Then, of course, there are ‘old’ favourites like Kipling and Jaipur to fall back on.
The problem with these brews is that they’re tending to get more potent; Jaipur comes in at 5.9% ABV, Shepherd Neame’s IPA at 6.1% and Green Flash’s Imperial IPA at an eye-watering 9.4%. All most enjoyable, but hardly suitable for a session. I once spent an enjoyable evening drinking Jaipur on draught (five pints – I think) and regretted it, bitterly, the next morning.
That said, I also once spent an enjoyable couple of weeks working in Salt Lake City, where the maximum strength allowed for beers was 4% ABV, and I discovered some great beers brewed for flavour, not strength.
So it’s interesting to learn that breweries are exploring ‘session’ IPAs, coming in under 5% ABV. The first I saw was ‘Founders All Day IPA’ from Grand Rapids, Michigan – this was at the Port Street Beer House in Manchester, but at £6 ($10) a pint, it would hardly be an affordable session.
Thornbridge have also risen to the challenge and released their session IPA ‘AM:PM’ – so I figured it would be worth trying the two brews head-to head.
Founders All Day IPA 4.7% ABV
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find the details of what malts and hops are used in brews, I guess that this is a result of the competiveness of the brewing industry. All Founders admit to is “a complex array of malts, grains and hops.” Other sites have mentioned Simcoe and Amarillo hops so, no surprises there.
It pours a pale apricot colour and there’s a brief flash of an off-white head that fades faster than a politician’s promise.
The nose is disappointing, bready, a few hints of grapefruit from the Amarillo hops, but nothing to write home about.
The flavour is crisp and citrusy, the grapefruit to the fore, but with very little body or malt to support it. Overall it’s a disappointment, the (overpriced) ‘All Day’ that I enjoyed on draught at Port Street in Manchester was better balanced.
And I must admit that, even in bottles, it’s not cheap. I paid £2.75 for a 355ml bottle, while the Thornbridge AM:PM was £3.10 for a 500ml bottles. I guess the cost of shipping the Founders across from the US influences the price somewhat.
I’m afraid this brew disappointed; while it was not unpleasant, it’s not going to go on my shopping list. As such I’m going to give it three Brewclub Stars.
Thornbridge AM:PM 4.5% ABV
Like Founders, Thornbridge are keeping their AM:PM recipe close to their chest describing it as having “Bags of tropical fruit aromas, pineapple, tangerine, guava and passion fruit are balanced with a chewy, honeyed malt character.”
It pours a pale peachy colour, with a full white head that quickly fades. The nose is, as promised, full of those tropical fruits – I could certainly spot pineapple, mango and passion fruit, but confess that I don’t know what guava smells like!
The flavour is dry and crisp, almost biscuity, those tropical fruits along with a hint of pine, and yes a honey sweet malt in the background.
AM:PM provides a rich, modern IPA/APA experience, which is not too potent; as a ‘session’ beer I could quite happily spend an evening, or a summer’s afternoon enjoying this. As such it’s a beer that achieves what it sets out to, and that merits four Brewclub Stars.
So, in a straight comparison, I would go for the Thornbridge over the Founders, but I would also consider Marston’s ‘New World’ IPA, at 4.1% – which I awarded 4½ Brewclub Stars, and Brewdog’s frankly astonishing Nanny State, at just 0.5% ABV.