What Makes a Double IPA?

Most beer lovers are at least familiar with the term IPA, or India pale ale. This is a crisp, refreshing beer that is best served cold. However, with the rise of the craft brew scene in America, there have been some pretty innovative derivations of popular beer types. For instance, the double IPA can be a bit confusing for many people. What makes a double, well, double? Let's start off with what an IPA should be, and then move on to doubles.

What's an IPA?

An India pale ale is an ale brewed using very pale grains. That is, these are brewed using grain that has been roasted using a specific process that results in a lighter color. This imparts the light golden color for which these beers are named. They are also very hoppy in flavor.

The Double IPA

A double India pale ale is exactly what it sounds like. Generally, these types of beers use double the amount of hops and have double the ABV of a standard IPA. That makes them quite strong, but they can also be less sweet than many types out there. You'll also find that most style guides classify these beers as Imperial IPAs – the "double" in the name is actually a nickname for the double strength and extra hops used in the brewing process.

Variations on Double IPA Recipes

In addition to double India pale ales, you will find specialty breweries that offer triple and quadruple pale ales. These are exceedingly hoppy and are very, very high in alcohol content. Still, they can often have a very complex flavor, with the alcohol balancing out the hops to a considerable extent. Of course, these are not "session" beers, and should be consumed with caution – more than one or two and you might just be seeing double, triple or quadruple!

Black IPA Styles

One interesting trend with some American craft brewers is the development of the black IPA, or India black ale. These beers maintain the hops characteristics of their pale cousins, but use dark roasted malts to achieve a black color. This results in a different flavor profile and a different body, but beers brewed this way are certainly worthy of attention, particularly if you are fond of darker beers but love the hoppy notes of IPAs.

There also international variants of the double IPA, including Belgian brews, British brews and more.