Unleash this 4.5% ABV “vibrant hop-bursted session IPA” on your palate.
Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, CA
By Bill Lau
I noticed a shift in my beer drinking choices as spring weather gave way to early signs of summer some weeks back. I started looking for beers with lower alcohol content and lighter body. This is nothing new; most years I find I lean towards hefeweizens, witbiers, helles lagers and true pilsners when the weather gets hot. These all tend to run closer to the 5% ABV range, which is generally considered to be session beer strength (at least here in the US these days). But while they won’t fill you up or seem heavy or have too much of an intoxicating impact, these styles still boast plenty of flavor, at least when made well.
But there have been some very interesting developments of late, at least if you have a love for over-hopped American-style India pale ales (IPAs), like I do. Instead of ratcheting everything about a beer upward, a la the double (or imperial) IPA, some clever brewer had an inspiration to knock it down a notch, at least on the malt bill and resulting alcohol content. The beautiful part of it was not scaling back the hops so much, and the session IPA was born. I don’t know who can claim to be the progenitor of the style (though if I were a betting man, which I’m not, I’d put my money on some homebrewer somewhere out there); the first commercial session IPA I was aware of was Founders All Day IPA, for what it’s worth.
In any case, the hoptastic brewers at Stone have created their own version of the new style, and in typical Stone fashion they give us “hop-bursted”, which, they claim, is a process whereby “an irrational amount of hops are added during the final phase of the brewing process” to maximize the extraction of hoppy goodness, including a pleasant bitterness.
Irrational amount of hops. Indeed. I love the sound of that!
Go To IPA pours a bright golden-yellow hue (unusual for Stone!) topped with a generous foamy head over a finger’s width thick initially that holds at approximately a good 1/8 inch.
Potent hop aromas advertise the brew’s character – bright citrus, tropical notes, some cattiness, and some pine.
Crisply carbonated with a moderately light body and slightly oily mouthfeel.
And the flavors? Yowza! Hops! More hops! Bitter! Yet more hops! Stone! Yeehaw! Biting, pungent hoppiness with citrus rind and peel (lime, grapefruit), tart pineapple and a resinous piney note. Generously bitter but not harsh. There is some straight-forward and crisp malt underneath for support if you pay attention. The finish is reminiscent of grapefruit with honey, without the sweetness. The hops seem to coat the tongue and the finish is long with lingering hoppy goodness. This beer is freaking outrageous. Stone, I love you!
Let’s just say that the session IPA is my new fave style, and probably not just for the summer.
Rating Appearance: 5/5 Aroma: 9/10 Palate: 4/5 Flavor: 9/10 Overall: 18/20