The session IPA craze shows no signs of slowing down, and as the weather warms up, even more breweries are introducing light and drinkable ales that showcase big hoppy aroma. These refreshing craft brews have found a niche with craft beer drinkers looking for a lower alcohol alternative to full-flavored IPAs, especially in Southern California, and the popular style is particularly suited to the equally popular trend of craft breweries using cans.
In case anyone isn’t yet on board with the idea of good beer in cans, the aluminum vessels are generally superior to bottles as a package for beer. They reduce exposure to both oxygen and light, two of the biggest enemies of beer, and they're lighter, more durable and chill faster. They're of course also more welcome at campsites, pools, boats and other outdoor venues.
While a session IPA is basically just a pale ale by another (more marketing-friendly) name, the nomenclature tends to denote a more aroma-driven version of the traditional American pale ale that's both lighter in body and in malt flavor.
Proponents of the style love the intense aroma, often a demonstration of the fruity and tropical notes provided by modern hop varieties. Others dislike the overly-light body of the brews that prioritize drinkability over balance.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, session IPAs are one of the hottest trends in craft brewing. So here are four examples of session IPAs from California craft breweries that are all available in cans — perfect for your first pool party, hike or camping trip of the year.
Pizza Port — Ponto S.I.P.A.
Veteran San Diego brewpub chain Pizza Port launched cans in the Los Angeles market last year, and the Ponto S.I.P.A is still one of the best examples of the nascent style on the market. The 4.5% alcohol ale features five hop varieties for a complex aroma and both oats and wheat in the grain-bill to provide more texture than the average session IPA. It also comes in six-packs of 16-ounce cans and retails for about $10.
Angel City — Social IPA
The Downtown L.A. brewery has been refreshing their core lineup, and Social IPA is the first Angel City beer to hit the market in cans. Another example of using more protein-rich grains (wheat, oats) for added mouthfeel and complexity in an otherwise feather-light body, Social IPA uses popular American hop varieties like Citra, Simcoe and Cascade for that classic citrus and pine IPA character.
Firestone Walker — Easy Jack
Introduced last spring, Easy Jack became one of the most popular new brews from the Paso Robles craft giant, and this year Easy Jack joins Firestone Walker’s Union Jack, Pivo Pils and 805 Ale in cans. Light, bright and packed with the pungent aroma of melon, mandarin orange and tropical fruits, the 4.5% ale uses a melange of hop varieties from America, New Zealand and Germany.
Ballast Point — Even Keel
Even lighter than most session IPAs, this potion from the veteran San Diego brewery doesn’t even hit the 4% alcohol mark, but 10 different malts and six hop varieties mean there is plenty of flavor and complexity to keep you interested can after can. Featuring an intense and bright citrus character, the limited-release Even Keel is remarkably flavorful. It’s a fitting little brother to Ballast Point’s superlative flagship Sculpin IPA