An old dog’s hoppy new trick

Karl Strauss rolling out its session IPA in bottles

Karl Strauss Mosaic Session IPA
  • Karl Strauss Mosaic Session IPA

Karl Strauss Brewing Company

5985 Santa Fe Street, Pacific Beach

Session IPAs are all the rage. So, what is a “session IPA?” Let’s start off with the acronym. IPA stands for India pale ale, a hoppier style of ale originating from Britain. That Old World style has since been tweaked by Southern California brewers to include less malt and higher levels of hops, creating the West Coast-style IPA, a bolder, bitterer rendition that is now regarded far and wide as its own official subcategory of the base style. Meanwhile, the word "session" refers to lower-alcohol beers, generally below five-percent alcohol-by-volume, which can be enjoyed in greater quantity during long periods of drinking; sessions, if you will.

West Coast-style IPAs, in addition to their added hops and resulting bitter, fruity, piney, spicy flavors, tend to be higher in alcohol, often above six- or seven-percent ABV. For a long time, that increased octane was part of that style’s appeal. I would argue that, for most, it still is, however, over the past year or two, a concrete demand has materialized for lower-ABV beers delivering as much flavor as high-alcohol, “imperial” beers, especially the West Coast-style IPA. Enter the session IPA, a beer that jostles taste buds without bending the mind…at least not as quickly.

Numerous companies are trying their hand at this return to normalcy. In doing so, they are often using cutting edge ingredients, most notably new and experimental varieties of hops. Even San Diego’s oldest continually operating brewery, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, has dialed down the alcohol while maximizing the amount of fresh, New Zealand-bred Mosaic hops they can pack into their session suds. The result is Karl Strauss Mosaic Session IPA, a beer that’s light-bodied, refreshing, and only 5.5% ABV (OK, it’s not session by traditional guidelines, but we’ll let it slide), but high in citrusy, tropical appeal thanks to all those hops. Since coming on the scene, Mosaics have proven a favorite of the modern day hophead, and they really shine in this IPA, which has been such a hit it will be bottled and distributed throughout California beginning in late June.

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