International Bittering Units (IBUs)

I always say that I am not a fan of bitter beer or beer with high IBUs.

But what does IBU even mean? – International Bittering Units provides a measure of the bitterness of beer which is provided by the hops used during brewing. The higher the number, the greater the bitterness of the brew. This especially includes most India Pale Ales, better known as IPAs.  IPAs are one the most popular styles of beer today with many, including the top three, on Beer Advocate’s Top 250 list.

It seems to me that consumers and brewers are addicted to hops.  Consumers are increasingly demanding more and more hoppiness and brewers are trying to make the beer as bitter as possible. Now to give you a perspective on bitterness scale, American Adjunct Lagers, such as Budweiser, Coors, and Miller all have an IBU range of around 10. Then you have the IPAs with IBUs that can reach as high as 100.

But there is more to the story than IBUs. Some of my favorite brews are heavier styles such as porters or stouts. These have a high quantity of malt so a higher IBU is necessary to balance the flavor and these often end up with an IBU range of 30 -40.  It all boils down to the type of hops being used, which we will talk about later.

Here is an IBU range for popular beer styles:

American Lager 8 – 12 IBU
India Pale Ale (IPA) 60 – 80 IBU
Double/Imperial IPA 80 – 100 IBU
Barleywine 70 – 100 IBU
Porter 20 – 40 IBU
Scottish Ale 10 – 20 IBU
Stout 30 – 50 IBU

Here is an American IPA that I recently sampled from Roanoke Railhouse Brewery in Roanoke, VA. My favorite element of this IPA was the appearance. This poured a deep orange to a very clear amber color. To me it tasted more like a pale ale than an IPA – the hops were not overly strong. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


Categories: Brews | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “International Bittering Units (IBUs)

  1. The only one missing, would be English Bitter @ 30-40, and I always have to look at the list and prepare myself, Sometimes though the IBU and the delivery of the “bitterness” seem at odds.

  2. And of course not thinking it through there are others 🙂
    Pale Ale / Amber Ale : 20-50
    the ESB – Extra Special Bitters – 28-40
    English Brown Ale 20 (Like Newcastle Brown Ale for example)
    Irish Stout 30-60

    and in Lagers

    Pilsner 25-45
    and Bock 20-30

    And then I took my train spotting gear off and had a decent IPA 🙂

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