The world of craft beer has exploded over the last few decades. As it becomes increasingly attainable for beer lovers around the country to find the drinks they want, countless new types of beer have been created.
When looking for new drinks to try, it’s often difficult to find the ones you know you’ll love. Since it’s physically impossible to try every beer out there, finding your preferred styles and sticking with them when looking for new options makes more sense.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to identify drinks by their style; there are ales, lagers, porters, stouts, and many more types of beer on the market.
Even amongst two beers of the same type, there can be dramatic differences in taste. That’s why the IBU scale was created: to help people figure out what kind of beer they like and identify the flavors that they’re encountering in a comparable way.
Here is what IBUs are and how they can help you find more options like the drinks you already love.
What is IBU?
IBU stands for “International Bitterness (or “Bittering”) Unit.” It’s a scale that helps distinguish between the bitterness of beers based on the chemicals present in them. As beer has been more studied and perfected over time, people have found correlations between the bitterness of a beer and the chemicals making it up.
When these bitter compounds are quantified inside of a beer and assigned an IBU rating, the drinker has a better idea of how bitter that beer will be. Beers of different IBU ratings will be distinct in their subjective bitterness levels, simply because different beers have unique ingredients and are made in different ways.
The IBU scale goes anywhere from 0 to virtually infinity. However, practically speaking, most beers will fall between 5 and 120 IBU, with a large majority around 15 and 80 IBU.
It’s unlikely that you’ll find a beer that goes much higher than 120 simply because they usually aren’t particularly palatable. That said, some brewers go above and beyond. Triggerfish’s “The Kraken” claims an IBU rating of 1254, while Carbon Smith’s “F*cks Up Your Sh*t” IPA claims to have a whopping rating of 2600. Try them if you dare.
The IBU rating does not describe how good a beer is; it just considers its level of specific chemicals. However, knowing the IBU ratings of beers that you like might help you find similar choices.
How Can People Use the IBU Scale?
One of the best ways to use the IBU rating system is to group beers by their ratings. Most people have a preference for the amount of bitterness that they like in their beers. The IBU scale allows people to find the beers that match up with their preferences.
IBU ratings are also commonly used by brewing professionals to determine the quality of their beers. Brewing companies want to ensure that a specific kind of beer tastes the same every time, and using the IBU rating helps ensure that the drink is at the same level of quality and caliber of taste.
Is IBU Always Helpful?
While the IBU rating is technically objective and based on chemical structures, it still won’t always be a perfect representation of how bitter a beer will be.
For example, a beer with an IBU of 50 might taste less bitter than one with an IBU of 40 or somewhere in the upper 30s. This often happens when the beer with a higher IBU has a stronger flavor that can balance out the bitterness. The drink with the lower IBU might taste more bitter simply because the overall flavor isn’t as robust.
The actual subjective level of bitterness will depend on the rest of the flavors in the beer. The IBU rating will give you a fairly good indication of how the beer will taste, but always take that rating with a grain of salt. Try to rely on personal experience and the reviews of others just as much as the actual IBU rating of the beer, and you’ll have a much better idea of how it will taste.
Examples of IBU Levels
Here are the IBU levels of a few of our favorite beers that you can use as a reference point.
- Industrial Arts’s Wrench: 28 IBUs
- Champion Brewing Company’s Shower Beer: 35 IBUs
- Collective Arts Brewing’s Ransack the Universe: 85 IBUs
- Singlecut Beersmiths’ Weird & Gilly: 88 IBU
How TapRm Can Help
If you want to sample a few varieties of beer to get a feel for what kind of IBU rating you prefer, the best way to do that is through TapRm. Often, smaller, more specialized breweries tend to be highly localized because they are smaller and have less infrastructure, so it’s hard for beer lovers to find these types of breweries' beers outside of the tasting room.
However, TapRm provides a way for people to access new, unique beer from all over the country. Through a unique system, you can now order from different breweries across the country through our website. If you’re looking for your next favorite beer, come and find it on TapRm.