Beer Fact Friday: What’s a Double IPA?
First, there was Pale Ale—light in color, hop-focused, crushable. Then came India Pale Ale—bigger and bolder than Pale Ale, with more hop flavor and bitterness. But then, hop-focused beer achieved its final form: Double IPA. What sets these hop-spiced tongue-bruisers apart from other beer styles? Glad you asked.
While IPA traces its lineage to England, Double IPA—also known as Imperial IPA—is a strictly American invention. Vinnie Cilurzo, the owner and brewmaster at Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California, is generally credited with the creation of the style in the mid-90s; his Pliny the Elder is still regarded by many as one of the top examples of Double IPA in the world.
The best Double IPAs showcase explosive hop flavor and aroma atop a pleasant malt base. Depending on the hop varieties used to brew them, the flavors of these beers can range from pine, grass and citrus to melons, berries, and tropical fruits. Most have bitterness levels that range from “firm” to “unnecessarily aggressive”—though many modern, hazy examples buck this trend with a much softer hop bite. Almost all are heavily dry-hopped (meaning hops are added to the beer during fermentation for increased hop aroma), and some have hops added through the brewing process. (Double Knot, our Double IPA, gets seven different hop additions before it makes its way into bottles and kegs.) But the alcoholic strength of these beers is the main differentiator between them and standard IPA: Their ABV starts at 8% and can reach into the teens.
Despite their name, Double IPAs aren’t always twice as strong, twice as bitter, or twice as intense as standard IPA. To make Double Knot, for instance, we use about 2.3 times the amount of malts and hops that go into Hop Knot, but Double Knot’s alcohol content is only 9% (versus Hop Knot’s 6.7%). Regardless these are the ultimate beers for folks with a hankering for hops.