Can a beer really be an “India Pale Ale” when it weighs in at 4.7% abv? I think this is a pretty fair question, and despite a love of Founders Brewing, I can’t help but lean toward “no.” I had been looking forward to trying this new “session IPA” since it was announced, and although it’s a fine, tasty beer, I do think the labeling is rather inaccurate and a little misleading.
The problem is that it’s easy to see why a brewery like Founders would want to label a brew like this a “session IPA” rather than just calling it an American Pale Ale. IPAs get more attention from we aleheads, and the idea of one that weighs in at only 4.7% is a novelty. With session craft beer becoming one of the hotter trends in the brewing world, breweries are faced with the question of “How do we make new beers that are sessionable that will also capture some attention and generate a little hype?” Releasing this beer as a “session APA” with exactly the same recipe simply wouldn’t have gotten Founders as much attention as this brew has received from beer geeks and fellow bloggers like us. Would we accept it in exactly the same way if Founders brewed “All Day Stout,” a 5% abv “session imperial stout”? Would the resulting beer not simply be a regular American-style stout?
The one other gripe that I must mention is a price point issue. I am a very cheap, very thrifty craft beer drinker. Because of this, the IDEA of session brews is often one that I find appealing, but a lot of that optimism goes away when these brews are priced exactly the same as their burlier cousins. Case in point: At the local package store where I picked up some All Day IPA, all year-round Founders six packs are $9.99. This includes the brewery’s regular IPA, Centennial, which clocks in at 7.2% and maintains the stronger beeradvocate rating, if you care about that sort of thing. Quite simply, because I am cheap, when I go out beer shopping, I am looking for the best “taste bargains”—the most flavor for my buck, as it were. If the brewery were able to produce and sell a beer like All Day IPA for even $1 less than the other six packs to denote its “session status,” it would make me purchasing it more likely on a regular basis. With all the people out there who are trying to stretch their beer budget, I can’t be the only one who thinks that way.
Like I said in the first paragraph, however, not to be lost in all this is the fact that All Day IPA actually is a good beer. Here’s your tasting note.
Founders All Day IPA
NOTES: 12 oz bottle poured into a tulip glass
ABV: A sessionable 4.7%
APPEARANCE:Very light orange with a single finger of big, fizzy bubbles.
AROMA: Strong, hoppy aroma with a lot of grapefruit and some floral stuff. The grapefruit really stands out. Smells like it would fit in among many west-coast IPAs.
TASTE: It’s not quite as hoppy tasting as it smells. There’s an underlying grainy malt flavor here and a bit of fruitiness that almost reminds me of grapes, oddly. It manages to be “hoppy beer” while still coming close to being balanced. It’s almost reminds me of a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale that has had its intensity ticked up a couple notches.
MOUTHFEEL: Pretty light, obviously. Meant for quaffing, goes down easy.
DRINKABILITY: This is meant to be hoppy beer that is consumable en masse, and that’s pretty much what it is. You can drink the entire six pack, and alcohol-wise it’s equivalent to having had about four of the Founders Centennials.
OVERALL: 3 hops. I can’t help but think that if this beer was labeled “American pale ale” when I picked it up, I would be raving that it’s a best-in-style contender. But if you’re going to call your beer an IPA at 4.7%, then prepare for it to be judged next to all the bigger, meatier IPAs out there. It’s great for its intended purpose. If it were available cheaper than Centennial IPA, I might buy it regularly. As is, I just don’t know when I’ll end up having it again. Perhaps in the heat of summer, the idea of All Day IPA will appeal to me more.