The newest offering from Otter Creek, Hop Session, was released earlier in the summer and was just bottled for the first time a couple of weeks ago. The name represents exactly what it is, a sessionable beer that is relatively low in alcohol, bitterness, and body but retains all the big hop character you might expect from a West coast pale ale or American IPA.
Alcohol Content: 4.25%
Hops: Apollo, Chinook, Centennial, Cascade, Citra
Price: $9/ 6-pack
Medium: Pint glass
Aroma: "Wet" vegetal hops similar to floral aromas after a heavy rainfall. Can also be described as slightly grassy - I related this to my backyard hops that give a similar freshness before harvest. Citra hops lend pineapple aromas while cascade adds grapefruit - sort of "muddied" with all the different hops. Malts lend a light sweetness with a touch of toasted bread. This is a great example of a beer with lots of floral hop character but remains delicate.
Appearance: Deep golden in color and very hazy. High turbidity is most likely due to dry hopping or late kettle additions. Head formation is pure white with great retention. Carbonation is not visible in the body but is clearly represented in the bubbly head and helps bring out hop aromas. Lacing is dense and is clearly marked with rings around the glass measured by each sip. Beautiful.
Flavor: Just as the aroma suggests, it starts out with a smooth and delicate malty sweetness that transforms into a prominent floral hop character of various fruits and citrus. The flavors blend together through each stage of the tasting, making it more difficult to pick out individual hops. Some grassiness which can be appropriate in light amounts and is definable by dry-hopping rates. Sweetness is cleaned up in the finish by hop flavors and bitterness. Fermentation is clean and allows the focus to be on the fruitiness in the hops. Reminds me of fresh backyard hops like in the aroma. A touch of caramel sweetness becomes more apparent in subsequent tastes.
Mouthfeel: Crisp, refreshing, not too bitter, and relatively light in body. Alcohol undoubtedly plays a huge role in the balance of final beer; this one remains carefully hop focused and I did not pick up on any alcohol presence. Bittering from hops could be cleaner.
Overall Impression: Very appropriate for a "session beer". I could easily drink multiple Hop Sessions in one evening without feeling harsh affects of high alcohols or wearing down my palate. The hop sensations remained the same during my second glass while the lower bitterness and lighter body allowed for easy-drinking. I'm excited to see what other breweries are doing to achieve similar results in bigger flavored beers without all the excise alcohol that was becoming a tradition in the American crafted IPA.