In 2015, the Brewers Association added a new category to the world’s largest annual brewing competition, the Great American Beer Festival. That style, “Session IPA,” comprises India pale ales coming in under 5% alcohol-by-volume. Societe Brewing was proud to take the first gold medal in that category with its “Really Small IPA,” The Coachman. Crafting a low-ABV IPA is very difficult. With less body and balancing alcohol, many come across as wimpy, watery or unappetizingly out of balance. It took a great deal of thought and tinkering to get ours just right, and it was an honor to be recognized on the industry’s largest stage for that accomplishment. And it was even more satisfying this weekend when The Coachman struck GABF gold in the Session IPA category again, cementing its status as the best beer of its style in the country.
There’s a certain irony to bringing home gold two-out-of-four years in the Session IPA category. Our brewmaster, Travis Smith, was reluctant to even brew a low-alcohol IPA because it took him such a long time to discover one that he actually enjoyed. The gateway session IPAs that persuaded him to give the style a go came from storied producers Firestone Walker and Pizza Port Brewing. With his palate and passion ignited, he rallied our brewing team. Their newfound mission to develop a session IPA dovetailed with a longer-term ambition to better utilize our inventory of Mosaic hops. That varietal is a favorite of ours for its multi-faceted aroma and flavor characteristics—citrus, stone and tropical fruits plus a bit of pine and even a touch of herbaceous spice. It became the featured player in The Coachman’s hop bill, receiving ample support from Simcoe, Saaz and classic Cascade hops. All of that botanical ammunition unloaded into a 4.7% beer with just enough malt backbone to support it and a fraction of the alcohol of a typical IPA, make for an exceptional taste experience and, apparently, a multiple gold medal-winning beer!