Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age. Maybe I’m a little too sensitive about my age, which isn’t that old by traditional standards, but I am a huge fan of the trend of session ales/session IPAs. You get all the flavor with half or less of the ABV that you generally expect from the india pale ale style. It’s the fact that I’m so on board with these low ABV beers that I’m wondering if I’m slipping with age that I don’t crave the challenge of high alcohol beers and side in favor of a beer I can drink all day long with less risk of getting hammered. That being said, it’s been tough finding local session beers that I’m happy to drink all day long. I have my go to’s that I would call “sessionable” but the ABV is technically higher than that word really signifies.
Session beers are beers that you can enjoy in a single sitting or for an extended amount of time without the added risk dying of alcohol poisoning- at least that’s my well thought out explanation. Lots of beers can be described as such though- I can think of several right off the top of my head I could “session,” but because they carry a higher alcohol content my body is gonna hate me in the long run. The trend of Session Ales is meant to bring a beer that is (usually) less than 5% ABV, maybe even less than 4% depending on the style. IPAs are my poison though and if you can give me all the IPA flavor with less of the ABV I will follow you around like a puppy for the rest of my days. Carton Brewing Company is the latest brewery to bear that cross as of late due to a generous Untappd friend who bestowed upon me some cans of their Boat Session Ale.
Full disclosure, I already had Carton on my radar prior to receiving some of their beers, but I had attempted to trade for them on several occasions with zero luck. As is the case with many of their beers I’m a big fan of the packaging for Boat. The can design is simple, but it represents the brewery’s image while still being eye catching. The second I opened the can there was an amazing aroma that made a B-line for my nose and stuck there as I was pouring it- not all that bizarre especially for a hoppy beer. The first thing that struck me though was that Boat pours like a pilsner- the color, carbonation and head that settles on it does not scream IPA or pale ale to me. As it settles in the glass it takes on a super light straw color and if I couldn’t still detect the hoppy aroma I would tell whoever poured it that it was a kölsch or pilsner- and I tried like hell (not really), but could not get an angle on a picture to convey just how light the color was.
The hop profile on this bad boy is pretty amazing- it has all the characteristics one expects of an IPA, but with a hint of grassiness on the nose and in the flavor. Each sip explodes with juicy hop flavor, but remains crisp and refreshing without ever crossing into a distinct bitterness that IPAs are sometimes known for. The subtle grassy flavor is sometimes masked by the biscuity flavors that poke through which only help to make the beer taste super crisp and immensely drinkable and with that hop kick that gives it the IPA impression.
As Boat warms up one could make the argument that a grapefruit note starts to take over the overall profile, which eventually gives it a little more bitterness. However, because the beer goes down so quickly and so easily I’d be shocked if anyone let it sit long enough for those notes to overwhelm the overall view on the beer. As a fan of IPAs though, it’s entirely too hard to knock off any points for those bitter notes as it warms, because even as the bitterness raises ever so slightly it still goes down nice and easy.
I’ve still got a long way to go down Carton’s profile of beers, but Boat was a stellar introduction. It was not the only beer I received in the bunch, but it was easily the one that left the greatest impression on me. As I said, I’m a big fan of breweries tackling these session strength beers, but I can’t think of a single beer out of all I’ve tired I would rather have than Carton’s Boat Session Ale. Coming in at 4.2% ABV it can easily be enjoyed all day long and hell, preferably while cruising the waves on a boat taking in the summer scenery. The summer months are rapidly approaching and I strongly recommend stocking up on these beauties.