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How a Session IPA Became America's Number One Craft Can

February 09, 2017

By Mandy Naglich, February 09, 2017

We’ve all heard of the “session IPA" by now. They’re on the menu at your local beer bar, gracing the shelves of convenience stores and liquor stores alike, and I’m willing to bet at least one of your friends has a six pack in the fridge.

If you’ve ever kicked back at a tailgate and cracked a citrusy, slightly bitter but refreshing session IPA, you understand the popularity. A cool and almost thirst-quenching craft brew that you can drink from pregame into overtime, and then some, is just what so many self-proclaimed beer nerds needed. There’s no longer a need to drink a “less than” American light lager on game day, plus the session IPA is the new pale ale, known to “convert” many commercial beer drinkers into craft beer drinks.

My guess is if you’ve been to an outdoor party, group hike, beach day or even your occasional high-end music festival, you’re familiar with the bright green, wagoneer-donning can of Founder’s All Day IPA.

In fact, this very can is the #1 selling craft can in America according to brewery co-founder Dave Engbers. So, it’s no surprise that in December 2017 the brewery announced it would release All Day IPA in a new format: a 19.2 ounce can. How does the brewery have the confidence that craft beer will sell at 19.2 ounces at a time? Well, All Day has a solid history of explosive growth and wide acceptance that had humble beginnings.

All Day has a solid history of explosive growth and wide acceptance that had humble beginnings.”

The inception of the beer was pretty simple. It was conceived to fill a desire the staff had, instead of filling a perceived role in the market. Founders brewmaster Jeremy Kosmicki said in a company video, “It was a selfish thing for me to make that beer. It really was only because I need something for myself to drink and that sounded like exactly what I could enjoy drinking all day.”

The first milestone in All Day’s history was a 2010 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) silver medal under the moniker “Endurance IPA Jr.” The session category was added to GABF in 2008 and the Founders medal was the first for an IPA in the category. The Session India Pale Ale category was added to GABF in 2015, so Founders will remain the only brewery to have an IPA medal as a “session beer.”  

As of 2010, the recipe had never left the brewery’s taproom and it never would under the name of “Endurance.”

On February 6, 2012, after more than four years of development, that GABF recipe was released as All-Day IPA in a seasonal six pack throughout limited Founders markets: Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and the greater Chicago.

Described by the brewery as being brewed with Simcoe and Amarillo hops and measuring out at 42 IBUs, the beer had the same alcohol by volume as Bud Light. It took off in all territories like wildfire. The mouthfeel and citrusy, resinous flavors were reminiscent of the most popular IPAs on the market, yet the 4.7% abv allowed the beer to be consumed all day during outdoor activities or in situations where the drinker want to enjoy a few beers but keep his wits about him.

Ale Sharpton / Good Beer HuntingThe beer was so popular, the brewery had to add a canning line.

After confirming contracts for the hops and other All Day IPA ingredients, Founders was able to announce that the “session ale” would be coming to all Founders markets starting in March 2013. The beer was so popular that later the same year All Day was upgraded to a year-round release from its original status as one of Founders' seasonal beers. By the end of 2013, cans of All Day IPA were released as 12-packs to keep up with consumer demand.

According to brewery co-founder Dave Engbers, All Day IPA was the catalyst for Founders Brewing Co. purchasing a canning line. In 2017, all Founders seasonal beers will be released in cans from that very canning line.

It wasn’t long before All Day went under another first-in-industry innovation. Under the playful name “brewers dozen,” Founders was the first brewery to release a craft beer 15-pack in March 2014. In a press release co-founder Mike Stevens directly thanked consumers for the innovation, “We are able to offer 15-pack cans due to production efficiencies from packaging cost savings. We’re excited to pass the savings on to our customers as a way of saying thank you for their reception of All Day IPA.”

Now, All Day IPA is the third-most selling IPA in the country and it accounts for more than 50% of Founders' total production volume. With that much All Day pumping into the 42 states currently carrying Founders, it’s no surprise that the session ale is widely consumed by beer aficionados and beer beginners alike.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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