Monday, June 13, 2011

San Diego County Session Ale

Today, Beer! asks the question - Can you cram big hops into a small beer?

Brewery: Stone/Ballast Point/Kelsey McNair
Location: Escondido, CA
Style: Pale Ale
Rating: B+

The good folks at Stone and Ballast Point have gotten together with homebrewer Kelsey McNair with the noble goal of creating a session beer (i.e., a beer with a low enough alcohol content that it can be consumed all day long - generally in the vicinity of 4%) that has the big hoppiness that is generally reserved for big double-IPA's. The San Diego County Session Ale pours up hazy gold/amber in color with a foamy white head and some dark swirls of sediment floating. The nose has huge grapefruit and pine hoppiness.

On the palate you are first hit with the telltale grapefruit citrus notes of West Coast hops. There are some toasted grain notes as well as a dry wood/oak note. There is a really big bitter bite with piny, oily hops. The San Diego County Session Ale is light-medium bodied with quite a bit of tannic astringency. The finish is very long and dominated by the bitter hop notes of pine and oily resin.

Well, there's no doubt that the San Diego County Session Ale has met its objective of cramming a massive amount of hops into a session ale. There really is an amazing amount of hops in this beer. Of course, there is something to be said for the higher alcohol and bigger body of an imperial IPA having the ability to hold up to and balance out a tremendous amount of hops. Even though the lighter body and alcohol content qualifies this as a session beer, for me the huge hoppiness still keeps this beer in the "sipping beer" category for me. This is a well-executed, unique idea, but I'll stick to the real deal when I'm looking for an IPA.

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