 4.7-percent ABV level noted on the label makes you think otherwise.

Then the taste itself follows with an eyebrow-raising combination. The body is appropriately lighter than the brewery's flagship Dale's Pale Ale, and the hops are not as pronounced or astringent. But there is a full-mouth feel to signature ingredient — not a biting or acidic taste but one that makes its hop presence felt all the same.

Others have put unique twists on successful session IPAs. Trinity Brewing's sour session IPA, Super Juice Solution, is one that gives you some hops blended with a lot of other complex flavors, for example. But no one longing for the straight-up bitter bite of an IPA has yet written to me to suggest that they are getting the flavor they need out of a beer with the word "session" on it.

Pinner won't replace the big-bodied grittiness of Dale's or the blow-your-palate bravado of Gubna Imperial IPA, if that's what you're craving. But it may change your perception of what a lower-alcohol IPA can do.

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