IPA Vs Double IPA (Imperial) – Flavor Profile, Recipe, & Brewing Guide

What is the difference between the IPA and the Double or Imperial IPA? Do they taste different? What are the ingredients used?

India Pale Ales have an ABV of around 6-7.5%; once an IPA achieves an ABV of 7.5% ABV or greater, it is considered a double or imperial IPA. Double IPAs use more malted grains in the recipe to achieve higher alcohol content. Overall, double IPAs are hoppier and more bitter than standard IPAs, but both styles have their own unique sub-styles.

These styles and their sub-styles leave much room for exploration and experimentation. Keep reading for an in-depth look at the differences between IPAs and Double IPAs, as well as their ingredients and histories.

What’s the difference between an IPA and a Double IPA?

Although the ingredients and brewing methods for these beers are very similar, the resulting brews have some important differences.

Boasting a strong hop aroma and flavor, the Double IPA is a stronger, more bitter, and hoppier version of the IPA. The Double IPA has a higher ABV, more IBUs, and a slightly darker body than the traditional IPA. They each have sub-styles that differ greatly, including American-style, English-style, and Juicy or Hazy Double (Imperial) IPAs.

Keep reading to find out more about the differences between these styles.

Taste and flavor profiles

IPAs and Double IPAs can taste very different. Their flavors depend on a couple of things.

IPAs are hoppy, but they aren’t as hoppy as double or imperial IPAs. Since double IPAs use more hops to balance out the malt and alcohol flavors, they’re hoppier and oftentimes more bitter than IPAs.

Double IPAs also leave room to impart more of the secondary flavors and aromas of the hops used, compared to IPAs.

Bitterness (IBUs)

IPAs and Double IPAs both range in IBUs. One is more bitter than the other, though.

Double IPAs are inherently more bitter than IPAs. The amount of hops used in double IPAs increases the IBUs. While IPAs sit at 50-70, double IPAs range from 65-100 IBUs.

Double IPAs are often favored before IPAs because of their potent bitterness.

Alcohol content (ABV)

What’s the difference in the ABV of IPAs and Double IPAs?

As the name suggests, Double IPAs contain more alcohol. Once a beer reaches 7.5% ABV and above, it is considered a double IPA. Many IPAs go as high as 7.3% ABV and are not considered double IPAs.

The ABV of these beers is affected by the amount of grains used in the recipe.

Recipe and ingredients

When you increase the amount of hops, you often increase the amount of other ingredients used.

IPAs and Double IPAs rely heavily on hops and less on grains or malt. Although, when creating a double IPA and using a lot of grains to produce more alcohol, more hops are needed to obtain the desired flavors and aromas. This is the reason behind double IPAs being hoppier and more bitter than IPAs.

For a great practical comparison of these styles, try drinking New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger IPA and Voodoo Ranger Imperial (Double) IPA side by side.

What is an IPA (India Pale Ale)?

An India Pale Ale or IPA is a hoppier and more alcoholic version of a pale ale and a lesser alcoholic version of a Double IPA.

The beer has become increasingly popular in the U.S. and has taken on many different sub-styles, including American, English, and Session IPAs. Each has unique qualities, but the most prominent ingredient in any IPA is hops. The hops vary from region to region and style to style.

If basic Pale Ales aren’t strong enough and Double IPAs are too much for you, try the middle ground with a still hoppy but not as bitter IPA.

History

Traditional history claims that the name India Pale Ale comes from the use of hops to preserve the beer on its way to India from England. Although hops were eventually used to preserve the beer, this tale is only mildly true, and there’s little evidence to prove this side of the story.

Almost just as little evidence can prove against this, though.

George Hodgson’s Bow Brewery on the Eastside of England was the closest and cheapest way for the East Indianman to load beer. Long story short, the presence of hops in beer was made necessary by the 1760s if the beer was being delivered to warmer climates.

There’s no evidence that Bow Brewery was the first brewery to add hops to their beer, but we do know that Bow brewed the choice pale ale in India at the time because of the practicality.

Modern IPA styles

The different styles of IPAs include American, English, and Session.

These styles all retain similar characteristics like hoppiness and bitterness, but they also have specific qualities that make them unique.

The determining qualities for these beers include ABV and the hops used.

American

The American IPA maintains a strong and potent hop flavor and aroma. This sub-style utilizes American-variety hops; the main ingredient for the beer. There’s little-medium malt flavor or aroma present in this beer.

American IPAs use American two-row malt and an ale yeast with American-variety hops.

A highly-rated example of the American-style IPA is the Lagunitas IPA.

English

English-style IPAs or English IPAs have a more crisp taste to them. They’re also dry and have earthy and sometimes floral or resinous tones with a balanced malt flavor. These beers are strong and bitter.

Ingredients include English-variety hops and ale yeast that impart fruity aromas, with British pale malt.

Harpoon IPA is an English-inspired IPA brewed with American hops.

Session

The session IPA is designed to include the characteristics of an IPA with an emphasis on drinkability. Not exceeding an ABV of 5%, these beers clock in at lower alcohol volumes to comply with professional guidelines and make the style what it is.

Because the Session IPA uses fewer grains, the hop flavors and aromas are prominent while maintaining around 30-50 IBUs. These beers contain little grain variations and include a wide variety of hops and other ingredients.

Two Roads Lil Heaven IPA is a delicious and versatile Session IPA.

What is a Double IPA?

Is a Double IPA different from an IPA? Are there different kinds of Double IPAs?

Double IPAs are essentially bolder versions of IPAs. They’re stronger, hoppier, and more bitter than regular IPAs.

They have a strong hop profile with a wide range of flavors and aromas, ranging from citrusy and floral to earthy and resinous notes.

History

Double IPAs came about from a desire to create more intense brews.

The style aims to make the hoppy characteristics of IPAs even more prevalent in the beer. The higher alcohol content is a result of this push to create a more intense and hoppier beer.

What are some of the modern sub-styles of this beer?

Modern Double India Pale Ale styles

The modern sub-styles of this beer are essentially the same as the sub-styles of IPAs.

Each of the styles is basically a more intense and stronger version on a standard IPA. Popular sub-styles of this beer include the American Double IPA and the Juicy, Hazy New England style IPA.

American-style

The American-style IPA is often referred to simply as a Double IPA.

This style was born in the U.S. and utilizes American-variety hops. They contain fresh notes of citrus and pine with high bitterness and ABV. The hop characteristics are intense but not harsh.

Ingredients include ale yeast, American hops, and American two-row malt.

A solid commercial example of this style is Heavy Seas Double Cannon

Juicy or Hazy (New England) style

Juicy or Hazy Double IPAs are bigger versions of Juicy and Hazy IPAs. They still retain a robust flavor and hazy body with a full mouthfeel. The soft characteristics, although still present, become a little nullified by bitterness and alcohol content.

Ingredients in these double IPAs include ale yeast, oats, wheat, large addition of hops during fermentation, and other adjuncts to promote haze.

One Juicy or hazy Imperial IPA to try right now is Sixpoint Meltdown.