Exploring the Differences Between Session Ale and IPA Beers

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Session ales and IPAs have been the most popular beer styles for centuries. While both beers offer an intense flavor profile, they differ in their history, brewing process, ingredients used taste profiles, color hues, and alcohol content. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between session ale vs. IPA – including some examples of each style from around the world. From analyzing the subtle nuances that make them unique to understanding how they compare on calorie content and more, get ready to learn all, there is about these beloved brews!

Table of Contents:

Origin of Session Ale

Origin of Session Ale

Session ale is a beer initially developed in England during the 19th century. It was created to be a low-alcohol, light-bodied beer that could be enjoyed over long periods without becoming too intoxicating.

The term “session” refers to the fact that it can be consumed over an extended period or “session” without getting overly intoxicated. This style has become increasingly popular as craft brewers have begun experimenting with different flavor profiles and ingredients for session ales.

Origin of IPA

India Pale Ale (IPA) is a style of beer that originated in England during the 18th century when British brewers began exporting their beers to India by ship.

To survive the long journey, they added extra hops and higher alcohol content, which resulted in what we now know as IPA – a robust and hoppy beer with high levels of bitterness and aroma from the hops used. IPAs are now one of the most popular styles among craft brewers worldwide due to their bold flavors and aromas.

Brewing Process for Session Ale and IPA

The brewing process for session ales and IPAs is slightly different, as each type of beer has unique ingredients that affect the taste, color, alcohol content, and calorie content.

Brewing of Session Ale

Session ales are brewed with a combination of pale malts such as barley or wheat.

These malts provide a light flavor and body to the beer. Hops are also added during the brewing process to balance out the sweetness from the malt and add bitterness.

The balls used in session ales typically have lower alpha acid levels than those used in IPAs, resulting in less hop aroma and flavor. Session ales usually have an ABV (alcohol by volume) between 4-5%.

Brewing of IPA

IPAs, on the other hand, use higher amounts of specialty grains such as crystal or caramel malts, giving them more color and body than session ales.

They also use more hops than session ales; these hops tend to be high alpha acid varieties, giving IPAs their signature hoppy aroma and flavor profile. The ABV for IPAs can range from 5-7% depending on the style, but some can even reach 8-10%.

Taste, Color, Alcohol Content, and Calorie Content of Session Ale vs IPA Beers

Comparision of Different Properties of Session Ales and IPAs

Taste Comparison between Session Ales and IPAs

The taste of a beer is determined by the ingredients used in its brewing process. Session ales are typically brewed with lighter malts, such as pale or pilsner malt, giving them a light body and crisp finish.

On the other hand, IPAs are usually brewed with more robust malts like crystal or Munich malt that provide a fuller body and malty sweetness. In addition to these differences in base malts, session ales tend to be less hoppy than IPAs due to their lower hop additions during brewing. As a result, session ales have a milder flavor profile than IPAs.

Color Comparison between Session Ales and IPAs

The color of a beer is determined mainly by the type of grains used in its production.

IPAs are amber when poured into glasses, while session ales are straw-yellow because they use pale or pilsner malt. Most craft breweries don’t use caramelized sugar to darken their beers.

Alcohol Content Comparison of Session Ales and IPAs:

Alcohol content can vary greatly depending on the beer style being produced.

Session ales have lower alcohol content than IPAs because they ferment faster and use fewer hops, leaving less residual sugar after fermentation. American-style India Pale Ales are 6%-7% ABV, while session ales are 4%-5%.

Calorie Content in Session Ales and IPAs:

Calorie content also varies widely depending on several factors, including alcohol content and any adjuncts added during production processes, such as fruit juices or syrups, etc.

Session ales have fewer calories than India Pale Ales, which can have 100 to 150 calories per 12oz serving, depending on brand, recipe, etc.

Popular Examples of American-Style Session Ales & IPAs

American-style session ales and IPAs are characterized by their light body, low alcohol content, and balanced hop character. Founders All Day IPA, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, Lagunitas DayTime IPA, and Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale are popular.

These crisp beers with citrus or pine notes are refreshing and bitter enough for craft beer fans.

Popular Examples of European-Style Session Ales & IPAs

European-style session ales and IPAs are more malt-forward than their American counterparts. They also use Saaz and Hallertau hops for aroma and flavour complexity.

Fuller’s London Pride Extra Special Bitter (ESB), Schneider Weisse Tap 7 Unser Original Hefeweizenbier Helles Lagerbier, Gaffel Kölsch Beer from Cologne, Germany, Stiegl Goldbräu Lager from Austria, and La Trappe Tripel from The Netherlands are famous examples.

FAQs in Relation to Session Ale vs Ipa

Is a session ale an IPA?

No, a session ale is not an IPA. Session ales are lower in alcohol content than IPAs and typically have more balanced hop flavors. They also tend to be lighter in body and color compared to IPAs.

Session ales are brewed to allow people to enjoy multiple beers over a more extended time without becoming overly intoxicated. IPAs, on the other hand, is brewed with higher alcohol content and more intense hop flavors. They are also typically darker in color and fuller-bodied.

What is a session ale?

A session ale is a beer with a lower alcohol content than most other beers, usually ranging from 3-5% ABV. It is designed to be enjoyed over an extended period without becoming overly intoxicating.

Session ales are light in body and flavor, with subtle hop character and malt sweetness. They can come in many styles, such as pale ales, IPAs, lagers, and stouts. The low alcohol content makes them perfect for enjoying multiple pints while remaining alert and socializing with friends or family.

What makes a beer a session IPA?

Session IPAs are a beer with a lower alcohol content than regular IPAs, typically between 3.5-5% ABV. They tend to be lighter in body and color but still retain the hop character of an IPA.

Session IPAs have less bitterness and are more drinkable than traditional IPAs, making them ideal for drinking multiple beers without getting drunk. The flavor profile is usually characterized by citrusy notes from hops and some malt sweetness to balance out the taste.

Why is it called a session IPA?

Session IPAs are a beer with a lower alcohol content than regular IPAs, usually around 4-5% ABV. It makes drinking easier for more extended periods without becoming too intoxicated.

They also have milder hop flavours and aromas, making them more sessionable for craft beer drinkers who may not be used to traditional IPAs. Session IPAs offer a great drinking experience with fewer calories and alcohol than other IPAs.


In conclusion, session ale and IPA beers have many similarities and differences. From their history to the brewing process, ingredients used, taste, color, alcohol content, and calorie content – there is much to consider when comparing these two types of beer. Famous examples of session ales and IPAs worldwide vary in flavor profiles, but all offer unique experiences for craft beer enthusiasts. Whether you are looking for something light or full-bodied with more intense flavors, it’s worth exploring both session ales and IPAs to find out which suits your palate best!

Are you looking for the perfect beer to quench your thirst? Are you interested in learning more about brewing techniques and equipment? Do you want to explore different types of beers, such as session ales or IPAs? Look no further than Brew Publik!

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Also See: The10 Best Beers For Mexican Food

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