Double IPAs Unleashed: A Master Guide to Flavor, Pairings, and Production
Double IPAs, or Imperial IPAs, are genuine celebrities in the world of craft beers. With their robust and full-bodied profile, and an aroma ranging from citrus to floral, they present an exceptional drink: thick, full, intensely fragrant, yet also endowed with great agreeableness.
The Double IPA journey starts with an mesmerizing scent. Hops are the undisputed star, offering a bouquet that may range from citrus notes of grapefruit and orange to more exotic shades of pine, grass, and even tropical fruits. But don’t be fooled; behind this flavor profile lies a generous amount of malt, able to balance the bitterness and provide a sweet and caramelized flavor that dances on the palate.
The Story Behind the Power
Double IPAs represent a revolution in the world of IPA beer, perceived by some as not “strong” enough. Born in response to the demand for more intense and complex flavors, they’ve established themselves as symbols of audacity and creativity. Their name “Imperial” is not mere coincidence; it evokes majesty and grandeur, indicating that this beer is not for the faint of heart. It often features a fairly high alcohol content, starting from 8% ABV.
Pairings: A Game of Shades
Double IPAs call for pairings that match their intensity. Picture a plate of glazed barbecued ribs or a succulent, heavily seasoned burger grilled to perfection. The bold, fatty flavors of these dishes pair wonderfully with the bitterness and complexity of the Double IPAs. For something more refined, try a mature cheese like gorgonzola, which complements the fruity notes of these beers.
Hops and Malts: The Pillars of Double IPAs
Double IPAs are distinguished by the use of a variety of hops that can vary significantly depending on the style and brewer. Common hops include:
- Citra: Adds notes of citrus and tropical fruits.
- Simcoe: Known for its pine and apricot undertones.
- Amarillo: Offers a citrus profile with hints of sweet orange.
- Chinook: Contributes robust bitterness with pine notes.
Additionally, the malting of Double IPAs is diverse, often including:
- Pale Ale malt: Provides body and base sweetness.
- Caramel Malt: Adds sweetness and color.
- Wheat Malt: Used for additional foam and a fuller flavor.
Production of Double IPAs: A Refined Science
The production begins with a greater quantity of malt, necessary to achieve the higher alcohol content characteristic of this style. The abundant use of hops, both during boiling and cold hopping, emphasizes bitter and aromatic notes. The balance between bitterness and sweetness is pivotal, and brewers must carefully manage hops and malts to ensure harmony. Fermentation generally involves ale yeasts, contributing additional fruity characteristics. Clarity can be achieved through filtration or by allowing sediment to settle naturally. Maturation and conditioning in the bottle or keg meld the flavors, creating a robust yet harmonious beer.
Alcohol content starts from a base of 8% and can reach the peaks of the 120 Minute IPA produced by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, with alcohol content varying between 15% and 20%, depending on the batch and vintage.
Differences between IPA and Double IPA Beers
- Alcohol Content: Double IPAs typically have a higher alcohol content, usually above 8%, achieved through a greater malt quantity, resulting in a fuller body.
- Hops: Though both styles generously use hops, Double IPAs further emphasize hops through cold hopping and the use of more aromatic varieties.
- Balance: While IPAs balance malty sweetness and hoppy bitterness, Double IPAs often push the boundaries, accentuating bitterness without sacrificing complexity. The brewer’s challenge in creating a Double IPA is to find that harmony where the boldness of the hops doesn’t obscure other elements.
- Tasting: Double IPAs offer richer, more adventurous tasting experiences, with intense and persistent flavors that may be balsamic, resinous, and tropical. This beer style often demands a more experienced palate.
8 excellent Double IPAs
- Pliny the Elder – Russian River Brewing Company. One of the pioneers in the world of Double IPAs, Pliny the Elder is known for its finely balanced hops and distinctive character that doesn’t choke the palate.
- Heady Topper – The Alchemist. A Double IPA that has achieved a cult following among beer aficionados. The extraordinary use of hops gives a floral and citrus aroma, with a pleasantly lingering aftertaste.
- 90 Minute IPA – Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Using a continuous hopping technique, this beer offers a complex and intriguing flavor profile balanced by a malty sweetness.
- Enjoy By – Stone Brewing. Known for its guaranteed freshness, Enjoy By is a triumph of fresh and vibrant aromas, with a “enjoyment” date printed on the label to ensure the best possible experience.
- Melvin 2×4 – Melvin Brewing. Winner of multiple awards, Melvin 2×4 boasts an aromatic profile of pine, citrus and caramel, with a structure that manages to balance its alcohol power.
- Firestone Walker Double Jack – Firestone Walker Brewing Company. With a harmony of flavors ranging from pineapple to citrus peel, Double Jack represents an excellent example of how bitterness can be elegant and refined.
- Hopslam Ale – Bell’s Brewery. Unique to its kind, Hopslam uses honey to add a subtle sweetness that counteracts the intense hops, creating a rich and beautifully balanced ale.
- Hoptimum – Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. This seasonal Double IPA uses rare hop varieties and fine malts to create a deep, mouth-filling beer with notes of resin and tropical fruits.