What is a Double IPA?

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Crafter brewers being the adventurous lot they are, are always looking to push the boundaries of what is possible in a beer. The IPA is their favorite beer to push the limits with by increasing the bitterness, hop profile, and ABV. Which actually resulted in the birth of the Double IPA. In this post, we are going to answer the question: What is a Double IPA beer? Explain the difference between it and a single IPA, discuss where it came from, review its characteristics, and even provide you with a Double IPA recipe so you can make your own if you are so inclined.

In short, a Double IPA or DIPA is an American take on a traditional IPA. Like all things American it is amplified to be bigger and better. In this case, they have taken a much-loved hoppy bitter beer and doubled everything about it. Double the hops and sometimes triple the typical amount are used when making it. To balance the resulting bitterness more malt is also used which results in significantly higher alcohol content being produced as well.

To really understand the makeup of this beer it is best to get an understanding of the difference between its predecessor the IPA.

What’s the Difference Between a Single and Double IPA?  A double IPA on a bar top with hops laying next to it, with the words what is a double IPA to it's left.

When we say single IPA it is important to understand that there are actually many variations of this style of beer. However, for the purpose of explaining what a DIPA is and how it came to be there are only two variations that matter, as they are its direct forefathers: the English IPA and the Traditional American IPA. I will explain in the next section the history and origins of the double as it relates to these two variations, but for now, let’s briefly look at their differences.

An English IPA is a drier, more alcoholic British Pale Ale. Its ABV is moderate to strong typically coming in around 5-6%. It is a hoppy beer but not in the American sense as it uses traditional British hops and malts to create its unique bready and biscuity characteristics. It finishes dry with a hoppy flavor and aroma.

A Traditional American IPA originates from the English version. However, instead of using the traditional British ingredients, it uses American hops and malts that change the flavor and aroma characteristics significantly. Its ABV is also moderate to strong, in most cases a little bit more so than the British version, typically coming in at around 5.5 – 6.5%. Because of the use of American hops this beer appears more hop-forward and the perceived bitterness is higher. It also finishes dry with a hoppy flavor and aroma but has more of the piney, grapefruit characteristics we expect from American hops.

A Double IPA originates from the Traditional American Version. In fact, the story goes that the person who invented it was brewing a traditional IPA and mistakenly added too much malt. Instead of throwing out the whole batch, he decided to attempt to balance the beer by adding more hops to the mix. The end result was a more intense hop flavored beer with higher alcohol content than the traditional IPA. DIPA uses the same hops and malts as the American single, however a lot more of them. It is a strong ale coming in anywhere from 7 – 10% ABV. It has an intense hop flavor and aroma, and its finish is also very dry and clean. Surprisingly it is not harsh beer and is highly drinkable.

The History of the Double IPA

The most accepted story of the origins of the IPA is that it was originally brewed in the 1700s for the British colonies in India. Being a warm climate the colonists were not interested in drinking the darker beers that were popular in England at the time, so a lighter colored more refreshing beer was brewed.

Because beer was not being brewed in India at the time, it had to be made and shipped from England. The ocean journey was a long one, and concern over this lighter beer spoiling on the passage arose. The solution was to increase the alcohol content as well as the number of hops used in the brewing process. Hops are a natural preservative due to their antibacterial properties, this combined with a higher alcohol content allowed the beer to survive the journey and a new style of beer was born.

The IPA became extremely popular in India as well as back in England and eventually in many places around the world Its popularity stayed high until WWI when a lack of ingredients and costs forced brewers to start making watered-down beers.

As a result, IPA’s almost completely disappeared. However in the 1980s, the craft brewing revolution was heating up in America, and experimentation with many of the old styles of beers was well underway to include the IPA, which very quickly became the fan favorite and poster child beer of the revolution.

Just like with any trend or fad people want to create the next big thing and it was simply a matter of time before a jacked-up IPA would be brewed and hence the birth of the DIPA!

The Characteristics of a Double IPA

Appearance – Originating from a pale ale they maintain the same pale appearance. Their color could be described as being a straw-like golden color to having an orange almost bronze-like hue. The majority of the DIPA’s you will come across are clear; however, depending on how they are dry hopped and whether they are filtered or fining agents were used during brewing they can also appear hazy and cloudy. Their head retention is good and its color is typically white.

Aroma – Their aroma is highly based on the hops used in the brewing process. Malt aromas can be present but nowhere near as dominant as the hops. Due to the American hops used you can expect a variety of different aromas between recipes ranging anywhere from grassy and citrusy, to pine cone and grapefruit as well as tropical fruit and berry. Expect the aromas to be intense and almost overbearing.

Flavor – Like the aroma expect the taste to come from the large quantities of American hops used in brewing it. Depending on the hop strains you will pick up flavors that will range from tropical fruit to pine cone, to grapefruit, floral, berries, and even melon. Due to the hops, some DIPAs that you taste will have a strong bitter taste. The malt flavor will be light, you might catch some caramel or toffee flavors depending on the amounts of crystal malts that were used. The finish will have somewhat of a dryness to it.

Mouthfeel – Expect the carbonation level to be medium. The beer is a surprisingly smooth drinking beer and does not have the hot alcohol feel to it that you might expect due to the higher ABV.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much alcohol is in a double IPA?

In some cases, they have double the ABV of a traditional IPA coming in at 10%. They typically range between 7 – 10% and this is due to the additional amount of grains needed during the brewing process to offset and balance the large quantities of hops that are used. Anything over 10% is considered a triple.

What’s the difference between a double IPA and an imperial IPA?

There is no difference; they are the same beer. An Imperial IPA is simply a different name for the same beer. The term imperial was originally used to describe strong English stouts. Nowadays you see it used to describe stronger versions of many styles of beer and the IPA is no exception.

Who invented double IPA?

See the story above about how it was invented, however, a brewer by the name of Vinnie Culurzo is the man credited with inventing it. At the time he was apparently working at a brewery called the Blind Pig in California. He is now the brewmaster and owner at Russian River Brewing Company.

What is the best Double IPA?

This is a tough question to ask because so many versions of this style of beer are now made. However, I am a firm believer that the originals are always the best and it is always good to give credit where credit is due so Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Elder gets my vote for the title of best.

How to Brew a Double IPA

For those of you who are into making your own beers, the following are a few tips to help you brew your own. I will also provide you with a simple all-grain double IPA recipe to try out if you like.

Grain – Typically 2-row will be used as the base grain, however, if you want to create a bit of an English ale taste use Maris Otter instead. 80 – 90% of the grain bill will be your base grain. I would then recommend a small amount of crystal malts, around 5% of the grain bill to give it a very slight caramel flavor, crystal 40 does the job nicely. To add a little body and head retention either carapils or wheat malt can be used, again keeping them to about 5% of the grain bill. If you want to up your ABV while keeping the beer dry, dextrose or corn sugar can be added.

Hops – American hops are a must in this beer and lots of them. IBU’s range from 60 – 120+ in these beers. Adjust your recipe accordingly to your liking. A bittering addition at 60 minutes is standard, Columbus or Chinook are great options.

You have all sorts of options for your remaining hop additions. Play around using your favorite American hops and dial your recipe into your desired IBU range. I like additions at 10 and 5 minutes personally. For dry hopping I will average approximately 3 – 4 ounces split up between two varieties of hops.

Yeast – Your favorite clean well attenuating American Ale yeast will do the trick. There are numerous options available to you. I am a fan of dry yeast and for a DIPA I use Fermentis Safale US-05.

The yeast for a double IPA should be a well-attenuating strain with a clean, neutral character.

Double IPA Recipe

I call this recipe Big & Bold, because well it is big and bold! Give it a try and let us know what you think.

ABV – 8.44%
IBU – 123
Original Gravity – 1.077
Final Gravity – 1.013

Fermentables

  • 13 lb 2-row
  • 1 lb Wheat malt
  • 1 lb Crystal 40L

Hop Additions

  • 2 oz Columbus (60 min)
  • 1 oz Columbus (10 min)
  • 1 oz Cascade (5 min)
  • 1 oz Centennial (5 min)
  • 1.5 oz Cascade (dry hop – 5 days)
  • 1.5 oz Centennial (dry hop – 5 days)

Yeast

Your choice of any high attenuating clean American Ale yeast. My choice is US-05

Brewing Instructions

Mash your grains at 150 degrees F for 60 minutes. Boil for 60 minutes, add hops as per timings listed. Add whirlfloc at 15 min mark. Chill your wort to yeast pitching temperature. Rack wort to fermenter and pitch yeast. Add dry hops as per timings listed. Ferment for 2 weeks in primary. Cold crash for 2 days. Add gelatin fining 24 hours into the cold crash. Rack to keg or bottles, carbonate, and enjoy!

There you have it my friend you now know exactly what a double IPA is and even how to make one for yourself.

Let us know in the comment section what your favorite DIPA is?

Cheers, Big Robb is Out!

Big Robb with a pint of home brewed beerP.S. If you are a homebrewer be sure to check out my offer to get free access to the recipes to my top 5 all-time favorite beers from my brewpub. Sign up is on the side of the blog or on the bottom if you are on a smart device. Enjoy!

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