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Beer judge debates session IPAs

May 25, 2015
AIBA head judge Warren Pawsey

Head judge Warren Pawsey at AIBA 2015

A session IPA may look more like an out-of-balance Pale Ale to a beer judge, says Warren Pawsey of the Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA).

In an interview at the AIBA, head judge Pawsey told Radio Brews News that session IPAs – long debated on this website – were a reaction to America’s arms race for bitterness and alcohol.

“My IPA’s bigger than yours, it’s got more hops, it’s got more alcohol,” said Pawsey, who is head brewer of Little Creatures.

“It’s not a very saleable or marketable product.”

The AIBA do not yet include a session IPA category, but the Great American Beer Festival does.

“When you judge them, the style guideline reads like the old Pale Ale, but with this huge hop note and aroma and flavour, but not the bitterness and the alcohol and the body,” Pawsey told journalists at last week’s awards.

L-R: Pawsey and Radio Brews News' Matt Kirkegaard

L-R: Pawsey and Radio Brews News’ Matt Kirkegaard

He said the category’s emergence had perplexed him and his judging colleagues, one of whom declared it was simply “an out-of-balance Pale Ale”.

But while he remains unconvinced that they warrant their own category, Pawsey said there were some great examples of session IPAs.

“Firestone Walker makes a fantastic one,” he said of the Californian brewer.

Episode 54 of Radio Brews News, produced live at Good Beer Week in Melbourne, is available here.

Read more:
AIBA 2015 winners revealed
Pete Mitcham asks, ‘what is an XPA?’

Bridgeport shuns IPA arms race


2 Responses to Beer judge debates session IPAs

  1. Dave Lowdermilk on May 26, 2015 at 9:35 am

    The United States of America is making amazing beer. Pushing the limits, is part of the American way. My opinion is, the consumer will ultimately decide, what’s great and what’s not.

    America is creating again. We were ok, to just consume mass produced products for a long time. Brewers, barbers and butchers are back to creating goods and offering services like the days of old.

  2. Adam on May 25, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    I don’t understand the confusion re: session IPAs. Sometimes it is nice to drink a hop forward beer at a more reasonable ABV (which allows you to have a couple more) instead of a massive booze bomb which the IPA category has become (the want of hops does not always equal a want for high alcohol). This was exemplified at GABS on the weekend. The number of high alcohol beers was out of control. Makes it hard to sample many of the fest beers (even in a sample cup) when most beers were 8%+.

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