The Double IPA – What I Learned … So Far

Being the novice of Beerlandia in a group of makers, buyers, and daily guzzlers of the stuff, I am encouraged by them, and my own unyielding curiosity, to learn as much as I can about barley, hoppy, yeasty goodness – and to be perfectly honest, it’s tons of fun.

During our first podcast we touched upon something that has nothing to do with taste, body, or recipes, but rather the name of certain beers. One I find most fascinating is the double IPA, not because of the history of these Imperial brews, which are so named because during transport to the Russian empire, beer would freeze, so to remedy the situation, and save the heads* of many a messenger of the frozen stuff, the brewers figured out that a higher alcohol content would keep the beer safe when travelling in lower temperatures (ah science, how I love thee) but, because so many people get wrong why it’s called a double IPA.

Pavel Petrovich, later emperor of Russia - Photo courtesy of iamachild.wordpress.com

My research involved a bit of noodling and surfing the interwebs, plus a couple of live on site interviews with known brewers, and bartenders. So now that I’ve done most of the heavy lifting, you need look no further to get the correct answer. But first, how many of you thought, “Duh, it’s double the hops bro!” ? Okay, those of you with your hands in the air are wrong … sort of.  While your double IPA may be on the hoppier side it does not mean the hops have been doubled – because, well frankly, doubled from what? What the brewers told  me is that the measure of hops does not make an IPA Imperial, or rather, while having a hop-full flavor the word “double” is in no way referencing the measure of hops. The bartenders all agreed that the Imperial stamp is honored by those at about a 7% abv or higher, both the brewer and bartender are right.

“So why is it called Double IPA bro!?”

“‘I’mperial ‘I’ndia Pale Ale.” I know. Two I’s, that’s it, that’s all it means. There are two I’s in the name. It makes sense, I mean rather than call it an IIPA some marketing genius thought using the word “double” would make consumers drawn to the possibility that they are getting twice as much, it didn’t matter what, but saying “double” just makes it better, right? Not always … but in this case YES! I am a fan of the Imperials, and all I really have is gratitude for that marketing guy, or gal, gratitude for the merciless beer loving rulers of the north, and gratitude for the brewers who, centuries later, refine and continue to craft outstanding pale ale yummyness!

*I in fact do not know that messengers who delivered frozen beer were beheaded. I just thought they should have been.