One of the things you might not know about that you can often see in cans or bottles of beer is the IBU. IBU stands for “International Bitterness Unit” and it tells us how bitter a beer is. The range of IBUs in a beer varies from 0 (probably not 0 because all beers are bitter in a way) to 2600. Our tastebuds can’t discern over 120 IBUs, so imagine how a beast of 2600 tastes like.
The more hops a beer has, and the more hops you’ve added depending on the stage of the fermentation, the more IBUs it’ll have. Basically all hops depend on their breed and harvest and next to their name there is a percentage. This percentage is called “alpha-acids” and it’s usually around 10%, the more % the more bitter is the hop, hence the more bitter is going to be the beer. Usually more aromatic hops are around 5-6% aa and strongest bittering hops are around 13-14%.
Styles like Lagers or Pilsners have very low IBUs (5,10,15 for the more crafty ones), and also stouts and porters aren’t particularly bitter (because the hops aren’t that important in these styles). But other hoppy styles like IPAs, DIPAs or Barley Wines bitterness is important, so they’ll go over 60-70 IBUs. A beer has to be bitter in a way, because bitterness is part of the essence of the beer. The colder the beer, the less you can feel the bitterness.
If you’ve been reading the blog you know by now who is Mikkeller. They were the first ones to go for “brew as bitter as you can” and they made the most bitter beer by then: a Double Ipa called 1000IBU, where they used hop extract with calculated IBU of 1000. But they didn’t want to make a well-balanced beer, on the other hand – they wanted to give people the experience.
After a couple of years, other breweries passed that limit of 1000IBUs, but in 2007 Mikkeller reached the top again, brewing a beer with 2007 IBUs to celebrate the year. 10 years after that, the record of the most bitter beer is held by a brewery from Manchester called Carbon Smith, with a beer called Carbon Smith Fuc*s Up Your Sh*t and with a beer of 2600 IBUs!
What did we learn today? IBUs are an international bittering unit and it goes from 0 up to 2600 for now. Usually we can’t feel more than 120 in our tastbuds but I’m sure that we’d tell the difference between a 1000 and a 2600 IBU beast.
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