Imperial IPA – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Beer Styles Glossary

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I. What is an Imperial IPA?

Imperial IPA, also known as Double IPA, is a style of beer that is characterized by a high alcohol content and an intense hop flavor. It is a variation of the traditional India Pale Ale (IPA) that was first brewed in England in the 19th century. The Imperial IPA style has gained popularity in recent years among craft beer enthusiasts for its bold and robust flavors.

II. History of Imperial IPA

The history of Imperial IPA can be traced back to the early 1990s when American craft brewers began experimenting with higher alcohol content and increased hop levels in their IPAs. The term “Imperial” was used to signify that these beers were stronger and more intense than traditional IPAs.

One of the first breweries to popularize the Imperial IPA style was the now-defunct Blind Pig Brewery in California. Their “Double IPA” was a hit among beer drinkers and inspired other breweries to create their own versions of this bold and hoppy style.

III. Characteristics of Imperial IPA

Imperial IPAs are known for their strong hop aroma and flavor, which is achieved through the use of a large amount of hops during the brewing process. These hops impart floral, citrus, pine, and resinous notes to the beer, creating a complex and intense flavor profile.

In addition to the hop character, Imperial IPAs typically have a higher alcohol content than traditional IPAs, ranging from 7.5% to 10% ABV or higher. This higher alcohol content helps to balance out the bitterness of the hops and adds a warming sensation to the beer.

Imperial IPAs are often medium to full-bodied with a moderate to high level of carbonation. They can range in color from pale gold to deep amber, depending on the malt used in the brewing process.

IV. Brewing Process of Imperial IPA

The brewing process for Imperial IPA is similar to that of traditional IPAs, with a few key differences. To achieve the higher alcohol content and intense hop flavor of an Imperial IPA, brewers use a larger amount of malt and hops in the recipe.

The malt bill for an Imperial IPA typically includes pale malt as the base, along with specialty malts such as crystal malt or Munich malt to add complexity and sweetness to the beer. The use of these specialty malts helps to balance out the bitterness of the hops and create a more well-rounded flavor profile.

In terms of hops, Imperial IPAs are brewed with a combination of high-alpha acid hops such as Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe, and Citra. These hops are added at various stages of the brewing process, including during the boil, in the whirlpool, and as dry hops during fermentation. This multi-stage hopping process helps to extract maximum flavor and aroma from the hops, resulting in a bold and aromatic beer.

V. Serving and Pairing Suggestions for Imperial IPA

Imperial IPAs are best served in a tulip or snifter glass to concentrate the aromas and flavors of the beer. They should be poured at a slightly warmer temperature than traditional IPAs, around 45-50°F, to allow the complex flavors to shine.

When it comes to food pairings, Imperial IPAs are a versatile beer that can complement a wide range of dishes. The intense hop character of the beer pairs well with spicy foods such as curry, barbecue, and Mexican cuisine. The higher alcohol content also makes Imperial IPAs a good match for rich and savory dishes like burgers, steak, and grilled meats.

For cheese pairings, Imperial IPAs go well with sharp and aged cheeses such as cheddar, gouda, and blue cheese. The hop bitterness of the beer helps to cut through the richness of the cheese and cleanse the palate between bites.

In conclusion, Imperial IPA is a bold and flavorful beer style that has gained a loyal following among craft beer enthusiasts. With its intense hop aroma and flavor, higher alcohol content, and complex malt profile, Imperial IPA offers a unique and satisfying drinking experience for those who enjoy a hop-forward beer.