What even is a Double IPA?
By: Bryan Donaldson, Brewing Innovation Manager
DIPA. An innocuous looking acronym (or maybe not so innocuous if you don’t like acronyms...). However, DIPA, or Double IPA, might cause some confusion. Do we literally mean double of an IPA? What the heck even is an IPA? How do we double it? To answer these questions, we are going to need to dive into a history lesson, then discuss how beer styles are set, and finally dive into the details of how these beers are made, what sets them apart, and how this led us to making Maximus.
If you have been into craft beer recently (or known any beer nerds who talk your head off) you have probably heard of the IPA style. Standing for India Pale Ale, the IPA styles is the most popular craft beer style by far. You have probably also heard some version of the history of this venerated style. Put succinctly, the most common version of the story goes something like this. In the late 18th and 19th centuries the English had created a vast global empire (we could go into the morality of imperialism, but this is neither the time nor the venue; however, this did allow English beer styles to spread around the world, something we craft brewers have benefited from). A large part of their empire was India, a country most of us think of as hot and muggy (ignoring the fact that the northern portion is temperate to cold mountains). Because of this, no one wanted to drink dark beers. However, they were not at the time producing beer in India, so all of it was produced in England for export to the expat and military community there. Some enterprising brewers figured out that by brewing to higher alcohol and adding more hops the beer would survive the journey to India better, hence the India Pale Ale (IPA) was born.
The problem is that story isn't technically correct. Porters and other dark beers were still exported and enjoyed abroad. But other styles, lighter in color were also shipped abroad, including one called an “October beer” from Bow Brewery, often called the original IPA (though this is debatable; record keeping on this front wasn’t always great). The reason the beer from Bow Brewery is considered the first comes mostly from the fact that the brewery was located close to the docks on the Thames close to where the ships from the East India Company docked, making it easy to get the beer on the ships. Often these beers were slightly higher in alcohol, but by no means considered “strong” beers compared to others of the times. They were also slightly higher hopped, which did help with microbial stability. However, the biggest advantage these beers had came from the type of malts used in production. They used lighter, more highly attenuatable, malts, leading to less residual sugar, meaning less food for unwanted organisms to feed on and spoil the beer, meaning these beers transported better, but so did any beer, even lighter in alcohol, made from these types of malt.
A traditional IPA label from mid-19th century England.
A segue on malt. Malt is malted barley. This is barley that has been germinated, then dried. This process unlocks sugars and enzymes that we use in the brewing process to create alcohol. Malts that are lighter in color are dried at lower temperatures and hold onto more of their enzymes, letting more of the longer chain sugars be broken down in mashing to fermentable sugars used by yeast. Without going more into the brewing process, suffice it to say that changes in malting process creating lighter malts allowed for more fermentable wort, leading to drier (less residual sugar) beers, such as IPA.
So, by the mid-19th century, the IPA style was in much demand in England and abroad, being a beer with slightly higher hops and alcohol than porters and most ales. But, if you have been drinking recent craft IPAs, you might hardly recognize these beers as IPAs, being closer in style to something like a number of Belgian hoppy ales.
So how do we get to double IPA? Well, as with most things craft beer related, we must now shift to the United States. Starting in the late 20th century the craft beer revolution was in full swing in the States, leading to experimentation in many of the “old” British ale styles (as opposed to the lager brewing style out of Germany, which has dominated global beer for the past 150 years). Starting in about 1994 Lagunitas decided to make IPA the center piece of its portfolio, using American hops such as Chinook and Cascade at the time to create a dry, hoppy beer. From there it was just a matter of time before people took that style and amped it up. The creation of the DIPA is attributed to another Sonoma County brewer at his previous brewery in Temescal, CA, so you can really see the modern IPA and DIPA as creations of California!
So, how do we currently define these beer styles? In all honesty, beer style is all in the eye of the beholder, or more technically, the brewer. However, there are a handful of organizations that have taken it upon themselves to codify styles, most notable the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and the Brewers Association (BA). Using BJCP, we see English IPA described as a “hoppy, moderately-strong, very well attenuated pale British ale with a dry finish and a hoppy aroma and flavor. Classic British ingredients provide the best flavor profile.”. For an American IPA, we have “a decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale, showcasing modern American or New World hop varieties. The balance is hop forward, with a clean fermentation profile, dryish finish, and clean, supporting malt allowing a creative range of hop character to shine through.” And finally, for DIPA, we have an “intensely hoppy, fairly strong pale ale without the big, rich, complex maltiness and residual sweetness and body of an American barleywine. Strongly hopped, but clean, dry, and lacking harshness. Drinkability is an important characteristic.”
Typical parameters for various IPA styles.
What we see is there is typically some overlap between the various IPA styles, including Double IPA. On the extreme edges, you could say that a double IPA has double the alcohol and bitterness, but usually it is more of a 1.33-1.66X increase. What you really want out of a double IPA is more bang for your buck, in flavor and in stats.
As brewers, it might seem simple to make a double IPA; just pump up all the ingredients a set amount and you are good to go! In all reality, it is a bit more complicated (but as a homebrewer, this isn’t a bad way to start; keep good notes and tweak as you go). On the brewhouse side, there are a couple of things to consider. Say you are using a portion of caramel malt in your IPA. You decide to make a double IPA by just upping your malt bill proportionally across the board. With this you are going to likely end with too much crystal malt character, making the beer sickly sweet and not dry and drinkable as it should be. You need to analyze your malt bill and make the appropriate adjustments. Maybe you use a smaller proportion of slightly darker crystal malt to maintain color without overwhelming flavor. Another consideration is hop charge. An increase in hops does not necessarily equate to proportional increase in IBU; the solubility of alpha and iso-alpha acids into a water solution is not a linear correlation to pounds used. You risk running into highly vegetal character that doesn’t fit with the style. For this reason, you find many craft brewers using hop extract; this concentrated product lets you get the IBUs without the vegetation. Lastly, you need to consider the dry hop. The same issues can plague you here as do in the brewhouse, namely that increasing the dry hop with the same hops can lead to an overly vegetal flavor. Here is a good place to consider supplementing your traditional dry hop with some of the newer, more flavorful, varieties (for a discussion on this, see our Dual vs Single Hop article!).
All of this leads us to Maximus, Lagunitas’ newly redesigned colossal IPA. To make this beer we added more 2-row malt and wheat, while keeping a restrained amount of caramel malt. This results in a drier finish and more drinkable beer. We also use hop extract in the brewhouse to get good efficiency on our IBU extraction. On the dry-hop side, we mix in some newer hops, as well as an overall increase in pounds per barrel of hops used. All of this leads to a beer with 9% ABV and 60.5 IBU that is scarily drinkable and full of flavor. Go out and enjoy one today!