From the 20th anniversary series comes 'OPsession, a 4% ABV session IPA. In recent months this has become one of my favourite beer styles, with White Hag's Little Fawn leading the field. I'm always on the lookout for a beer that can better it.
The first surprise here was the colour: expecting pale and yellowy, I found it the copper shade of a vintage French cider. And almost as tannic too: the first sip delivers a strong astringency that won't really let much else past. It even smells like heavy black tea. What's not present in any of this are the hops. The label mentions citrus but I can't imagine the copy was composed after the beer came out of the brewery filter because there is no citrus character of which to speak here. There is a certain level of bitterness in the finish, but again it's that tannic astringent sort, rather than anything bringing hops to mind. If feeling charitable I might describe this as a decent example of dry English bitter, albeit in a fizzier-than-usual form. But those of us who have become accustomed to Little Fawn, Via Maris, Rollover and the like will not find anything recognisable in this session IPA, sadly.
This is a subtle and interesting one. You can roll the flavours around and find different things with each sip -- coconut? chilli? blackcurrant? melon? -- but if you want to drink it down as an easy-going pale ale there's nothing in the profile loud enough to prevent you from doing so. Certainly, the mission of the series to show off the variety of flavours available in the world of hops is fulfilled.
One missed step and one unique perspective: a reminder of why variety is so important to the beer drinker, and not just the one with a blog to fill. Thanks to the Carlow crew for the bottles.