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

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

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?

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"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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