Session IPAs Are All the Rage, But What Are They Exactly?

In the beer world, there is nothing seen as more “artisanal” than an IPA (India Pale Ale). These beers are normally more bitter and they afford brewers more flexibility than they’d have with, say, a Weissbier. While German wheat beers follow a highly traditional recipe, you can get creative with IPAs.

And right now, “Session IPAs” are in. The name helps, right? It’s cool to post on Instagram: “I’m drinking a SESSION.” And for those of your friends who don’t know that much about beer, it might even seem like something very sophisticated.

But to take a step back, what the heck even is session beer? Session beers are beers that are between 3 and 4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) — well under the average, although you might be able to find some beers with 5 percent. These beers are highly “drinkable,” which is really just a fancy way of saying you can drink more without getting drunk.

And that’s where the word “session” comes in. During World War I, English workers were only allowed to drink during two specific periods each day: from 11am to 3pm and from 7pm to 11pm. Each one of these periods was a “session.” A “beer session” was a period during which a person could drink one beer every half hour (eight glasses in four hours) and still return to work sober.

So if your idea of fun is drinking a lot while still keeping your head (relatively) clear, look out for a “Session IPA” the next time you’re out and about! 

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