Gold to Amber / 6 – 14 SRM
Highly Assertive / 60 – 120 IBU
Sweetness Low to medium
Balance is Very Hoppy
What’s the hoppiest thing you can remember tasting? Unless you’re like us and you eat a nice bowl of hops soaked in malt extract for breakfast, your answer is probably a double IPA. These brews are the creative playground for what’s possible at the extremes of bitter beer, and brewers have been testing those limits since the late 1990s.
After the massive rise in popularity of IPAs in the late 1980s and through the 1990s, brewers adopted the “bigger is better” mindset for some of their IPAs, brewing them to be more bitter, more alcoholic, and generally bolder in every hop descriptor you could think of. They added more bittering hops, more aroma hops, and a lot more dry hops–sometimes adding multiple additions at this stage–to maximize the holy hop in all its citrusy, piney glory.
When Vinnie Cilurzo released the first batches of Pliny the Elder in 1994, he was brewing for a company called Blind Pig in Temecula, CA. There were likely other brewers that made IPAs we would now call “double IPAs” before ‘94, but Pliny has stood the test of time as a phenomenon all its own. This bracingly bitter, yet remarkably drinkable beer uses six different hop additions of three varieties, leading to a complex, pungent, and deeply resinous hop profile that you’ll dream about for days after cracking one (Cilurzo provided a scaled homebrew recipe to Zymurgy Magazine in 2009, so if you’re into homebrewing give it a try).
In classic American style, the IPAs of the early 2000s led to an arms race in hoppy beers. Brewers claimed beers with IBUs north of 200, 300, and even 1000. There’s significant marketing going on here, since studies have consistently shown that the human ability to taste bitterness has a ceiling somewhere around 120 IBUs. One of the early and notable players in the double IPA game was Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, who brews his 120-Minute IPA, a massive beer clocking in around 18% depending on the release, by hopping a lengthy 120-minute boil continuously. To make this happen in the early days, he bought and rigged an arcade game with a moving belt to slowly drop the hops in rather than standing over the boil kettle for two hours.
Double IPAs since the early 2000s have followed many of the trends that standard-strength IPAs have: they can be dry, sweet(er), hazy, milky, and even fruited. The first time you order a pint of one of the OG Double IPAs, though, you’ll experience a whole new kind of relationship with hops. They show their full, unadulterated, bitter, juicy, and resinous colors in these beers, which might take some getting used to, but they’re incredible when done well.
Aroma – Assertively hop forward. Citrus, pine, resin, dank. Just enough malty backbone to balance.
Appearance – Pale gold to light amber.
Flavor – High bitterness. Noticeable malt, but low in the balance. Clean, dry, hoppy finish.
Mouthfeel – Medium-light to medium body. Clean finishing with lingering bitterness.
Vitals – 7.5 – 10% ABV, 60 – 120 IBU
Serve fresh in Pint glass at 38º
A prominent to intense hop aroma that typically showcases American or New World hop characteristics (citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, melon, etc.). Most versions are dry hopped and can have an additional resinous or grassy aroma, although this is not absolutely required. Some clean malty sweetness may be found in the background. Fruitiness, either from esters or hops, may also be detected in some versions, although a neutral fermentation character is typical. Some alcohol can usually be noted, but it should not have a “hot” character.
Color ranges from golden to light orange copper; most modern versions are fairly pale. Good clarity, although unfiltered dry-hopped versions may be a bit hazy. Moderate-sized, persistent, white to off-white head.
Hop flavor is strong and complex, and can reflect the characteristics of modern American or New World hop varieties (citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, melon, etc.). High to absurdly high hop bitterness. Low to medium malt flavor, generally clean and grainy-malty although low levels of caramel or toasty flavors are acceptable. Low to medium fruitiness is acceptable but not required. A long, lingering bitterness is usually present in the aftertaste but should not be harsh. Dry to medium-dry finish; should not finish sweet or heavy. A light, clean, smooth alcohol flavor is not a fault. Oak is inappropriate in this style. May be slightly sulfury, but most examples do not exhibit this character.
Medium-light to medium body, with a smooth texture. Medium to medium-high carbonation. No harsh hop derived astringency. Restrained, smooth alcohol warming acceptable.
A showcase for hops, yet remaining quite drinkable. The adjective “double” is arbitrary and simply implies a stronger version of an IPA; “imperial,” “extra,” “extreme,” or any other variety of adjectives would be equally valid, although the modern American market seems to have now coalesced around the “double” term.>
An American craft beer innovation first developed in the mid-late 1990s reflecting the trend of American craft brewers “pushing the envelope” to satisfy the need of hop aficionados for increasingly intense products. Became more mainstream and popular throughout the 2000s, and inspired additional IPA creativity.
Clean 2-row malt is typical as a base grain; an excessively complex grist can be distracting. Crystal-type malts often muddy the hop flavors, and are generally considered undesirable in significant quantities. Sugar or other highly fermentable adjuncts are often used to increase attenuation, as are lower-temperature mash rests. Can use a complex variety of hops, typically American or New World, often with cutting-edge profiles providing distinctive differences. Modern hops with unusual characteristics are not out of style. American yeast that can give a clean or slightly fruity profile.
Bigger than either an English or American IPA in both alcohol strength and overall hop level (bittering and finish). Less malty, lower body, less rich and a greater overall hop intensity than an American Barleywine. Typically not as high in gravity/alcohol as a barleywine, since high alcohol and malt tend to limit drinkability.
Avery Maharaja, Fat Heads Hop Juju, Firestone Walker Double Jack, Port Brewing Hop 15, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Stone Ruination IPA, Three Floyds Dreadnaught
Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.070-1.100 (17.1-23.7 °Plato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.012-1.020 (3.1-45.1 °Plato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 6.0%-8.4% (7.6%-10.6%)
Bitterness (IBU) 65-100
Color SRM (EBC) 2-9 (4-18 EBC)
A single infusion mash in the lower range for saccharification is traditional to ensure good attenuation. Hopping rates are high throughout boil and dry hop additions. Many recent examples include whirlpool additions in addition to large bittering, late-hop, and dry-hop additions for added aromatic punch. Fermented around 68º for a clean yeast profile.
AT THE BREWPUB: Scotch Egg
TAKEOUT: Chili, on the spicy side
SWANKY DATE NIGHT: Dry-aged Filet Mignon
FROM BF DISTILLING CO: Black Flannel Vermont Common Whiskey, Deep Oaky Whiskies
NEW: Flogging Molly
OLD: Stravinsky, Le Sacre Du Printemps
Pour grapefruit juice into a highball glass without ice, then top with IPA and garnish with grapefruit peel.