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Session IPA: The Perfect Combination of Flavor and Drinkability


Session IPA is a beer style that beautifully balances the bold flavours of India Pale Ales (IPAs) with lower alcohol content, making it more sessionable and approachable. With their hop-forward profiles and lighter body, session IPAs have gained popularity among craft beer enthusiasts who seek a flavorful brew without the higher alcohol content that can sometimes accompany traditional IPAs. In this blog post, we will explore the characteristics, brewing techniques, and notable examples of session IPAs, highlighting the perfect combination of flavour and drinkability that makes them so enjoyable.

Understanding Session IPA

Definition and Origins

Session IPA, also known as India Session Ale (ISA), is a beer style that emerged as a response to the growing popularity of IPAs. The term “session” refers to the beer’s lower alcohol content, making it more conducive to longer drinking sessions without overwhelming the palate or causing excessive intoxication. The style originated in the United States during the craft beer boom and quickly gained traction among beer enthusiasts seeking a flavorful yet sessionable option.

Flavour Profile

Session IPAs feature a hop-forward profile, typically characterized by prominent hop aromas and flavours. Citrus, tropical fruits, pine, and floral notes are commonly found in session IPAs, creating a refreshing and vibrant sensory experience. Despite their lower alcohol content, session IPAs maintain a well-balanced flavour profile, combining the bold hop characteristics with a lighter malt backbone.

Lower Alcohol Content

What sets session IPAs apart from traditional IPAs is their lower alcohol content. While traditional IPAs often have an alcohol by volume (ABV) ranging from 6% to 7% or higher, session IPAs typically fall within the range of 4% to 5.5% ABV. This lower alcohol content allows for a longer drinking session without sacrificing flavour or intensity.

Brewing Techniques

Brewing a stellar session IPA requires careful consideration of ingredients and brewing techniques. Here are some key brewing techniques to create a top-notch session IPA:

Grain Bill

The grain bill of a session IPA typically consists of base malt, such as pale malt or Pilsner malt, which provides a clean and light malt character. Some brewers may incorporate a small percentage of speciality malts, such as crystal or Vienna, to add depth and complexity to the beer’s malt profile while maintaining a lighter body.

Hop Selection

Hop selection is crucial in session IPAs, as the hops play a central role in creating the beer’s distinctive flavour profile. Popular hop varieties used in session IPAs include Citra, Mosaic, Amarillo, Simcoe, and Cascade, known for their vibrant citrus, tropical fruit, and floral characteristics. Late hop additions, such as whirlpool and dry hopping, contribute to the beer’s aromatic complexity and hop-forward flavour.

Bitterness and Balance

Achieving the right balance between hop bitterness and malt sweetness is key in session IPA brewing. Brewers aim for a moderate to high level of hop bitterness, typically ranging from 40 to 60 International Bitterness Units (IBUs), to provide a noticeable hop presence without overwhelming the palate. This bitterness is achieved through hop additions during the brewing process, including early kettle additions and dry hopping.

Yeast Selection

Choosing the appropriate yeast strain is essential for a session IPA. Many brewers opt for clean-fermenting American ale yeast strains, such as California Ale yeast (WLP001), to allow the hop flavours to shine. These yeast strains produce a clean fermentation profile with mild esters and contribute to the beer’s crisp and refreshing character.

Carbonation and Mouthfeel

Session IPAs typically exhibit a moderate to a high level of carbonation, which enhances the beer’s refreshing quality and accentuates the hop flavours. The mouthfeel of a session IPA should be light to medium-bodied, providing a crisp and easy-drinking experience.

Notable Session IPAs

Several breweries have crafted exceptional session IPAs that showcase the style’s characteristics. Here are some notable examples:

North Brew Co. – Session IPA

North Brew Co.’s Session IPA is a standout example of the style, offering a perfect balance of hop-forward flavours and drinkability. With a lower alcohol content and a focus on vibrant hop varieties, this session IPA delivers a burst of tropical fruit, citrus, and floral notes. North Brew Co. has captured the essence of session IPAs with their well-crafted and refreshing offering.

BrewDog – Dead Pony Club

Dead Pony Club from BrewDog is a widely recognized session IPA that has garnered a dedicated following. With its lower ABV and bold hop character, Dead Pony Club packs a punch of citrus, pine, and resinous flavours. It provides a crisp and refreshing drinking experience, making it a go-to choice for those seeking a flavorful yet sessionable beer.

Beavertown – Neck Oil

Neck Oil by Beavertown Brewery is another standout session IPA renowned for its balance and drinkability. This beer showcases a blend of hops that create a refreshing citrus and tropical fruit profile. With its lower alcohol content and smooth body, Neck Oil is designed for easy-drinking enjoyment, offering a hop-forward experience that keeps you coming back for more.

These notable session IPAs, including North Brew Co.’s Session IPA, BrewDog’s Dead Pony Club, and Beavertown’s Neck Oil, represent the innovation and craftsmanship within the style. Each beer provides a unique take on session IPAs, showcasing the perfect combination of flavour and drinkability that makes them a beloved choice for beer enthusiasts.

Food Pairing

The vibrant hop character and balanced malt profile of session IPAs make them versatile when it comes to food pairings. Here are some suggested pairings to enhance your session IPA enjoyment:

  • Spicy cuisine: The hop bitterness and citrusy flavours of session IPAs pair well with spicy dishes, providing a refreshing contrast and complementing the heat.
  • Grilled seafood: The citrusy and floral hop aromas of session IPAs complement the flavours of grilled fish and seafood, enhancing their natural characteristics.
  • Salads and light appetizers: Session IPAs’ crisp and refreshing nature makes them a great accompaniment to salads, light appetizers, and cheeses. The hop flavours and carbonation uplift the fresh and vibrant elements of these dishes.


Session IPAs offer a delightful combination of bold hop flavours and lower alcohol content, making them perfect for extended drinking sessions without sacrificing taste. With their vibrant hop profiles, balanced malt backbone, and refreshing nature, session IPAs have become a favourite choice among craft beer enthusiasts. Whether you’re enjoying the citrusy burst of All Day IPA, the hop-forward appeal of Go-To IPA, or the juicy flavours of Easy Jack, session IPAs provide a flavorful and approachable beer experience. Raise a glass, savour the hop goodness, and enjoy the sessionable delight of this beloved beer style.