They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Sunday 15 July 2012

International Bitterness Unfamiliar

International Bitterness Units or IBUs for short.

IBUs can be a funny old thing. It's said that you can only really detect IBUs to around 100 or so, (it will obviously differ from person to person... e.g. some people can handle hotter curries than others..) and so anything higher would be a little bit pointless. I should also really be calling them Theoretical International Bitterness Units because after about 100 there is no true method of calculating exactly what the IBUs of a beer really are. (or at least not one that I've heard of yet)

Arbor Ales have come up with a beer for the 2012 Olympics called 2012 Double Black IPA (7.5%) and you guessed it, it's supposed to have 2012 theoretical IBUs. If this is to be believed then it puts Mikkeller's 'I Beat U' and it's 1000 IBUs to shame really. I tried to put this to the back of my mind and give it a whirl anyways...

It's certainly an interesting beer. A large closely packed creamy head rises from the mysterious black liquid like a muffin rising in the oven. Not what I was expecting in the aroma... Dry coffee, pine nuts and digestive biscuits all play with chocolate orange and caramel sweetness.

The remnants of the bulging head refuse to swirl in on the top and now bob about like a huge iceberg in a black sea as I take my first sip. Is it bitter? Hell yeah it is! But it's a perplexing sort of bitter. From the first sip it's that kind of; woody, burnt rubber, super roasted coffee bitterness - the kind of bitterness you'd find in a Imperial Stout, but without much of a body to back it up so it goes a little bit too over the top and leaves your mouth feeling a little stripped.

As it warms it becomes a little less harsh and a bit of malt sweetness tries to creep in, but it's still pretty dominated. Here's where I get a little confused though about IBUs. They say the IBUs are calculated by the bitterness levels of the hops added in the boil, but I don't really think much, if any, of the bitterness in this beer is added by the hops - I think it's all delivered by the extreme dark malts and dark malt variants. The honest question I pose here is, Do malts contribute to the IBUs of a beer or not?

And another question is; This is the first Olympic beer I've seen. Fair enough I've not actually been looking for any, but I thought we'd have at least a couple more by now...


  1. I always thought that some bitterness comes from the malts too - especially as you say, dark malts.

    As for Olympic beers, had Adnams Flame Runner on cask yesterday. It has ingredients from the 5 continents that the rings represent. Rather nice.

    Booze, Beats & Bites

  2. No. Roasted malts contribute to the bitter taste of a beer, but IBUs are taken as being a measurement of the amount of isomerised alpha acids from hops (1 mg/l = 1 IBU).

  3. Shouldn't you be able to calculate them the same way as you do Scovilles - by serial dilution and side by side double blind comparison?

  4. that beer looks amazing in the glass. as for IBU calculation & malts, no idea.

  5. Just tried this one myself...interesting take on it. I'll put my review up shortly. I'm not sure about your question but could the prescence of Coffee increase the perceived bitterness?