The Session IPA and How to Brew It

Overview

While we were enjoying brewing in this delightful wave of upper 90’s this week, we thought what better way to brave the heat than by sharing some of our favorite summer beer styles. While these light beer styles are great choices all year long, they are perfect for summer with their crisp flavor and lower ABV. The first beer on the list is a Session IPA. When done correctly, this beer can be a delicious balance of hop and malt characteristics at a sub-5 ABV. The BJCP guidelines are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.038 – 1.052
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.014
  • Alcohol by Volume: 3.7% – 5.0%
  • Bitterness: 30-55 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 3-12

Session IPA Ingredients

Malt

Because the grain bill for a Session IPA is lighter than a normal IPA, the malt choices are also slightly different. I recommend using Maris Otter as your base malt. Maris Otter will add a nice bready, nutty, rich flavor to your wort. You can also add Munich malt to add to the mouthfeel and malty flavor, Vienna malt to increase body and fullness, and a crystal malt to add some sweetness and caramel flavor in addition to the body and head retention benefits. I would also consider adding some flaked oats to the grist to add a smooth, rich texture to your beer.

Hops

The possibilities for hops in this style are endless, but I will give you a list of some of my favorites to choose from. I would recommend taking it relatively easy on the bittering hops due to the lower ABV of this beer. The hops are listed below.

Bittering Hops (60 Minute Addition)

  • Admiral – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 13 and 16 percent, and gives a strong but smooth bitterness with a citrus/orange character.
  • Simcoe – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 12 and 14 percent, and adds stone fruit, pine, and citrus character.
  • Warrior – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 15 and 17 percent, and adds a piney and citrusy character.

Flavoring and Aroma Hops

  • Amarillo – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 8 and 9 percent, and adds a nice citrusy and flowery character.
  • Cascade – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 4 and 7 percent, and adds a flowery, spicy, citrusy, grapefruity character.
  • Centennial – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 8 and 11.5 percent, and adds a citrusy and floral character.
  • Citra – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 10 and 15 percent, and adds a citrusy and grapefruit character.
  • East Kent Goldings – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 4 and 6 percent, and adds a sweet, silky, honey character.
  • Mosaic – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 11.5 and 13.5 percent, and adds a berry, fruity, and earthy character.
  • Galaxy – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 11 and 16 percent, and adds a citrusy, peachy, passion fruit character.

Yeast

For this style of beer, you want a yeast that promotes a good malt and hop character. Some of our favorite strains for this style are below

  • London Ale III – 1318 (Wyeast)
    • This yeast is highly recommended for IPAs in general with its delicious malt and hop profile. This strain finishes slightly sweet and works nicely with dry hop additions
  • American Ale – 1056 (Wyeast)
    • This strain has a clean and crisp flavor and is great for a beer style that requires a dominant malt and hop character.
  • California Ale – WLP001
    • This strain produces clean flavors and accentuates hop flavors and aromas.
  • East Coast Ale – WLP008
    • This strain is similar to the California ale yeast but leaves some mouthfeel and residual sweetness that nicely balances hop bitterness.

Water

This section will be the same for the majority of my recipes, but I will repeat it for newcomers. I use a reverse osmosis filtration system and add any additional salts. For the Session IPA, I add both Calcium Chloride and Calcium Sulfate (gypsum). I also add 10% phosphoric acid to reduce my mash pH to 5.4.

Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon version of a sample session IPA. This recipe does not have a very high bitterness, but there are plenty of whirlpool hops and some dry hops to add that wonderful hop flavor and aroma. The numbers for this beer are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.043
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.014
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.2%
  • Bitterness: 34.4 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 6.4

Grain Bill

  • Maris Otter – 5 lbs (62.5%)
  • Munich – 1 lb (12.5%)
  • Vienna – 1 lb (12.5%)
  • Caramel/Crystal 40L – 8 oz (6.3%)
  • Oats, Flaked – 8 oz (6.3%)

I put the majority of the grain bill as Maris Otter to build that rich, slightly nutty flavor. The Vienna adds the nice toasty/biscuity flavor and the Munich adds a bready flavor. I chose to add the Crystal 40L because it imparts a golden color with a rich sweetness with some caramel/toffee flavors. It will also add to the body and increase head retention. Finally, I chose to add flaked oats to the grist to add a smooth, rich texture to the beer.

Hops

Bittering

  • 0.35 oz of Simcoe at 60 minutes (17 IBU)

Flavor/Aroma

  • 0.35 oz of Galaxy at 15 minutes (9.1 IBU)
  • 0.35 oz of Simcoe at 15 minutes (8.4 IBU)

Whirlpool

For these whirlpool hops, drop the temperature of the wort to 180 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the hops and keep them in the whirlpool for the full 20 minutes. Adding the hops below 180 degrees will limit isomerization and the addition of more bitterness while preserving the hop oils.

  • 0.5 oz of Amarillo at 180 degrees
  • 0.5 oz of Citra at 180 degrees
  • 0.45 oz of Galaxy at 180 degrees
  • 0.35 oz of Mosaic at 180 degrees

Dry Hops

Add these dry hops after primary fermentation has finished and keep them in contact with the beer for at least 4 days but no more than 7 days. You don’t want to leave the hops in contact with the beer for too long or they will start to add grassy flavors.

  • 0.65 oz of Citra
  • 0.35 oz of Amarillo
  • 0.3 oz of Galaxy

Yeast

London Ale III – 1318 (Wyeast)

Mash

Add Calcium Chloride and Calcium Sulfate (gypsum) at a 1.5/1 ratio and as much acid as your system needs to get your mash pH to 5.4. Have your strike water at the required volume and temperature for your system to have the mash drop to 152 degrees. For me, it is 2.5 gallons at 163.7 degrees. Mash for 60 minutes at this temperature and proceed to mash out. Sparge with 5.5 gallons of water. Pre-boil gravity should be around 1.036.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes. Add the hops in at the given times. At 10 minutes, I added yeast nutrients and at 5 minutes I added whirlfloc tablets as my clarifying agent. Once the boil is complete, drop the wort temperature to 180 degrees, add the hops, and then whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then let it wind down for 10 minutes.

Fermentation

Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 64 degrees and then measure the gravity/pitch the yeast. Initial gravity should be around 1.043. I let this free rise to 67 degrees as fermentation starts. Hold the temperature at 67 degrees for 5-7 days until the primary fermentation is complete, and then add your dry hops. Let the temperature free-rise up to 72 degrees to really finish off fermentation. Once your dry hops have had enough contact time, cold crash to 33 degrees for at least a day and then transfer to the brite tank to carbonate it to 2.6 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it. These types of beers are best fresh, so enjoy it while the hops flavors are in their prime!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another Session IPA recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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