I have been looking forward to this low ABV take on the IPA style since I heard Chris Lohring at Notch Session Beer hinted at it’s newest limited release beer. I’m doing all I can to avoid the terminology that drives Chris nuts, like “session IPA”. You can read his take on this new offering here. I can see his point. Session IPA does seem to suggest a watered down IPA, given the that modern American IPA is typically no lower than 6.5% ABV, and many or 7% and up.
You toss down a few 7% IPAs and your feeling it. But Left of the Dial (LOTD) clocks in at 4.3%. As with Notch’s other beers, the idea is to be able to enjoy several beers without getting drunk. Think Bavarian beer gardens and 1 liter steins. The difficulty, in the current craft beer explosion, is making a lower alcohol beer truly flavorful, and not “watered down.” Chris has managed to accomplish this with his czech pils, saison, and America pale, all available year round in 6 packs (and on tap of course).
There’s been a recent trend to try to make beers that give up the big hop aroma and flavor of American IPAs, but without the high ABV. Founders’ “All Day IPA”, Lagunitas’ Daytime, and 21st Amendment’s “Bitter American” are all hop forward, lower alcohol brews. I’ve had the Founders’ (enjoyable, but lacking in the finish to me), and the Bitter American (very good). So I was excited to find a local brewery offering up something along these lines.
LOTD pours a nice deep gold. According to Chris’ description, he used Fawcett Golden Promise as the entire base malt, with some Weyerman Vienna and Fawcett oat malt. When brewing a “smaller” beer like this, which is showcasing the hops, and not augmenting the base malt with any caramel malt, the higher quality base malt is a wise choice. LOTD has a bit more color than a West Coast take, but not nearly the orange tint you find in something like a Harpoon IPA or Sierra Torpedo.
The aroma is OUTSTANDING. Citra, Galaxy and a little Simcoe are in the dry-hopping (dryhops added to the beer when nearly finished fermenting provides the aromo), offering up fantastic citrus in the nose. The aroma is duplicated in the flavor, and the beer ends with a nice bright bitterness and crisp dry finish. There’s no cloying sweetness or booziness in the flavor. You simply want another sip. I found this to be a more more “complete” beer compared to the Founders’ All Day IPA. Not sure why, but the Founders did seem lacking something in the end. LOTD is light and crisp, the bitterness is subtle but right for the style and the hop aroma and flavor is out in front, but it is still balanced well. I don’t feel like i just ate hop pellets, like I often feel after finishing a West Coast IPA like Bear Republic’s Racer5 or Ballast Point’s Sculpin‘.
As much as Chris may prefer not to have an IPA in his lineup, as Lew Bryson states here, IPAs are not going away.