What Makes A Double IPA?

Once you discover (and fall in love with) an IPA, there’s really no going back. The hoppy bitterness you appreciate with each sip keeps you searching for even more hops, more haze, and more tongue-shredding acidity. 

At TapRM, we get that. Our passion for great beer is what sets us apart from other beer distributors. We love our IPAs hoppy, bitter, and with a full-bodied maltiness that other ales can’t offer. That’s why we love a double IPA.

Double IPA, you say? Yes. Think of it as a leveled-up IPA with a more notable hop profile (yes, it is possible). Not familiar with the double IPA? That’s okay. We’ll cover what they are, how to pick them, and give you a few recommendations you can get your hands on with a few simple clicks.

What’s An IPA?

Just in case you’re completely new to the world of beer-dom, let’s talk about what an IPA is and how it compares to other beers.

Different Kinds of Beer

All beers can be classified as ales, lagers, or sours. The differentiation has to do with the type of yeast used to ferment them. If you guessed that IPAs, or India Pale Ales, are ales, you’re on par for this course. 

Pale Ales

Ales are fermented using a top-fermenting yeast called saccharomyces cerevisiae, or S. cerevisiae. Almost all craft beers are ales and are made with this type of yeast. A pale ale is an ale that has a light color (usually no darker than amber) and a higher concentration of hops than other ales. 

Ales are medium-bodied and have a balanced flavor profile. They are most often described as having a bread-like or cracker flavor. 

IPAs

IPAs have a bigger hop profile than pale ales. Essentially, the hops are the star of the show.  Because IPAs are delightfully hoppy, they generally have a higher IBU rating. The IBU (International Bitterness Units) rating rates beer on the presence of iso-alpha acids, which beer usually gets from the addition of (you guessed it) more hops. 

It’s worth noting that a beer’s IBU rating isn’t based on perceived bitterness, which is entirely subjective. What tastes bitter to one person may not taste as bitter to another person. 

Double IPAs

That brings us to the subject of today’s Beer 101 Lesson: double IPAs. Double IPAs are still relatively new to the beer scene, having been around for approximately a decade. Double IPAs are maltier and hoppier than a standard IPA. 

How do double IPAs get their bolder flavors? More malt (grain) and more hops. Because these beers contain more malt, they usually have a higher ABV, or “alcohol by volume” rating, and a higher IBU rating. 

  • ABV ratings. Beer becomes alcoholic during the fermentation process. Before fermentation, beer is really just sugar water with spices and flavorings added by the brewer. 

    When the brewer adds yeast to the wort (the boiling sugar water), the yeast reacts with the sugars that have been released from the grains, giving off ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. 
  • IBU ratings. More hops = more iso-alpha acids = a higher IBU rating. Remember, that doesn’t necessarily mean your beer will taste more bitter to you, but it definitely has the potential to pucker your lips. 

The long and short of the imperial IPA: It’s like a hoppier, heavier IPA with a higher ABV. 

The Profile of a Double IPA

A double IPA can be hard to distinguish from a standard IPA, but it is possible. Most of the time, the flavor profile will be so pronounced it will be easy to tell you’re drinking a double IPA (aka DIPA, or IIPA). Here’s how to know your Imperial IPAs.

Color

The Brewer’s Association says a double IPA should be straw to light amber in color. However, you’ll find plenty of IIPA enthusiasts that will point you towards imperial IPAs that are literally as dark in color as a stout.

Grains

If you don’t like a full-bodied malt flavor, a double IPA might not be your jam. Doubles will have more grain to give them a heavier malt flavor, which is typically balanced by the additional hops. Without the additional grain and with the addition of more hops, you’d end up with a beer that was borderline undrinkable. 

Alcohol

Typically, a double IPA is 7% ABV or higher. This is because there will be higher amounts of malt in the beer, which means more sugar for the yeast to activate and turn into alcohol. 

Most brewers stick within a range of 7-9% ABV. Anything higher becomes less drinkable.  

IBU’s

Most double IPAs will rate within 65-100 IBU’s, which is high, but not the highest available. The highest is generally 120 units, but some beers claim ratings into the 1000s. 

Imperial IPAs are heavy on bitter acids but not so harsh they will turn your mouth inside out. Remember, the IBU rating is based on measurable acids the beer contains. The bitter flavor is purely personal observation.  

Hops

It’s what makes the double IPA famous, but determining a “standard” for hops inclusion on a double is kind of like trying to define a standard of creativity. Generally, the hops used in a double IPA are grown on the west coast of the U.S., where the double IPA originated.

All doubles will have more hops than a standard IPA, if only to balance out the additional malt in the ale. They may also be added to tone down the ABV rating to fit inside the brewer’s desired range.

Flavor and Clarity

Doubles have a hazy appearance by nature. However, if hazy is your thing, you’ll want a hazy or “juicy” double, which we’ll describe later. 

Imperial IPAs encompass a wide range of flavors beyond the typical piney, citrus, and fruit flavors you’re used to with your standard IPA. Imperials share a thread of flavor DNA with sours in that they often produce flavors that aren’t necessarily palatable on their own. 

Sulfuric, onion-like, diesel-eseque, and “catty” are all adjectives used to describe the bitterness and hoppy flavors of double IPAs. Don’t worry; the heavy malt flavor adds balance and gives them a lively (yet drinkable) mouthfeel that keeps you coming back for the funky hop. 

What About DDH?

Do a quick search for a double IPA, and you’ll also see the term DDH, which stands for double dry hopped. Double dry hopping is a method of adding hops to the wort twice during the fermentation process.

Normally, hops will be added at the beginning of the fermentation while the yeast is still active. The yeast then reacts with the hops and gives the ale a hoppier flavor. After the yeast has settled, more hops are added to increase aroma and promote a thick, dizzying haze. 

Double dry hopped ales aren’t all double IPAs, though many are. Try to keep focused: DDH (double dry hopped) and DDHDIPA (double dry hopped double IPA) are not the same things.

Styles of Imperial IPAs

There are two main styles of Imperial IPAs, and both are American-born and bred. 

  1. American Imperial IPA. These refer to the entire group of double IPAs available, including experimental styles from microbreweries. 

    We love Singlecut Beersmith’s Grunge!. This crispy IPA is double dry hopped with experimental hops straight out of the pacific northwest. You’ll get a mouthful of blueberry, orange, and vanilla with this 7.7% ABV double.

  2. Hazy or Juicy Imperial IPAs. These don’t actually have to contain juice (though they can). The juicy name refers to the perceived taste and range of flavors achieved from late dry hopping, and the inclusion of different ingredients in the grist (the blend of grains that starts off the brewing process) like oats.

    These are usually refreshing, medium-bodied, and drinkable, with a palatable haze. We love Sixpoint Brewery’s Spritzer Bomb Hazy IIPA. Born from the brains of two breweries, this ultra hazy double IPA has a fizzy, tongue-tingling finish reminiscent of sauvignon blanc wine spritzers. It’s a tongue-tantalizing grain/grape combo with 8% ABV and easy drinkability. 

Both types of imperial IPAs will give you what you crave: more hops, a tart mouthfeel, and a wide variety of malty flavors that pair perfectly with every season. 

Try a Double IPA for Yourself

With just a few simple clicks, you can try a double IPA from an obsessed microbrewer who might be thousands of miles away from you. Only TapRm makes that possible by connecting serious beer aficionados to the most creative and dedicated brewers. 

Your IPA? Make it a double, and make sure you order it from a brewer who has poured passion into the wort. Cheers to the haziest and heartiest imperial IPAs. 

 

Sources:

2021 Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines | Brewers Association

What’s the Difference? Pale Ales, IPAs, & Double IPAs Beer Sessions | The Kitchn 

Everything You Need To Know About The Double IPA | Food Republic  

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