It’s become just about essential for brewers to have a session ale or Session IPA in their lineup. But is it a valid style or just a buzzword used to rebadge pale ales and encourage more drinking?
While the session ale can overlap with other pale ale styles, it does fill a gap in the range. It’s less strong and bitter than an IPA, but is more bitter than a summer ale. It has less caramel sweetness than American-style pale ales and can weigh in anywhere between 3 to 5% abv.
When done right, session ales hit the sweet spot between full flavoured and easy drinking. For me, I can’t drink big IPAs quite like I used to and I’m not a big fan of the caramel sweetness of crystal malts present in many American-style pale ales. So these lighter tastier drier ales are a perfect go-to drink if I don’t want anything too heavy.
Here are some of the session ales to look out for in Australia:
Mornington Peninsula Hop Culture Session IPA (4.9%)
A cool pop art style can, on the heavier end of this style. Nice and hoppy, it’s fruity with a firm but not overwhelming bitterness. I got around to drinking this one recently after ordering from BoozeBud and I thought it wasn’t dissimilar to Feral Hop Hog and other great Aussie pale ales of that ilk.
Pirate Life Throwback Session IPA (3.5%)
A mid-strength beer, light in colour and malts, heavy in tropical fruit aromas with a medium bitterness. This is my favourite Australian example with the lighter strength making it perfect for certain occasions.
Yeastie Boys Australia Bigmouth Session IPA (4.4%)
NZ’s favourite contract brewers are brewing this one out of Nomad and at a great price currently at First Choice. Using NZ hops, including some Nelson Sauvin by my reckoning, it has a distinctive fruity, almost grape-y aroma and a nice tongue coating bitterness but is refreshing and I want some right now.
Bridge Road Little Bling Session IPA (3.4%) – The smallest member of the Bling family still packs a punch with plenty of hops and flavour.
Founders All Day Session IPA (4.7%) – Founders are generally regarded as the, er, founders of this style with this tasty beer. A classic with all the flavour of the aroma hops, without any over-the-top bitterness or caramel sweetness that had typified American IPAs.
Brew Dog Dead Pony Club Session Pale Ale (3.8%) – This was my introduction to the style and was a pleasant surprise. Now available in cans, lower bitterness with s a citrusy and spicy kick from the hops.
Feral Sly Fox Session Ale (4.7%) This beers seems to have changed from summer ale to session ale at some point, I guess because summer ale is soo last year. But seriously, this is a refreshing beer with some citrus hops and a low bitterness crisp finish.
Ballast Point Even Keel Session Ale (3.8%) – Like the other Ballast Point ales, expect lots of hops and no sacrifice in flavour for this lighter style of beer.
Colonial Small Ale (3.5%) – A refreshing beer with aromatic citrusy hops all packed into a cool can.