What Is IBU?

Have you found yourself wondering what IBU is when ordering a beer? Maybe you have heard others talk about it and want to know more?

Or was it a quiz show question that left you stumped recently? Whatever reason brought you here today, we have the answer for you! 

what is ibu in beer

Keep reading to find out what IBU is and everything you need to know about it, especially if you enjoy a great IPA beer every once in a while. 

What Is IBU?

Let’s get straight into it! IBU stands for International Bitterness Units. But what does that mean? It’s a scale used to measure the bitterness levels of a beer.

The scale runs from 0 to 120+. Once we hit the top of the scale, our tongues can’t taste any more bitterness, so even if the beer is more bitter than 120, we aren’t going to know! 

So how do we measure the level of bitterness in a beer? Well, the IBU measures the parts per million of isohumulone we get from hops in a beer.

It’s this isohumulone that gives a beer its bitter taste. The more parts per million you have, the more bitter the beer will be! 

Now, the next time you see an IBU number written on a bottle or crate of beer, you will know what it stands for!

Some beer fanatics will use this scale to determine which beer they try next, while others will use it to know which beers to avoid depending on their preference. 

It’s also a fantastic marketing tool. If you want to create a bitter beer, you can make sure all your marketing is geared towards a super high IBU rating.

Or, if you are looking to create a sweet beer, you can take the opposite approach and promote a low IBU.

These ratings will allow beer fans to learn more about the taste of the beer before they crack a can or bottle open, helping them to decide if it is the one for them or not! 

Now that we have established what an IBU is, let’s move on and explore it in closer detail to learn even more about it!

Why Do We Measure IBU?

We’ve touched on this briefly, but let’s look closer at why we measure IBU. We do it so that we can understand and quantify beer better. After all, who doesn’t want to know how bitter a beer is going to be before buying it?

The numbers will give us a clear idea of how bitter beer can be. But when we come to determining bitterness, it can be tricky.

The perception of bitterness can vary from person to person. In a similar way to how we react to spicy foods, each of us has our scale for determining bitterness.

So when you look at the IBU on a beer, what might be too bitter for some people, might be perfect for you!

If you have never used IBU to decide what beer to try, it might be a bit of a trial and error process to find a bitterness that suits you best.

In these cases, we suggest that you find a beer you enjoy, check its IBU rating, and use that to guide you.

Although an IBU rating is a good way to determine the bitterness of a beer, it isn’t always foolproof. We often see beers with IBUs that don’t taste bitter!

This is more common in malt and grain beers where the sweetness will balance out any bitterness the beers have. Take for example am amber ale.

This can have a high IBU rating but will taste sweet thanks to the deep amber malts used. 

You see the same thing with a German pilsner, which will have a low IBU number, but the lean and crisp malt makes it taste more bitter.

It can be a learning curve getting to grips with IBU ratings and understanding them, but by trying different beers we are sure you can master it! After all, who doesn’t want an excuse to drink more beer?

What IBU Does My Favorite Beer Have?

So what IBU rating does your favorite beer have? Rather than tackling this brand by brand, we have got a list of the different styles of beers for you and their IBUs.

These IBUs can range due to the different styles and flavors within each type of beer, but they should give you a clear indication of what to expect from a beer. Let’s take a look at the list now. 

  • Blonde Ale – 14 – 25 IBU
  • Double IPA – 65 – 100 IBU 
  • Dry Stout – 30 – 35 IBU
  • Hazy IPA – 30 – 50 IBU 
  • Hazy Double IPA – 45 – 80 IBU
  • Imperial Stout – 50 – 80 IBU 
  • Light Lager – 4 – 10 IBU 
  • Pilsner – 25 – 45 IBU 
  • Pale Ale – 30 – 50 IBU
  • Saison – 20 – 38 IBU
  • West Coast IPA – 50 – 70 IBU

Hopefully, the above list has given you a better insight into your favorite type of beer and its rating on the bitterness scale!

Final Thoughts 

And there you have it, IBU is a handy measurement we use to determine the level of bitterness in a beer.

Although it is not an exact science, it is a fantastic indicator of what to expect when it comes to beers and selecting a new, bitter beer to try. 

No matter the type of beer you enjoy drinking, we are sure you will find understanding IBU helpful and should save you time in a liquor store or by the bar deciding what your next drink would be!

After all, life is too short not to have a beer in your hand.

Robert Kaser
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