What is a DIPA (Double IPA) Beer? A Heavenly Hop-driven Ale

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Consider yourself a hophead? Can’t get enough of the piney, citrusy, bitter little cones bursting out of the top of your beer glass? Then a Double IPA, or Double India Pale Ale, may be just what the doctor ordered. 

A Double IPA is a variation of the famous India Pale Ale beer style. The style packs higher alcohol content than regular IPA (7.6 – 10.6% Alcohol by Volume). 

It includes more hops and more malt essence compared to other beer styles which results in a fairly strong pale ale that is hop centric and a flavor profile with a more complex maltiness, but is still light bodied with hop aromas and hoppy bitterness.

The Double IPA is a popular beer among craft beer drinkers who pursue these beer types for their unbridled hop character, more alcohol, and more bitterness.

Starting Out: What is an IPA?

All styles of India Pale Ale are now quite popular among drinkers

You don’t have to be a beer expert to have heard of an India Pale Ale or IPA. You may even know that an elevated alcohol strength characterizes an IPA compared to mainstream lagers, as well as the addition of hops that provide an assertive bitterness and loads of hoppy flavor and aroma.

India Pale Ale, or IPA, is the poster child for the boundary-pushing, flavor-forward beers that have marked the craft beer revolution. In stark contrast to the proliferation of mass-produced lagers which aim to serve the masses, the India Pale Ale has emerged as the anti-lager: bitter, intense, aromatic, and packed full of its showcase ingredient, Humulus lupus, the hop.

The story of the IPA is steeped in lore, and beer historians have largely debunked the notion that the India Pale Ale was designed to survive the trade route between England and colonial India.

The popularity of IPA has waxed and waned over centuries, but never has it been more popular than it is today with the growth in craft-brewed beers.

The India Pale Ale is a lightly colored, top-fermented beer. It’s primarily brewed with lightly toasted barley malt, clean-fermenting yeast, mineral-rich water, and a heavy-handed addition of hops.

The beer should showcase hops throughout the drinking experience. Drinkers should be able to smell and taste hops and perceive a bracing bitterness. The malt character is secondary. 

What Makes An IPA a Double IPA (DIPA)?

Intense hop flavor is a hallmark of the double IPA style

A stronger version of the popular American IPA, the Double IPA, also known as an Imperial IPA, is an intensely hopped, strong, top-fermented ale. An Imperial IPA is produced with more hops of any regional hop characteristic but traditionally showcases citrusy, resinous American hop varieties.

Dry hopping is a common practice that enhances the beer’s aroma with a grass-like, resinous fresh hop character. Despite its strength, a Double IPA is not heavy in nature like other strong ales and should not have the residual sweetness, like an American barley wine. Instead, the malt character is clean, offering a level of drinkability.

Hop character is celebrated in this style, and the bitterness or increased alcohol customary in these beers should never beer harsh tasting.

When Was the DIPA introduced, and where?

Strong versions of IPA have been brewed throughout history, but double ipas are a distinctly American creation. The contemporary version of the style can place its roots in the West Coast of the United States. It was there in the mid-1990s that a nascent craft brewing community yielded two possible origins of the Double IPA.

The first was from Oregon’s Rogue Brewing Company’s John Maier, and the second was from Vinnie Cilurzo at his Blind Pig Brewery in Northern California.

Cilurzo would go on to found Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California, and brew Pliny the Elder, which many experts still consider the gold standard of the style. 

Pliny the Elder is an eight percent ABV double IPA brewed with a virtual truckload of Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ (Columbus, Tomahawk, Zeus), and Simcoe hops.

Despite its alcoholic strength and hop additions, the beer is brewed to be balanced and drinkable with an adjunct addition of more sugar in the brewing process instead of extra malt that would make this hop prominent drink too heavy.

Once a year, Russian River brewers brew a triple IPA, Pliny the Younger, which has an ABV of over 10 percent which is achieved by again more malt than an imperial IPA and is unlike india pale ales or double ipas, more a beer style unto itself. 

The name, Pliny the Elder, is in homage and reference to the First Century Roman Philosopher and naturalist who wrote the first encyclopedia and studied hops.

English IPA vs. American IPA

English IPA beers have a more pronounced malt profile compared to American IPA

IPA’s modern-day stardom has yielded the IPA many variations, from low-alcohol session IPAs to dark Black IPAs, and the newest craze, hazy, New England-style IPAs, but American IPAs are, in fact, a variation of the original IPA, which was first produced in what is now the United Kingdom, around the time the Industrial Revolution. 

The English IPA has the bitterness and elevated alcohol content that signifies the style but has a fruitier yeast character and a more pronounced malt profile. American IPAs do not have the yeast-derived esters that English IPAs do.

The malt is subdued to let the hop additions shine. The final difference between the English IPA and the American IPA is in the hop source and, therefore, flavor. 

American hops are grown primarily in the country’s Pacific Northwest, namely Washington and Oregon. Like grapes, hops present a unique regional character or terroir. Hops are often categorized by where they were developed.

American hop varieties are citrus-like, piney, and resinous. Classic American hops include Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Amarillo, and Simcoe.

English hop varieties are earthy and floral, with subtle fruit qualities. Classic English hop varieties in East Kent Golding and Fuggles. 

StyleABV rangeIBU range
English IPA4.5%-7.1%35-63
American IPA6.3%-7.5%50-70
Double IPA7.6%-10.6%65-100

Why are These Beers Called India Pale Ales?

The classic story behind the naming of an IPA (India Pale Ale) is actually a myth

What’s with the ‘India’ in India Pale Ale? If the beer style was first invented in England, why is it called an India Pale Ale?

India Pale Ale or IPA gets its name from a somewhat erroneous story of the ale’s origins. The report says that brewers in Britain couldn’t supply India, a colony of the British Empire at the time, with beer because the it spoiled due to the long voyage from the Empire to the settlement.

This was in the 1700s during the Industrial Revolution, when the use of pale malts was a recent innovation to many commercial brewers brewing for export.

Despite this, all types of brews arrived in India from Great Britain, and dark beers were reported to have shipped as far away as Russia.

Hodgson’s Bow Brewery

So if beer styles of all types was being sent by ship to India in good condition, why did India Pale Ale become known as IPA? Why wasn’t there India Porter Ale or India Mild?

Throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries, the Bow Brewery exported beer, primarily porter, to India. As Steele reports in IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale, historians have “uncovered absolutely zero evidence to support the idea that Hodgson’s (Bow Brewery’s owner) beer was formulated or invented specifically for exportation to India.”

The Bow Brewery did brew and export a pale ale (regular strength) to the colonies, but the term India pale ale did not appear in print until 1835. Before this, Hodgson promoted his brewery as making porter and pale ale.

It is more likely, Steele surmises, that pale ales just became the preferred over porter in India’s climate. Some 100 years later, news reports said Hodgson invented the India Pale Ale, but there is little proof to back that up.

Whether or not IPA was specifically brewed to survive a trip at sea or it was the innovation of pale malt and a change in consumer preference that spawned the IPA, we can’t discount the history and now the popularity of IPA today.

Every year, pundits call for a new style to reign supreme, but every year it is IPA that garners the most attention and is brewed the most by craft brewers. Double IPA is but a more recent variation of the popularity of the strong, intensely hoppy and hop forward beer.

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Andy Sparhawk is an avid beer lover and the former editor-in-chief for CraftBeer.com. Andy is the lead writer for The Beer Babe and lives in Westminster, Colorado, with his family. As beer enthusiast and experienced beer judge, he loves sharing his experiences with The Beer Babe's dedicated audience of beer enthusiasts.