The Session IPA (or SIPA as it’s more commonly known in Spain) is a fantastic style, which when done right, has all the juicy hop flavours of an IPA but with significantly less alcohol. It’s believed the Session IPA originates from England at the turn of the last century, when workers were allowed two drinking periods or “sessions” of 4 hours every day they worked, as a result the beer had to be of low ABV to allow them to work relatively free of the influence of alcohol after their ‘session’. In the modern world of craft beer, SIPAs are not as celebrated to the same extent as their arrogant ABV cousins (Imperial Stours, Double IPAs etc), but they sit there in the background like a faithful old dog, ready for those weary souls who simply wish to enjoy a few good beers without the imminent threat of drunkenness - and the subsequent sore heads - hanging over them.
For us at Oso, we love making this style and we feel it is something in which we excel. Our challenging and somewhat contradictory aim is to make a very easy drinking beer that still has plenty of body and flavour. To get body and flavour in a higher ABV beer is not difficult, alcohol itself provides this in abundance (compare the mouthfeel of spirits to water), but to achieve this in a lower ABV beer requires the use of certain techniques and ingredients.
The malt profile of SIPAs is perhaps the most important aspect we focus on. It is here where we can regain some of that “lost'' body and mouthfeel from the reduced alcohol content. A high proportion of oats and wheat always helps to improve the mouthfeel of beers, and dextrin malt (in conjunction with maltodextrin powdered sugar) are a great addition as they provide a type of sugar that yeasts find difficult to ferment, leaving some residual unfermented sugars in the beer (sugar providing additional body). Lactose is also an option (for the same reason), but it's always best used in conservative amounts. Hops are also hugely important. As with IPAs across the board, we tend to focus on American varieties that will give us those tropical, citrus and stone fruit aromas and flavours.
With so much choice out there, having a beer you enjoy and want to repeat can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered! A well made Session IPA will make you not realise you have finished and immediately ordered a second. The “sessionability” of this style and its compact simplicity make it a favourite amongst the team at Oso (and hopefully our customers!), and they're something that we’re going to be spending the coming months and years having a good old crack at perfecting...