First, there was the IPA arms race, when it seemed like every brewery was competing to release the biggest, bitterest, hoppiest IPA, a movement that blasted out our palates and upped our inebriation levels.
In recent years, more and more breweries have turned away from trying to craft bigger and bigger double and triple IPAs, focusing on various historical styles, exploring the broad range of food-friendly lagers, or experimenting with sour beers. Some of these new brews ended up being lower in alcohol and better for an all-day session of drinking.
But then we started hearing the rumble: Hopheads need session beer too. New options started appearing and by last summer, we'd pulled together a list of 5 great lower-alcohol—but still hoppy—beers.
2014 has a couple of entrants to the hop-session scene: beers that aren't too boozy, but take no prisoners when it comes to hop attack. These beers are not for the timid: they're dry, bright, and seriously bitter.
Smuttynose Bouncy House, an 86.5 IBU IPA, will launch this May, clocking in at 4.65% ABV. It's made with Magnum and Calypso hops, with floral and citrusy Saphir hops added in the dry-hopping stage. It may not be a big, sweet double-IPA, but it's pungent, flavor-packed beer, with a hoppy bite at the finish.
The hop addicts over at Stone Brewing Co. have joined the session party, too, with their new Stone Go To IPA, now selling year-round in 12-ounce bottles. The brew calls on 9 different hop varieties: Mosaic, Citra, Ahtanum, Cascade, Crystal, El Dorado, Magnum, Sterling, and 06300. The result is incredibly aromatic, with refreshing medium-light body and a super-bitter punch. At 4.5% ABV, it's ready for grilling season.
Spotted any more new hoppy beers under 5% ABV? Tell us about them!
Tasting samples provided for review consideration.