How many calories are in an Imperial IPA?

Quick Answer

An Imperial IPA typically contains around 300 calories per 12 oz serving. However, the exact calorie count can vary depending on the specific brand and alcohol content. On average, a higher alcohol by volume (ABV) Imperial IPA will contain more calories than a lower ABV version.

What is an Imperial IPA?

An Imperial IPA, sometimes referred to as a Double IPA, is a strong, very hoppy India Pale Ale with an alcohol by volume (ABV) between 7.5% and 10%.

Imperial IPAs first emerged in the 1990s as American craft brewers pushed the boundaries of traditional IPAs, using more hops and higher gravities to create bigger, bolder versions.

Key Characteristics

Some key characteristics of an Imperial IPA include:

  • High alcohol content – Typically 7.5-10% ABV
  • Intense hoppiness – Significant quantities of American hop varieties like Cascade, Centennial, Citra, etc.
  • High malt backbone – Necessary to balance the intense hops
  • Medium to high bitterness – Often 70+ IBUs
  • Golden to copper color
  • Thick, creamy head
  • Distinctive fruity, citrusy hop aroma and flavor

The intense hop flavors and high alcohol content make Imperial IPAs a bold, assertive brew. They are sometimes referred to as an “extreme” version of the standard American IPA style.

Calories in Beer

The calories in any beer come primarily from its alcohol and carbohydrate content.

Beer contains varying amounts of the following:

  • Alcohol – Contributes about 7 calories per gram
  • Carbohydrates – Mostly from malt sugars, contributes about 4 calories per gram
  • Proteins – Contributes about 4 calories per gram
  • Very small amounts of fat – Contributes about 9 calories per gram

In general, stronger beers with higher alcohol content contain more calories, while lighter beers with lower alcohol contain fewer calories.

Factors Affecting Calorie Content

The main factors affecting the calorie content in beer are:

  • Alcohol by Volume (ABV) – Beers with higher ABV have more alcohol, and therefore more calories. Imperial IPAs tend to have high ABV.
  • Grain bill – More grains means more carbohydrates from malt sugars, which adds calories.
  • Residual sugars – Beers that are sweeter due to unfinished fermentation contain more unfermented sugars, which add calories.
  • Ingredients – Things like fruit additions can increase calories in some styles.

Understanding these key factors help estimate the calorie content of any beer, including an Imperial IPA.

Calories in a Typical Imperial IPA

A typical Imperial IPA with 8-10% ABV will contain approximately:

  • 300-350 calories in a 12 oz serving
  • 210-245 calories in an 8 oz serving
  • 150-175 calories in a 5 oz serving

However, there is considerable variation among different Imperial IPAs based on their specific characteristics:

Higher Calorie Examples

  • Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA – 9% ABV, 315 calories per 12 oz
  • Lagunitas Hop Stoopid – 8% ABV, 270 calories per 12 oz
  • Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0 – 8.5% ABV, 330 calories per 12 oz

These Imperial IPAs tend to be on the higher end of the calorie range due to their high alcohol contents. The strong, rich malt backbones also contribute additional carbohydrate calories.

Lower Calorie Examples

  • Founders Double Trouble – 9.4% ABV, 264 calories per 12 oz
  • Firestone Walker Double Jack – 9.5% ABV, 270 calories per 12 oz
  • Russian River Pliny the Elder – 8% ABV, 270 calories per 12 oz

Despite still having high ABVs, these Imperial IPAs manage to have slightly lower calorie counts. They tend to have drier, more attenuated finishes with fewer residual sugars. The hop flavors also help balance out the malt backbone.

Does Drinking an Imperial IPA Lead to Weight Gain?

Imperial IPAs are relatively high in calories compared to lighter beer styles like lagers. However, drinking them in moderation is unlikely to lead to significant weight gain.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • At 300 calories per 12 oz serving, an Imperial IPA contains approximately the same calories as a light beer with 4% ABV. So calorie-wise they are comparable.
  • Drinking excess calories can lead to weight gain over time. But an occasional Imperial IPA is not problematic for most people if accounted for in their overall calorie intake.
  • Things like mixers, pub snacks, or drinking on an empty stomach can increase the calorie intake and should be considered when enjoying an Imperial IPA.
  • Heavy, regular consumption of high ABV beers like Imperial IPAs can potentially contribute to weight gain, as the extra alcohol equals extra calories. Moderation is key.

As with most foods and beverages, enjoying Imperial IPAs in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet is unlikely to lead to excess weight gain or prevent weight loss. Factors like total calorie intake, nutrition, and activity levels are most important.

Tips for Drinking an Imperial IPA on a Diet

For those watching their calorie intake or trying to lose weight, here are some tips for enjoying Imperial IPAs in moderation:

  • Stick to a single Imperial IPA and avoid having multiples in one sitting.
  • Sip your Imperial IPA slowly to savor it; don’t guzzle it down too quickly.
  • Skip the pub snacks and have your Imperial IPA with a light meal or after a workout.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after enjoying your Imperial IPA.
  • If drinking several beers, alternate between the Imperial IPA and a lower-calorie light beer or two.
  • Factor the Imperial IPA’s calories into your daily calorie allotment.
  • Don’t drink an Imperial IPA on an empty stomach; the alcohol will hit harder.
  • Avoid sugary beer mixers like hard lemonade or cider, which can double the calories.

An occasional Imperial IPA can definitely be enjoyed guilt-free on a diet. Just practice moderation, savor it slowly, pair it with light food choices, stay hydrated, and account for the calories.

Comparing Calories in Imperial IPAs vs. Other Beer Styles

Here’s how the calorie count of an Imperial IPA compares to other popular beer styles:

Beer Style ABV% Range Calories (12 oz serving)
Light Lager 4-5% 100-150
Pilsner 4-5% 140-180
Wheat Beer 4-5.5% 145-200
Pale Ale 4.5-6% 150-200
IPA 6-7.5% 200-250
Imperial IPA 7.5-10% 300-350
Stout 4-6% 150-200
Porter 4.5-6% 150-210

As you can see, the Imperial IPA has one of the highest calorie counts per 12 oz serving compared to other major beer styles, due to its high ABV and malt backbone.

However, it’s not dramatically higher in calories than some other craft beer styles like a standard IPA or Wheat Beer. And it contains fewer calories than most cocktails, wines, or mixed drinks.

So while an Imperial IPA is one of the “bigger” beers calorie-wise, it can generally be enjoyed guilt-free in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet, just like most other beer styles. Sláinte!

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