Michigan's Founders Brewing is not only one of those prominent national brands that slipped into our Dallas market about a year ago, they are also one of the few breweries from the Midwest that make it to Texas. If you haven't tried their beers by now, they are all highly recommended.
But with National IPA Day celebrated this past week (August 7th), let's set aside Founder's award-winning stouts and seasonals and focus on an emerging stylistic fad: the "session IPA." Traditionally, IPAs are bold and full-bodied beers that showcase a whole spectrum of hops flavors but with enough of a sweet malt base to keep them from being undrinkable. Americans have embraced the IPA like nobody's business, as evidenced by a singular day set aside to celebrate the style.
Founders certainly has their own IPA but they also have their "sessionable" option, the All Day IPA. (Boulevard has a version called the Pop-Up Session IPA, Firestone Walker has the Easy Jack, Stone Brewing has their Go To IPA and I'm sure many others can be found.) Normally, the IPA style ranks in the 6% to 8% ABV range, depending on the guidelines you prefer, but to be "sessionable" these new IPAs deliver all the hops flavor at sub-5% ABV strengths. Founders All Day IPA is only 4.7% with 42 IBUs.
Don't read this as me disliking this trend -- All Day IPA is amazingly popular and accounts for a sizable percentage of Founders' sales -- but these session IPAs leave something short. The All Day IPA is bright and golden, moderately hopped with citrus and pine with a shallow malty base, and is certainly flavorful and satisfying if all you chase is the bitter bud. However, brewers sacrifice body to achieve the lower ABV and the beer is left with a slightly thin mouthfeel, almost seemingly watered-down.
It's the same impression of drinking a diet soda over the full-sugar brand, or of noshing on a turkey burger instead of ground sirloin. It may satisfy an itch with most people but it leaves me wanting more, especially when Founders offers one of the best IPAs in the nation in their Centennial IPA (7.2%). As always, choose your drinks to your own personal tastes but I prefer my IPAs definitely "unsessionable."
Availability: Founders bottles are now widely available in most all grocery and liquor stores across North Texas, and taps are not difficult to find in craft beer bars and restaurants.