24 Beers of Christmas – December 16th: Wellington Brewery Kickin’ Back Session Ale

Wellington Kickin' Back

A campfire beer, no matter what season.  The term ‘session’ comes of course from the idea of ‘drinking sessions’. It’s applied to a beer that you can usually have more than one of in a single sitting without experiencing too serious the ramifications. Strengths, when referring to beer, fall into the following categories: session-strength <4% ABV, standard-strength 4-6%, high-strength 6-9% and very-high-strength >9%. Technically speaking, Wellington Brewery’s Kickin’ Back Session Ale would actually be considered a standard strength ale. That said, compared to the style they’re trying to make a sessionable version of, the American IPA, this beer would certainly fit-in towards the lighter end of the spectrum.

When it comes to American IPAs the strength scale is slightly different. A vibrantly hop-focused beer ranging in alcohol content between 3-5% could be considered a Session IPA. Kickin’ Back is in a bit of a grey area on the spectrum, where it stats could actually also lead it to be considered an American Pale Ale. The biggest differentiator is between an American Pale Ale is the degree of hop intensity that the beer demonstrates. While Kickin’ Back is quite hop forward, much of that character comes through dry-hopping (adding hops to a beer during maturation). Dry-hopping produces vibrant hop flavours without the bitterness. Because they aren’t boiled, the alpha acids present in hops, which contribute most of the bitterness, won’t isomerize and the essential oils, which produce the beautiful hop aromas, won’t be lost to evaporation. In actuality, the beer’s hop bitterness is very well balanced. As a general rule of thumb, a beer with a well balanced hop presence will have an IBU (International bittering units) somewhere around 10 times it’s alcohol by volume percent. Kickin’ Back is exactly that; 48 IBU at 4.8%. While that measure holds true for IPAs as much as it does for American Pale Ales, stylistic guidelines suggest that a Session IPA should in fact be slightly off-balance. Yielding a little extra bite for those who still want a hearty dose of hop, without the negative effects of a stronger beer.

Technicalities aside, this beer is light on the grain, full of citrusy and earthy hop-goodness and, session strength or not, won’t add up to no good as quickly as some other beers. It’s a perfect choice for the cottage, for camping or, this time of year, after some intense shoveling!

Style: American Pale Ale – 4.8% ABV, 48 IBU,

Food pairings: Grilled Fish, Light Goat Cheese, Light Fruity Desserts

Availability: LCBO, The Beer Store