As the temperatures creep into the 80s, getting perilously close to true summertime temperatures, you might notice your beer grow a little warmer and a little flatter as it sits in the sun.
More than once I’ve had to grit my teeth through the last sip of an otherwise great NoDa Brewing Hop Drop ‘n Roll because it was taking me too long to drink it and the heaviness was weighing it down.
As an advocate of summer day drinking, I was never quite sure how to drink both flavorful beer and not get bogged down by the high alcohol contents and heavy bodies that my favorite brews around the area contained.
But now there’s a solution: session IPAs.
More and more Charlotte breweries have recently introduced this style of IPA, which has the same complex flavors of everyone’s favorite beers with a significantly lower alcohol content (generally between 4 and 5 percent).
I love being able to enjoy a true craft brew over the course of the afternoon without having to worry about passing out before sunset or chugging through the swampy remnants of a high alcohol beer that has been left to sit.
Here’s a list of just a handful of the best and most anticipated offerings from our local brewers.
(Note: Some of these breweries rotate their beer selections pretty often, so we can’t guarantee they’ll be on tap when you swing by — but we hope they are. Check with the taproom before heading out.)
Paradise City, Birdsong Brewing
Coming in at 4.8 percent, this new release by Birdsong is certainly one of the “stronger” session IPAs but it’s still remarkably easy to drink and as tasty as any other session-style beer I’ve had from local breweries.
You can find it on tap and in four–packs with its catchy teal coloring. And the beer is light and crisp, which is great if you’re planning to have more than one.
Par 4, NoDa Brewing
Par 4 has been popping up in beer stores and grocery stores around the city since spring began because the beer is perfect for these warm-weather months.
Readily available on tap at the NoDa Brewing taproom as well, the Par 4 is only 4 percent, which makes it lighter than most macro-brews. But it maintains a fresh and citrus-y aroma and taste that makes in the ideal beer for washing down some Tin Kitchen tacos.
Slow Boat to India, Legion Brewing
Coming up this Saturday: Friends and Beerfest: Burgers, Brews and Buds! We will be kicking off Charlotte Craft Beer Week AND NC Beer Month with an afternoon of local music, food and fun! We will be tapping “Slow Boat To India”; a session IPA,@roots_catering will be cooking burgers and dogs on the grill from Noon-3, live music from @lisadenovo , @bloodworthproject , @latenightspecialmusic and @c2andthebrothersreed , ice cream from @twoscoopscreamery and raffle prizes with @e2d_eliminatedigitaldivide . See you guys at Noon!
I’ve always had a soft spot for Legion as it’s consistently provided some of the most interesting beers in the city yet maintained a very neighborhood-centric environment at the brewery.
So it’s no surprise that the Slow Boat to India is a stellar beer with a nice, pineapple taste that hints to the much stronger Juicy Jay while still coming in at only 4 percent. As a lover of the Juicy Jay, I can say that the Strong Boat to India is a worthy alternative that’s more suitable for the summer weather and, unlike the Jay, won’t leave you down for the count two or three drinks in.
Seashore, Sycamore Brewing/What I’m Having, Wooden Robot/Astral Bootie Beer, Catawba
We have a very special, locally sourced beer tapping today! ‘Seashore Session IPA’ is brewed with Seashore Black Rye from Edisto Island, SC. Malted by @wncmalt in Asheville, this amazing local grain gives a rich nutty foundation to this crisp bright beer. Perfect for Spring! (Oh… it’s also 1/2 price wine night 🍷… just saying)
While I haven’t had an opportunity to try any of these session IPAs for a variety of the reasons (namely because Sycamore on the weekend is not unlike a mosh-pit with dogs and Wooden Robot’s amazing Good Morning Vietnam has a hold on my liver), I’m excited to see what all three are all about in the next few months.
Session IPAs are becoming more and more popular in Charlotte, and I can’t help but think that’s a good thing. Drinks with lower alcohol content keep us sober longer and hold up a lot better in the suffocating summer humidity — something I think we can all get behind.
Update: Though it doesn’t bill itself as a session IPA, The Unknown Brewing’s Scratch N Sniff would fit right in with the rest of this list at 4.7 percent. Thanks to reader Rodney for pointing this out.
— Rodney G (@RodneyEG) May 16, 2017
Photo: Courtesy of Birdsong Brewing