Sunday, January 23, 2011

What the hell are IBUs?



 More Hop for the Hip!
To let hop heads like myself, aspiring experts and, uh, crybabies know how bitter the brew is, the International Bitterness Units scale is the official form of measurement. Hops are one of what I term "The Funky Four" in brew, so for special styles like India Pale Ales, the brewmasters add extra hops to kick up the bitterness and enhance the aroma that can favor grapefruit, pine and cedar.

Stone's Ruination claims 100+ IBUs! Gangster!
 So what's the breakdown? To make everything relative, the wimpy light beers that dominate the States are as low as 5 IBUs, English Bitters hit the 30 mark; stouts typically range between the 30s and 50s (unless they are imperial); American IPAs start around 60; and Barley Wines and double IPAs peak 100 IBUs (like Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot and Hoptimum, Stone’s Ruination), pushing the absolute limit of some serious bitter lovin.’ But keep in mind, you can add a mothership's load of hops, but if the taste isn’t balanced with some maltiness and other flavors, you don’t have jack!

By the way, there is one brew that hits 13 percent ABV and an outrageous 200 IBUs: Founders' Devil Dancer Triple IPA. I had it and man, it was quite an experience to say the least. Founders is one of my favorite breweries and I'd definitely do it again. Since it is so crazily complex, I am going to let them describe this one directly from their home base of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Founders says:

"Founders most complex, most innovative, most feared and yet most revered ale produced. Massive in complexity the huge malt character balances the insane amount of alpha’s used to create this monster. More IBU’s than any brewery has documented, more than you would believe and dry-hopped for twenty-six days straight with a combination of 10 hop varieties. Dangerously drinkable and deliciously evil. We dare you to dance with the Devil."

200 IBUs??? Now that's some serious hoppin'!