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What are "Double" beers?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by hopscrazy, Oct 5, 2013.

  1. Someone asked me today what it means when a beer is a 'double' as in double IPA, double brown ale, etc. I was not sure, does it relate to when a beer is 'imperial'?

    Beer nerds unite and let me know the answer. Please.

    Cheers!
    creepinjeeper likes this.
  2. spoonhawk

    spoonhawk Savant (345) Iowa Dec 3, 2010

    It is, for all intents and purposes, short hand for higher gravity and or higher ABV. So yes, it would be interchangeable with imperial.
  3. umustdrink

    umustdrink Savant (275) Minnesota Oct 24, 2006

    It's marketing jargon. I think Don Draper invented it.
  4. Biffster

    Biffster Savant (365) Michigan Mar 29, 2004

    It used to be that "Imperial" as in Imperial Stout, meant a style bigger and higher in alcohol, but not just a stepped up version of the style. Specifically, it came from Russian Imperial Stout, allegedly made in England stronger and more intense for shipment by sea to Imperial Russia. Traditional Russian Imperial Stout would not actually be the same as a "double" stout. It is a lot more roasty and burnt than a stepped up version of dry stout would be.

    Any more though, they are essentially interchangeable.
    utopiajane likes this.
  5. mitch3114

    mitch3114 Savant (290) New York Feb 20, 2012

    ...can be used for pretty much any American beer style 8% and over. Interchangeable with "imperial."

    Double IPA, porter, stout, etc. pretty much a marketable synonym for "strong."
  6. djsmith1174

    djsmith1174 Savant (450) Minnesota Aug 21, 2005

    I think the 8% ABV and up is a good indicator of "imperial" or "double" strength. Other than some of the Brewdog "beers", those should be labelled "spirits". :p
    mitch3114 likes this.
  7. It means strong. The only dividing line between normal and double/imperial beers is one of credibility i.e. can we get away with calling this an imperial beer without people laughing at us?
    doowhat and PaulQuinn like this.
  8. PaulyB83

    PaulyB83 Savant (460) Michigan Sep 1, 2013

    Doesn't a true double have double the ingredients of the single recipe but with the same amount of water?
  9. Been in use for ages, I'm sure there were some recipes on Ron's site for some old american double ales from the early 19th century. There's been loads of double stouts as well from the uk in the past, but I think they were separate from the Imperial ones, being usually slightly weaker, but still strong

    Harveys have an Imperial Extra Double Stout, just to muddy the waters further
    Chaz, Dupage25 and TongoRad like this.
  10. Hook Norton Double Stout is 4.8%, much weaker than, say, Acorn Gorlovka Imperial Stout, which clocks in at a massive 6%!
  11. What to drink after returning your rental car if you're a member of Hertz No. 1 Club Gold Plus. I'm reminded of a a funny line from a novel character about rising intolerance of consumers demanding 'virgin, than extra virgin, then extra extra virgin olive oil'. Looking forward to a Quadruply holy Roman imperial extra virgin 290-minute superpale aaaale. Anyway. Michael Jackson attributed the "double" to brewers' markings on the barrels of their beers to note strength and maturation, not necessarily 2x anything, but there was a rough idea that a typical brewery lineup would be 3, 6 and 9 degrees.
    Roguer likes this.
  12. drtth

    drtth Champion (830) Pennsylvania Nov 25, 2007

    No, its not quite that simple.
  13. Swik

    Swik Savant (290) Indiana Oct 2, 2012

    You're thinking specifically of double crooked tree, I like the idea of this being what a double is... It just makes sense!!
    Dope and PaulyB83 like this.
  14. It just means that grain out that day is going to be more back breaking.
    rather likes this.
  15. Dope

    Dope Advocate (545) Massachusetts Oct 5, 2010

    One of the very few (only?) brews that is a true "double", IMO.

    Dope
    PaulyB83 likes this.
  16. Dupage25

    Dupage25 Savant (305) Antarctica Jul 4, 2013

    Triple/Double/Imperial/Extra are all synonymous with "stronger than usual" in American beer jargon (unless we're specifically talking about tripel and dubbel). The demarcation line between regular and stronger will vary by whatever the hell the brewery wants it to be. I typically consider anything 7.5% or higher to be in imperial territory, but that's just me and I make exceptions anyway. Beer is a spectrum.
    Greywulfken likes this.
  17. To me it all means "bigger". Bigger malt bill, bigger hop profile, bigger abv, bigger flavor profiles, bigger cost to the brewery/consumer ect. ect. That was how I explained Heady Topper and BCBS to my girlfriend and her dad, and they seemed to get it.
  18. atomic

    atomic Savant (415) Illinois Sep 22, 2009

    "Double" in "double IPA" stands for Imperial IPA, which is sometimes called IIPA or "Double -I. P. A."
    Imperial refers to the Russian Imperial court for whom stronger brews where made for, I think that only applied to stouts back in the day, but I guess its gone on to mean any beer brewed at a higher ABV in todays brewing scene. Obviously these beers are no longer brewed for the Russian Czars.
  19. double beers is a quart
  20. BlueRogue

    BlueRogue Advocate (615) Maine May 1, 2011

    Double your pleasure, double your fun.
    kingofhop likes this.

  21. Whoa. Never though of the double being a reference to the two I's in IIPA. Matrix-style mind-blown there.
  22. Hrodebert

    Hrodebert Savant (280) Michigan Sep 2, 2013

    That's my kinda thinking.
  23. BPGEFL

    BPGEFL Aficionado (100) Virginia Aug 14, 2013

    So, explain then the mening of "tripel" and "dubbel." I've always wondered...
  24. vthippie

    vthippie Aficionado (180) Vermont Dec 18, 2012

    Had countless discussions about this, seems that the use of double over imperial was a result of the double IPA meaning two I's (IIPA) but was then expanded to be used (all be it erroneously) among all styles and the usage is now more closely associated with the Trappist naming convention than it is to it's origins as an Imperial beer. I have argued incessantly that there is no such thing as a triple IPA but I give up, drinking a Green Bullet now, if the brewers what to call it a triple I'll just suck it up and suck it down.
  25. patto1ro

    patto1ro Advocate (500) Netherlands Apr 26, 2004

    In ascending order of strength it's Porter, Single Stout, Double Stout, Triple Stout and Imperial Stout.
    azorie, Chaz and boddhitree like this.
  26. Except, in the modern craft beer age*, the use of the term "Double IPA" (coinage credited to Vinnie Cilurzo who brewed several at the Blind Pig Brewing Co. [pre-Russian River] in the early '90s) predates the use of the Imperial India Pale Ale terminology.

    * Some 19th century UK IPAs were called "Imperial" but that was more a reference to the Crown, than an indication of more alcoholic strength than other IPAs.
    [​IMG]
    Chaz likes this.
  27. patto1ro

    patto1ro Advocate (500) Netherlands Apr 26, 2004

    There was also Imperial Mild in the 19th century.
    azorie likes this.
  28. HenrikO

    HenrikO Aficionado (205) Sweden Jun 19, 2011

    I've heard that the term "Dubbel" (used to describe a higher-ABV Belgian beer) comes from the need to double the amount of malt in the recipe in order to increase the alcohol content (Trippel and Quadrupel would then refer to tripling/quadrupling the amount of malt). Nowadays, of course, the breweries just add more sugar instead of relying on the starch of the malt turning into sugar which then turns into alcohol.

    This is probably a fiction and I have no source for it. A good beer historian will set me straight, I'm sure.
    utopiajane likes this.
  29. utopiajane

    utopiajane Champion (860) New York Jun 11, 2013

    That is also my understanding of the words dubbel and tripel. It has to do with the alcohol content.
  30. drtth

    drtth Champion (830) Pennsylvania Nov 25, 2007

    BPGEFL and utopiajane like this.
  31. drtth

    drtth Champion (830) Pennsylvania Nov 25, 2007

    Source?
  32. drtth

    drtth Champion (830) Pennsylvania Nov 25, 2007

  33. Steele's IPA discusses the somewhat blurry history of the creation of the first double/Imperial IPAs in which even the two brewers, Ciluzo and Rogue's Maier, cannot remember whose was first. Rogue's was called IIPA, but Steele makes no mention of what the first initial "I" stood for, but quotes a Rogue retailer as saying it was called "I-Squared Pale Ale" and that agrees with the label and description from a 1998 Rogue promo piece (below).

    [​IMG]

    So even if Rogue's was called "Imperial" and came out before BP's, there is no suggestion that Ciluzo's term "Double IPA" refers to the two letter "I's" in Imperial IPA, but I suppose someone could easily confirm or disprove that by asking him.
    Roguer and drtth like this.
  34. azorie likes this.
  35. Roguer

    Roguer Champion (870) Connecticut Mar 25, 2013

    Great discussion. JessKidden's awesome exposition of the origin of the terms (which came first the chicke....errr, the double or the imperial?) aside, modern craft double IPAs almost exclusively mean two letter Is, the first being Imperial. Thus, interchangeable.

    This is perhaps less so with stouts. I rarely see (or hear) a stout referred to as a double, and when I do, they typically do not also call it an imperial (e.g. Young's Double Chocolate Stout, which seems to absolutely not be an imperial stout). Both are marketing terms that are going to imply that the beer is bigger, stronger, and darker, but I don't know if they're fully interchangeable.

    (As an aside, it's fun to remember that the term "Stout" itself initially meant the same thing. A stout wasn't necessarily a dark beer at all; it was a bigger, stronger version of any established style. Stouts eventually became associated with the porter style, and that's where they're at now; although they've evolved to put some distance between their close cousins (porters), there's still quite a bit of similarity.)

    Third, Belgians. Tradition holds that the terms Dubbel and Tripel referred to marking the casks with two or three Xs, implying greater degrees of strength (not beers that were literally double or triple in strength). Now, a Tripel has a distinct flavor, being far removed from Dubs and Quads, and there is certainly some overlap in ABV from brewer to brewer, so if I grab a Tripel, I know exactly what kind of beer I'm expecting, and it is NOT a stronger version of a Belgian dark ale.

    It's also worth noting that the Tripel, as we know it, seems to date specifically to Westmalle, who started brewing this style in the 1930s. Abbey ales are old, old, old, but the pale blonde, citrusy, hoppy, yeasty, sugary concoction we all know and love is very new on the scene. That doesn't mean that the XX/XXX convention is apocryphal; rather, like stout, double, and imperial, the term Tripel has evolved to a certain association in modern usage.



    .....Short version? Double and Imperial are not completely interchangeable, but the usage of each term mostly depends on what the brewer wants to do. Cheers! :D
    BPGEFL and utopiajane like this.
  36. kingofhop

    kingofhop Savant (430) Oklahoma May 9, 2010

    Confusing term, nonetheless. Double yer pleasure, I guess. Much like the Doublemint twins, perhaps?
  37. kzoobrew

    kzoobrew Champion (840) Michigan May 8, 2006


    Deschutes doubles up on Mirror Pond to create Mirror Mirror.
    Dope likes this.
  38. drtth

    drtth Champion (830) Pennsylvania Nov 25, 2007

    Well it is a lot more natural to say "double I" PA than to say "I squared" PA. :)
  39. kingofhop

    kingofhop Savant (430) Oklahoma May 9, 2010

    Love me Two Times, baby (Old Doors/Jim Morrison reference for those not in the know). Twice is two times better than one. "I have dubs on THAT"!
  40. kingofhop

    kingofhop Savant (430) Oklahoma May 9, 2010

    Boulevard doubled up on their Single-Wide IPA to create the delicious Double Wide Eye-Pee-Ay and for this I am thankful.

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