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Your Beermonger: The Rise of Hoppy Session Ales

By ARLnow.com

Friday - 9/6/2013, 1:00pm  ET

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

The joy of being an enthusiast, no matter your interest, is in perpetually discovering new things.

In my job I’m lucky enough to be able to try some of the best, most rare, and most cutting-edge beers available, but I’m most happy when I find a new ‘go-to’ beer. The resurgence of Lagers along with the growing popularity of Session or ‘sessionable’ Ales has created an environment where there are just as many new ‘everyday’ beers as there are Imperial IPAs, Stouts, and barrel-aged monsters. Many of these beers have taken the route of the so-called Session IPA — hoppy Ales that tend to be in the range of 5% ABV. As Session IPAs increase in popularity, though, defining them becomes more difficult.

San Francisco’s 21st Amendment brewery was ahead of the curve with their Bitter American, a dry-hopped English Special Bitter that clocks in at 4.5% ABV. Recently, Schlafly has come along with a canned session series with an excellent 4.5% IPA. The most popular of the hoppy Session Ales, though, has been Founder’s All Day IPA. All Day is 4.7%, and combines the light feel of an easy-going Pale Ale with a punchy hop character more forward than you would usually find in a beer of its strength. I’m a big fan of All Day IPA; it’s a delicious beer and a great one to keep around and share with friends (especially now that it’s available in 12-pack cans). My personal favorite hoppy beer, however, was Terrapin Easy Rider: a summer seasonal that not only qualified as a true Session Ale at 4.5%, but featured a wonderful malt character and a hop profile more akin to a full-on IPA. Unfortunately, after the 2012 run Easy Rider was discontinued.

Recently, Terrapin released 12-pack cans of a beer called RecreationAle. RecreationAle is a re-working of Easy Rider that dials back the malt a bit (for more of a straight Pale Ale character) and features hops like Amarillo and Centennial, with Galaxy used for dry-hopping. I was excited to try RecreationAle, and it didn’t disappoint: it manages to pack enough hoppy bite and tropical fruit notes thank to the Galaxy to satisfy IPA fans while carrying an earthy character and a sharp, flinty feel. The 12-pack cans are just the icing on the cake for me; it’s as if the crew at Terrapin knew exactly what I was looking for in an everyday beer and decided “well, we’ll make it for everyone, too.”

My greater point, rather than just saying “RecreationAle is awesome and you should try it” (though it is and you should), is that the success of All Day IPA has created a trend, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many breweries will rush to bring their own “All Day” to the market, but like all trends the wheat will be culled from the chaff: the result being a slew of new everyday Ales for all of us to enjoy. Enjoy, everyone. Until next time.

Cheers!

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net, and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Community discussion guidelines: Our sponsored columns are written by members of the local business community. While we encourage a robust and open discussion, we ask that all reviews of the businesses — good or bad — be directed to another venue, like Yelp. The comments section is intended for a conversation about the topic of the article.