Imperial India Pale Ale

Imperial India Pale Ale: Exploring the Rich History and Bold Flavors

Imperial India Pale Ale, often referred to as Imperial IPA or simply IPA, is a popular and distinct variation of the traditional India Pale Ale. This bolder and more flavorful version of the standard IPA is known for its increased hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma. The origins of Imperial IPA can be traced back to the popularity of pale ales in England during the 18th century, which later led to the development of India Pale Ale as an export beer to supply British troops stationed in India.

Imperial India Pale Ale

Over time, the Imperial IPA has evolved into a robust and highly sought after craft beer, attracting enthusiasts and brewers alike with its strong hop profile and higher alcohol content. As this style of beer has gained popularity, several sub-categories of the IPA have emerged, each with its own unique characteristics and charm. The diversity in hops varieties, such as Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook, often used in various combinations, further enhances the flavor profiles and keeps drinkers coming back for more.

Key Takeaways

  • Imperial India Pale Ale is a bolder and more flavorful version of the traditional IPA, with higher hop bitterness and aroma
  • The style originated from British pale ales and has evolved into a popular craft beer with several sub-categories
  • The diverse range of hops used, including Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook, contributes to the unique flavors and characteristics of Imperial IPA

History of Imperial India Pale Ale

Origin of India Pale Ale

India Pale Ale (IPA) is a popular beer style known for its strong hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma. It evolved from the traditional pale ale but gained its fame due to its unique history. In the 18th and 19th centuries, British brewers had difficulty exporting their pale ales to India – a thriving British colony – because the long, hot voyage would spoil the beer. To combat this issue, they increased the alcohol content and added more hops, both of which acted as natural preservatives. This resulted in the creation of the India Pale Ale, a style that could withstand the journey to India and still retain its desirable characteristics.

Evolution of Imperial IPA

The Imperial IPA (also known as Double IPA) is an American invention that emerged in the 1990s. It was created by microbrewers who wanted to push the boundaries of what beer could be. Vinnie Cilurzo, now the owner of Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California, is credited with its origin back in 1994.

As the name implies, Imperial IPA is a more robust and striking version of the traditional IPA. It encompasses a higher alcohol content, typically ranging from 7.5% to 10% ABV or higher, and features increased hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma. The style showcases any variety of hops, allowing for diverse and unique flavor profiles.

The Imperial IPA has become a staple in the craft beer industry, with many breweries producing their own take on this style. Famous Imperial IPA brands include Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA, Stone Brewing’s Ruination, and Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Company.

Characteristics of Imperial India Pale Ale

Aroma and Taste

Imperial India Pale Ales (IPAs) are known for their prominent hop cone aromas and flavors. The bitterness in these beers is intense and assertive, giving the beer a rich and complex profile. Alongside the hoppy notes, you can expect to find fruity esters and a strong malt backbone that balances the intensity of the hops. Some common flavors include grapefruit, peach, pine, and tropical fruit.


The appearance of an Imperial IPA can range from deep gold to deep amber in color. This darker hue distinguishes it from the lighter-colored American IPAs. The beer often has a frothy head, which adds to its visual appeal and texture.

Alcohol Content

Imperial IPAs have a higher alcohol by volume (ABV) than typical IPAs. This elevated alcohol content contributes to the overall flavor profile, giving the beer a warming and substantial character. Imperial IPAs can have an ABV ranging from around 7.5% to 10% or even higher. This makes them more potent, and they are often best enjoyed in smaller servings to appreciate the depth of flavors and complexity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an IPA and an Imperial IPA?

An IPA, or India Pale Ale, is a hoppy style of beer with moderate alcohol content, typically between 5% and 7.5% ABV. On the other hand, an Imperial IPA (or IIPA) has a higher alcohol content, usually ranging between 7.6% and 10.6% ABV. These beers are also more robust, malty, and have a more intense hop profile in terms of both taste and aroma.

What’s the difference between an Imperial IPA and a Double IPA?

There isn’t much difference between an Imperial IPA and a Double IPA (DIPA), as these terms are often used interchangeably. Both styles denote a stronger and hoppier version of a regular IPA, with a higher alcohol content and richer flavor profile.

How did the name ‘India Pale Ale’ originate?

The name ‘India Pale Ale’ traces back to the 18th century when British brewers sought a beer that could withstand the long journey to India. They developed a pale ale with a higher hop content, which acted as a natural preservative, giving the beer its distinct flavor and the name ‘India Pale Ale.’

How does an Imperial IPA differ from a Pale Ale?

While both Imperial IPAs and Pale Ales fall under the broader category of pale ales, they have distinct differences. Pale Ales are generally lighter in flavor, color, and alcohol content. They range between 4-6.5% ABV and have a bitterness level of around 25-45 IBUs. Imperial IPAs, however, are stronger, with a higher alcohol content (7.6%-10.6% ABV), and a more intense hop character, ranging between 65-100 IBUs in bitterness.

What is the history of Imperial IPAs?

The history of Imperial IPAs dates back to the 1990s when American craft brewers started experimenting with the traditional IPA style. They began increasing the hops and malt content, resulting in a more robust and intense flavor profile. This marked the beginning of the Imperial IPA, a style that rapidly gained popularity among craft beer enthusiasts.

What sets Imperial IPAs apart from Hazy IPAs?

Imperial IPAs are characterized by their strength, rich maltiness, and intense hop character, whereas Hazy IPAs, also known as New England IPAs or NEIPAs, are known for their hazy appearance and juicy, fruity hop flavor. While both styles are hop-forward, Hazy IPAs tend to have a softer bitterness and a focus on hop aroma and flavor rather than the aggressive bitterness often associated with Imperial IPAs.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *