Beer Review 0105: Founders All Day IPA
It’s nice to see a session beer trend gaining momentum within the craft industry. You know it’s gaining steam when Founders Brewing Company jumps on board — I’ve reviewed several beers made by this Grand Rapids, Michigan brewery, and nearly all of them have been outstanding.
For the uninitiated, the definition (or at least my definition) of a session beer: Sometimes you want a beer after cutting the grass, or on lunch hour at work (if you’re allowed, which is totally awesome if you are) or just something to whet your whistle. Sometimes you want to drink three or four beers at a time, one right after another. Well, you can’t exactly do that with high ABV (alcohol by volume) or Imperial type beer without altering your mind or pickling your liver. This is where the session beer comes into play.
Session beers are generally low alcohol (5% or less) and can leave you feeling more relaxed and refreshed than bloated and tipsy. Historically, session beers can be good drinks, but often sacrifice flavor or aroma for their light nature.
Founders is attempting to solve this puzzle with their latest creation, All Day IPA, which proudly advertises itself as a “session ale” across the bottle. Coming in at 4.7% ABV, Founders has produced this one to be highly drinkable but maintain those wonderful aromatics and flavors associated with top shelf IPAs.
Believe it or not, Founders says this beer is extremely hard to make. CEO Mike Stevens says, “It’s the beer that almost wasn’t. It’s tough to brew and gave us more than one problem throughout its development. But then we realized that this is the beer we’d all been waiting for.”
All Day IPA might be difficult to find, for now. Due to a soft hop harvest, Founders is only making this beer available in Michigan, Ohio, the greater Chicago area, and North Carolina at launch. As it so happens, I live in North Carolina, and I was excited to see this on the shelf and grabbed a six pack as soon as it was available.
Pouring made for an average size head that quickly diminished. The beer was classic golden in color, and very clear for a Founders beer — all beers made by the company are unfiltered — but this one was practically sparkling with big bubbles, most of which settled onto the bottom of the glass before quickly rising to the top. There was excellent lacing as I drank.
On the nose, there’s a heavy hop presence, and complex at that. There’s a large citric/grapefruit note, along with some grass and pine, and hints of tropical fruits. On the malt end, there was a significant graininess, rounded out by just a smidgen of dust.
So does this “session ale” sacrifice flavor for lightness? Well, kind of. There are your traditional IPA flavors here — the grapefruit primarily — along with a hot orange, but they are not as bright as a 6-8% ABV drink. Don’t get me wrong, this beer isn’t watery, but the assault of flavors here isn’t full on, just maybe half throttle. A little caramel malt comes out and leads to the finish, which is fairly bitter (think medicinal, like crushed aspirin) and grainy.
Alright, so let’s take stock of what we have here. Does this succeed as a session ale? Yes, it does. Do I like this beer? Yes, I do — BUT — there is one major factor at play here:
The price of this beer is not session friendly. Look, if the goal of the beer is to make it so you can put away three or four of these at one given time, the price has to be affordable. At $10.99 a six pack, this is not affordable to session. I shop at the cheapest place in town, and they told me this was Founders suggested price when I balked at paying it. Appropriate price for this beer? I’d like to see $7.99, but $8.99 is the top dollar I would pay.
Perhaps the premium commanded is because All Day IPA is hard to make? If so, that’s a non-starter for me. One of the goals that comes with making a session beer is making it affordable.
And another thing, which is slightly nit-picky: This should really come in a twelve pack. Session beers aren’t all about yourself, they’re about your buddies, too.
Bottom line: I won’t buy this beer again until it comes down in price. I think Founders made a good beer, but missed the mark of what a “session ale” should truly be. And I need to let it be known that in my final scoring of this beer, I took points away because of the high price — something I haven’t done with any other beer before, but I thought it appropriate here.
Founders All Day IPA, 80 points. Price: $10.99 US for a six pack.