What are IBUs in beer?
For some time we have found IBUs on beer labels, especially on craft ones. Now, what do these abbreviations refer to?? IBU is short for International Bitterness Unit. In Spanish, international bitterness unit. That is to say,IBUs are used to measure the bitterness of beer; at least in theory.
Through a mathematical formula, the bitterness in IBUs is calculated inan interval from 0 to 100, where 10 is slightly bitter and 90 is very bitter. However, we do find beers with 200 and even 1,000 IBUs that boast of being the world's most bitter beers. The reality is quite different, sincehuman detects a maximum of 100 IBUs (120 in the case of people with exceptional sensitivity. This means that the sensation will be the same from 100 units..
However, it is not true that the bitterness of beer depends exclusively on IBUs. This chemical unit interacts with other components. To understand it, we have to see beer as the global result of a combination of different ingredients that interact with each other.Hops provide most of the bitterness of beer through its resins. Based on the resins of each hop variety, it will provide more or less bitterness. The IBUs formula is calculated in relation to the amount of hops and the time of their addition. For example, it does not provide bitterness during dry hopping.
Also,other ingredients also contribute bitterness such as very roasted malts or the additions of certain fruits and spices ¿It's more complex than it seems, right?
Well in reality the IBUs by themselves do not guarantee anything, but rather serve as a guide. The truth is thatthe volume of malt and other cereals converted to residual sugars counteract bitterness. Surely at home you correct a stew when it is bland or salty, right? The same thing happens in beer. That is why we always comment that one of the virtues of quality beer is balance, harmony between all ingredients. So even if a beer has 100 IBUs, it does not have to taste too bitter if it also has a high volume of malt that provides sweetness. Think that sweetness reduces the feeling of bitterness. It is the same principle by which we add sugar to coffee.é.
If you want to discover the disparity of sensations that high numbers of IBUs bring, we recommend that you do a comparative tasting of styles such asAmerican Pale Ale, IPA, Double IPA, Triple IPA and West Coast IPA. Or simply try different beers at the same time with the same number of IBUs. You will be amazed!!