Hood River’s Full Sail Brewing, quietly one of the more interesting large breweries, is getting ready to launch a big expansion to its popular Session line of beers, expanding beyond lagers with Session IPA, Session Export, and Session Cream. Full Sail founder Irene Firmat has always been one of the most easily accessible brewery owners, and as usual was happy to share her thoughts on the expansion of the brand.
Session Export – A rich, full-bodied lager with an elegant, malty finish. 5.8% ABV 12 IBU [Winter/Spring]
Session Cream – A golden ale with a creamy head and smooth, sweet disposition. 5.4% ABV 26 IBU [Spring/Summer]
Session IPA – IPAs are insanely popular these days. But let’s face it, sometimes it feels like there’s a hops arms race going on. That’s why we came up with Session IPA. It’s a Premium Pale Ale that thinks for itself. Not too hoppy. Not too bitter. Not too malty. Just right. Have a good Session!
This will make the year-round available entries : original Session (red), Session Black, and the brand new Session IPA (though it’s actually a Pale Ale). That means both Session Export and Session Cream will become seasonals, along with the previously available fall/winter offering, Session Fest. It’s an interesting approach, as “Session” is treated almost like an entirely different brewery than Full Sail, with its own flagship and seasonals separate from the regular Full Sail lineup.
Full Sail Brewing has rarely been seen as being on the cutting edge. It is often ignored by many beer geeks, though it’s a pioneer among Oregon breweries. The brewery doesn’t make any big citrus bomb IPAs—it doesn’t even have a Double IPA—and has never even made a fruit beer, let alone a sour beer. BUT, Full Sail has successfully navigated a steady course that has brought success without the ups and downs of trends, and perhaps even predicted the new session beer trend and returning popularity of lagers.
Full Sail’s Irene Firmat took the time to answer a few of the tough questions, as you can see below.
Q: Does the continued expansion of the Session brand water it down?
Irene Firmat: Actually, we believe it builds it up. It creates more impact on the shelf and helps to draw more consumers into the brand by adding new and interesting beers.
Q: Why add new beers and even non-lagered beers to a previously all lager series?
For us Session has always been about our view that beer is all about camaraderie. A Session flavor profile to us is one of smoothness and balance. Beers that taste just as good on the third round as the first ( maybe even better!). For us as brewers, the Session brand provides a great platform to showcase our ability to brew these beers and help to make craft beer more fun and inclusive.
Q: Will the new beers be the same price point?
Yes. We work very hard as an employee-owned company to be efficient and use our resources wisely so we can provide our customers with a very fair price.
Q: So does this make Session Red, Black and the brand new IPA year-round, but then Session Fest, Cream Ale, and Export all Session seasonals? What will be there seasons of availability?
Yes. The seasonality will be roughly September to December for Fest, January to April for Export, and May to August for Cream.
Q: When will Session IPA, Cream, and Export launch, and will they all be both bottle and draft?
Yes. Session IPA and Export will be in the first part of 2015; Cream will come right after Export.
Q: Session is sort of its own brand, almost separate from Full Sail, and over the last few years it’s seemed like Session has been the growing section while the Full Sail line has shrunk a bit. Will we see any changes in that trend?
We think being able to have two brands that represent a rich and diverse flavor profile works to bring people into to Full Sail as a brewery. If there is a sense of discovery when people find out that both are Full Sail brews, we think that creates a great moment of seeing us in a different, creative, and innovative light. We are very excited about the introduction of Cascade Pilsner six-packs this September. It was our best selling 22 oz bottle ever and our fastest growing draft. We think the balance and sophistication of that beer paired with an amazing drinkability at 60 IBU and 6% ABV really showcases who we are as brewers. It also celebrates our local hop farmers and our relationship with Cascade hops specifically (Amber’s hop as well). We source our ingredients over 99% locally and are very proud of that fact.
Q: What is happening with the Full Sail Portland brewery at the Pilsner Room?
Our equipment at Riverplace was our original brewing equipment when we started back in 1987. We invest in a lot of upgrades and technology to continually improve quality, consistency, and sustainability. With equipment that old, we were limited to what we could upgrade and we want to set up a small system that more effectively mimics what we do in Hood River. We are hoping to work with Meura ( our mash filter manufacturer) to get a “Mini Meura” so we can replicate the great water savings we get in Hood River.
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