On the Brewing of Double IPAs

Things have been quiet around here for the last few months. A combination of insane travel schedules and work responsibilities have left me very little time to brew. In fact, I have just two things happening at the moment: w00tstout in secondary (on bourbon-soaked oak chips), and Pompey the Great on draft.

The Pompey The Great (my name for Northern Brewer’s Plinian Legacy) I made is on tap in the game room, now, and it’s delicious. I’m finding that I love double IPAs more than their traditional counterparts because of the malt sweetness that balances the bitterness. Don’t get me wrong — I still love a good Ruination from time to time — but DIPAs like Pliny and Firestone’s Double Jack (and the limited-release Double DBA, if you can find it) are rapidly becoming my go-to choices.

So let’s talk a little bit about the things we need to consider when we’re making a double IPA, as opposed to a traditional IPA. These notes primarily apply to all-grain, but there’s advice for extracts in here, too:

  • I was very surprised when I did my extract Plinian Legacy, because after the boil was finished, I had a thick, sticky, extremely viscous mass in my kettle. It really looked like I’d done something wrong and wrecked the brew, until I collected everything out of the kettle (I had to scrape it out with a spatula, it was so thick) and topped it off. It was very useful to have Brewsmith on hand to make sure I used the right amount of water to top up.
  • Following on from that first point: don’t panic if your extract kit seems to be super-concentrated at the end of the boil; once you top up, it’ll be fine.
  • In fact, when you top up, put about a gallon and a half into the fermenter before you add the wort, and then top it off with water. This way you’ll minimize striation and get a more accurate hydrometer reading.
  • Our mash time will probably be closer to 90 minutes than 60, because we need to extract more sugars to hit our target gravity. This also means that our sparge will be longer, and we’ll need to be very patient during the entire lautering process.
  • Plan on losing a gallon per hour to boiloff, and another gallon to dead space in your kettle, and collect eight gallons of wort if you can (be careful that you don’t make it too thin). Most double IPAs need 90 minute boils, and it’s always better to have more wort left in the kettle than make a sadface when it’s time to fill the fermenter.
  • Keep an eye on your hops. When we do double IPAs, we end up using way more hops than in a traditional IPA, and if you don’t weigh out and bag your additions ahead of time, it’s surprisingly easy to let things get mixed up.
  • Be prepared to stir your boil. The extra sugars in these brews make it dangerously easy to boilover.
  • Aerate the hell out of your wort before you pitch. I use a stainless steel stone with an aquarium pump, and usually aerate for thirty minutes.
  • Speaking of pitching, I always double pitch when I do a beer this big, because my OG is usually around 1.086 or so, and I want my yeasties to go nuts as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t rush your primary. Sometimes it can take up to two weeks for the yeast to do all of its work, and even then you may want to give it a day or two to clean up after itself. These beers can get really boozy.
  • Nearly all double IPAs use dry hop additions in secondary. While you can use a bucket or standard glass carboy for secondary, I freaking love my Big Mouth Bubblers, because it makes dropping in the hops bags easy, and clean up is stupidly simple. After trying to pull a swollen hops bag out of the neck of an older glass carboy, and ending up wearing a hops explosion, I will never go back.
  • I like to weigh down my hops bags with some sanitized marbles. DO NOT USE LEAD FISHING WEIGHTS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY DO I EVEN HAVE TO SAY THIS.
  • I like to get my beer out of secondary on a tight 10 day schedule, so that I get the maximum hop aroma possible when I finally drink the beer.
  • Remember, double IPAs are delicious, and if you’ve balanced them out properly, you may not even realize that you’re drinking a beer that can be upwards of 9% ABV. Keep an eye on that when you’re enjoying your homebrew, and beware of Bad Idea Bears.

I really love this beer style, and I’ve always found that it’s worth the wait. Happy homebrewing!

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