American IPA vs. Double IPA: What’s the Difference?

Hey beer lovers! Have you ever wondered about the difference between an American IPA and a Double IPA? These two styles of India Pale Ales (IPAs) offer unique flavors and strengths.

Think of them as siblings—similar but each with its own personality. Let’s dive into the world of IPAs and discover what sets these two apart.

History and Background

Origins of the IPA Style

IPAs originated in England in the 18th century when brewers added extra hops to preserve beer during long sea voyages to India. This hop-forward style eventually made its way to America, where it evolved into something uniquely different.

Development of the American IPA

American IPAs emerged in the late 20th century, characterized by their bold hop flavors and aromatic profiles. American brewers embraced local hop varieties like Cascade, giving these beers their distinctive citrus and pine notes.

Emergence of the Double IPA

The Double IPA, also known as Imperial IPA, was developed as brewers sought to push the boundaries of hop intensity and alcohol content. Think of it as an amped-up version of the American IPA—bigger, bolder, and more intense.

Key Influences and Milestones

Both styles have influenced the craft beer movement significantly. The introduction of iconic beers like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Russian River’s Pliny the Elder has set the standard for these styles, pushing the boundaries of flavor and strength.

Characteristics of American IPAs


American IPAs typically have a golden to amber color with excellent clarity and a frothy white head. They look as bright and refreshing as a clear summer day.


Expect bold citrus, pine, and floral aromas. Imagine walking through a pine forest with a basket of fresh citrus fruits—invigorating and lively.

Flavor Profile

American IPAs are known for their hop-forward flavors, balanced by a light malt backbone. Each sip reveals layers of grapefruit, pine, and tropical fruits. It’s like a flavor explosion—bold, zesty, and refreshing.


These beers have a medium body with high carbonation, providing a crisp and clean mouthfeel. It’s like sipping on a sparkling beverage with a bitter kick.

Notable Examples and Breweries

Iconic examples include Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Stone IPA, and Lagunitas IPA. These breweries have set the standard for what an American IPA should be.

Characteristics of Double IPAs


Double IPAs are usually a deeper amber or copper color, with a more substantial head and excellent clarity. They look as rich and inviting as a sunset.


The aroma of Double IPAs is intense, with strong notes of citrus, resin, and sometimes even tropical fruits. It’s like a concentrated burst of hop fragrance—powerful and heady.

Flavor Profile

Double IPAs offer a robust hop bitterness, balanced by a higher malt sweetness. Each sip is a complex dance of bold hop flavors and sweet malt. It’s like savoring a rich, flavorful dish—intense, satisfying, and deeply enjoyable.


These beers have a fuller body and higher alcohol content, providing a smooth and slightly warming mouthfeel. It’s like sipping on a strong, flavorful cocktail—bold, warming, and satisfying.

Notable Examples and Breweries

Standout examples include Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, and Bell’s Hopslam. These breweries are known for their mastery of the Double IPA style.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Visual Comparison of Appearance

When you pour an American IPA and a Double IPA side by side, the difference is noticeable. The American IPA is lighter and brighter, while the Double IPA is deeper and richer.

It’s like comparing a clear day to a vibrant sunset—both beautiful but in different ways.

Comparative Analysis of Aroma and Flavor Profiles

Taking a whiff of each reveals the American IPA’s citrus and pine notes versus the Double IPA’s intense, resinous aroma.

Tasting them shows the American IPA’s crisp bitterness against the Double IPA’s bold, complex flavor.

Differences in Brewing Techniques and Ingredients

American IPAs use a variety of American hops for their distinctive aroma and flavor, while Double IPAs use even more hops and malt to achieve their higher bitterness and alcohol content.

Each style reflects its brewing techniques and ingredients.

Overall Experience and Mouthfeel Comparison

Drinking an American IPA is like a refreshing walk through a citrus grove—crisp and invigorating. A Double IPA, on the other hand, feels like a rich, intense adventure—bold and satisfying.

Popular Commercial Examples

American IPAs

1. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a benchmark for the APA style, with bold citrus and pine aromas and a balanced malt backbone. It’s like taking a refreshing hike through a pine forest—invigorating, vibrant, and full of life.

2. Stone IPA

Stone IPA offers a robust hop character with notes of grapefruit and pine, balanced by a smooth malt sweetness. Imagine biting into a juicy fruit salad—fresh, zesty, and exciting.

3. Lagunitas IPA

Lagunitas IPA is a classic West Coast IPA, known for its balanced flavors and bright hop profile. It’s like enjoying a perfectly executed dance of flavors—crisp, clear, and utterly satisfying.

Double IPAs

1. Russian River’s Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder is a legendary Double IPA known for its intense hop character and smooth malt balance. Each sip is like a symphony of flavors—bold, harmonious, and deeply satisfying.

2. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA offers a rich, malty backbone with a high hop bitterness, creating a complex and rewarding drinking experience. It’s like savoring a gourmet meal—layered, rich, and intensely flavorful.

3. Bell’s Hopslam

Bell’s Hopslam is renowned for its powerful hop aroma and flavor, complemented by a touch of honey sweetness. Think of it as a bold adventure in a glass—exciting, daring, and utterly unforgettable.

Pairing IPAs with Food

Best Food Pairings for American IPAs

American IPAs pair wonderfully with bold, flavorful dishes. Here are some pairing ideas:

  • Spicy Foods: The bitterness of the IPA balances the heat, creating a harmonious blend of flavors.
  • Grilled Meats: The robust hop flavors complement the char and richness of grilled meats.
  • Aged Cheeses: The intense hop bitterness cuts through the richness of aged cheeses, creating a delightful contrast.

Best Food Pairings for Double IPAs

Double IPAs are versatile and pair well with a variety of dishes. Here are some pairing ideas:

  • Rich, Savory Foods: The bold flavors of Double IPAs complement the richness of hearty dishes like steak or lamb.
  • Spicy Foods: The high hop bitterness balances out the heat of spicy dishes, creating a balanced flavor profile.
  • Sweet Desserts: The slight sweetness in some Double IPAs can complement rich, sweet desserts, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.

Homebrewing American and Double IPAs

Basic Recipes for Each Style

American IPA Recipe

  • Ingredients:
  • Pale malt
  • Crystal malt
  • Hops (like Cascade or Citra)
  • Yeast (American ale yeast)
  • Water


  1. Mash the grains at 150°F (65°C) for 60 minutes.
  2. Boil the wort, adding hops for bitterness and aroma.
  3. Cool the wort and pitch the yeast.
  4. Ferment at 68°F (20°C) for about two weeks.
  5. Dry hop for additional hop aroma.
  6. Bottle or keg, carbonate, and enjoy!

Double IPA Recipe

  • Ingredients:
  • Pale malt
  • Crystal malt
  • Hops (like Centennial, Simcoe, and Amarillo)
  • Yeast (American ale yeast)
  • Water


  1. Mash the grains at 152°F (67°C) for 60 minutes.
  2. Boil the wort, adding hops for bitterness and aroma.
  3. Cool the wort and pitch the yeast.
  4. Ferment at 68°F (20°C) for about two weeks.
  5. Dry hop during fermentation for maximum aroma.
  6. Bottle or keg, carbonate, and enjoy!

Tips and Tricks

  • American IPA: Use high-quality hops and consider dry hopping for extra aroma. Ensure a clean fermentation to avoid off-flavors.
  • Double IPA: Balance the higher malt sweetness with aggressive hopping. Maintain proper fermentation temperatures to handle the higher alcohol content.

Common Challenges

  • American IPA: Achieving the right balance of hop bitterness and malt sweetness can be tricky. Use high-quality ingredients and control fermentation temperatures for best results.
  • Double IPA: Maintaining clarity while achieving bold hop flavors requires careful brewing techniques. Use fining agents and proper yeast management to avoid haze and off-flavors.

Trends in IPA Styles

Current Trends

IPAs continue to evolve with new trends emerging in the craft beer scene. Session IPAs, hazy IPAs, and single-hop IPAs are gaining popularity, offering a variety of flavors and styles for beer enthusiasts to explore.

Future Predictions

Expect more innovation in IPA styles, with brewers experimenting with new hop varieties, yeast strains, and brewing techniques.

Sustainability and local sourcing will also play a bigger role, with brewers focusing on eco-friendly practices and ingredients to meet the growing demand for environmentally conscious products.


To wrap things up, understanding the differences between American IPA and Double IPA can enhance your appreciation of these popular styles.

Whether you prefer the balanced hop character of an American IPA or the bold intensity of a Double IPA, there’s a world of flavor to explore.

So next time you’re at the bar or brewing at home, try both styles and savor the unique characteristics of each. Cheers!

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