The famous bitterness of beer comes from hops, which are a part of the classic beer brewed according to traditional recipes. The addition of hops serves several purposes at the same time:
- Balancing the flavor – hops make the beer taste complex. Fermentable sugars from the mashing of malt add sweetness to the taste of the drink. The use of hops helps to balance out the sweetness and make the taste richer, richer.
- Aroma enrichment – hops enrich the bouquet of beer with additional notes, and herbaceous, floral aromas. The aroma of pine and citrus, which is present in the bouquet of some beers is also the result of the addition of hops.
- Preservation – in traditional recipes hops act as an additive that stabilizes the composition of the finished drink.
Hops contain bittering hop acids and resins. In the dry product, their quantity can be up to 18,5%. Hop resins are in turn the oxidation products of α- and β-acids. The latter does not have a significant degree of bitterness, but is able to convert into α-acids (humulones) directly during the ripening of cones, and also impart a pleasant bitterness to the drink during oxidation.
In some beers, the bitterness does not come from hops but from, for example, burnt malt which is used in large quantities in the production of various stouts. However, in this case, bitterness has very different characteristics. This bitterness is more reminiscent of the taste of burnt bread than noble hop flavors. Malt bitterness, as well as hop bitterness, is not to everyone’s taste, so brewers use various methods to tint it, again, if it corresponds to the technology.
What Is IBU Beer?
In order to assess the bitterness of beer, the International Bitterness Units scale (IBU) was invented, since brewers had difficulty determining how bitter the beer was. Previously it was all at the level of personal perception. And the bitterness of beer is as important as the alcohol content of the drink.
The IBU scale itself is empirical and is measured in millionths of isohumulone in a certain amount of beer. Isohumulone is the alpha acid that plays a major role in the bitterness of the beer. They are what makes hops bitter.
Basically, the IBU scale has a value from 0 to 120, although there is no limit to the level of bitterness. Although there are documented examples of beers with an IBU level of 1,000 today, such beers are rare.
Virtually all of the beers you will have to try have IBUs between 5 and 120. Where 5 is a very low bitterness level and 120 is very high.
What Are The Low IBU Beer Styles?
The main part of beer bitterness is formed by hops, or more precisely by their alpha acids. To measure it there is a special indicator IBU – International Bitterness Units. While a non-bitter beer usually has 10-15 IBU, some particularly bitter beers can show 50 or even 100 IBU!
In addition to hops, burnt malt can give a bitterness – so many dark beers (porter or stout) are also a little bitter. And someone perceives as bitter the taste of alcohol in beers stronger than 7-8%.
The high alcohol content of a beer can give it a bit of sweetness. Also, the malt itself, especially some varieties, adds sweetness to the beer, so the higher the density of the initial wort, the potentially sweeter the beverage can be. In addition, there are recipes that involve the use of sugar directly.
Thus, the presence of sweetness in the taste of the drink is conditioned by the components, and if their concentration is high and hops are present in small quantities, the bitterness will be too light.
In any case, low bitterness is characteristic of German and Belgian wheat beers, most light lagers, and sour beer styles (lambics, krieks, etc.)
The table shows the most non-bittering styles of beer (Bitterness Range with the latest BJCP beer styles):
|Beer Styles||IBU Range|
|American Light Lager||8-12|
|International Dark Lager||8-20|
IBU Of Common Beers
- Odell Friek Cherry/Raspberry Sour – 7 IBU
- Bud Light – 10 IBU
- Coors Light – 10 IBU
- Budweiser – 12 IBU
- Lindemans Framboise Lambic – 12 IBU
- Timmermans Oude Gueuze – 14 IBU
- Schneider Weisse Original HefeWeizen – 14 IBU
- Heineken Lager – 19 IBU
- Warsteiner Märzen / Oktoberfest – 21 IBU
- Stella Artois – 24 IBU
Low IBU beer styles are generally characterized by low bitterness. German and Belgian wheat beers, most light lagers, and sour beer styles (lambics, krieks, etc.) are all examples of low IBU beers. What’s your favorite low-IBU beer?