Stone Brewing's new 'session IPA' has less alcohol, plenty of hops

The San Diego brewery known for Arrogant, Self-Righteous brews introduces a new year-round beer that brings a hoppy punch, but leaves out the alcohol kick.

Stone Brewing’s first new core brand since the introduction of Cali-Belgique IPA in 2008, Go to IPA, joins the wave of “session IPAs” that have swept the craft beer industry. But what is a session IPA, and how does it differ from those 5 styles of IPAs that we recently told you about?

“Session” beers are an informal designation for brews that are “low” in alcohol but flavorful enough to hold your interest through a multi-beer drinking session. No one can really agree on what “low” means; Stone Brewing sets the bar at under 5% alcohol; many others in the industry say 4% or even less. Go to IPA splits the difference at 4.5% -- somewhere between a Coors Banquet and a Coors Light -- while retaining an impressive hop bouquet.

Different from just a highly hopped pale ale, session IPAs focus on balancing a big hop character with drinkability, and they usually feature a very light body and bone-dry finish. Lagunitas Brewing Co.’s Day Time IPA was an early example of the style that’s been embraced by Southern Californian breweries looking for a refreshing brew that can still satisfy the hop heads. Pizza Port’s Ponto -- newly released in cans -- is a superlative example of the style, while Lancaster brewpub Kinetic is known for their Torque Session IPA, which took a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival last year.

Stone’s take on the style is, as expected, amped up -- with no fewer than nine different hop varieties, including being dry-hopped with en vogue Mosaic and Citra hops for a burst of tropical aroma, and the classic West Coast flavors of grapefruit and pine from Cascade hops. It’s dry, it’s bitter, and it’s nicely drinkable -- it should be a big hit at backyard barbecues and pool parties as the weather warms up.

Go to IPA is available now on draft and in six-packs.

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