What is IBU in beer?

Are you curious about the new craft beers popping up everywhere? Have you ever wondered what gives these ales such a unique flavor and aroma? The answer could be in the use of IBUs or International Bittering Units, which measure how bitter your beer is.

Understanding what IBU ratings are and why they matter can help you find exactly the kind of craft beers you prefer. In this blog post, we’ll look at what IBUs mean in terms of beer flavors and aromas, so that you can make better-informed decisions when it comes to navigating through a wide variety of craft beers!

What is IBU in beer?

IBU stands for International Bittering Units and is a scale that measures the level of bitterness in beer. All beers have at least some bitterness, but the range can vary from extremely low levels all the way up to very high levels, depending on what type of beer it is.

Various hops and grains used in brewing create different flavor profiles with varying levels of IBUs. For example, an India Pale Ale may have higher IBU ratings than a Hefeweizen due to its use of more bitter hops during the brewing process.

IBU in beer inforgraphic

How Is It Measured in Beer?

To measure the bitterness of beer, brewers use a special tool called an IBU meter. This device measures the level of hop alpha acids present in the beer, which ultimately determines its bitterness.

Alpha acids are released when hops are boiled and are what give beer its characteristic bite. The higher a beer’s alpha acid content is, the higher its IBU rating will be.

Generally speaking, beers with high IBUs (above 40) will have a very strong bitter flavor while those with low IBUs (below 20) will have a more subtle character.

What Does IBU Mean For Beer Flavor?

Generally speaking, the higher the IBU rating of a beer, the more intense and hoppy it will taste. Beers with higher IBUs will tend to have robust, bitter notes and a pronounced hop flavor.

Lower IBU beers, on the other hand, are generally more mellow in flavor, typically featuring smooth malt and caramel undertones as opposed to overly bitter flavors.

What is IBU in beer
What Does IBU Mean For Beer Flavor

Ultimately, understanding what IBUs mean for beer can help you find the exact type of craft beer that suits your taste buds best. Whether you prefer something on the light and refreshing side or something with more intense hoppy flavors, knowing how to read IBU ratings will ensure you get a brew that perfectly aligns with your palate!

Types of Hops and Their Differences in IBU

Different hop varieties also have varying levels of IBUs associated with them, so understanding which hops are used in a beer can help you understand its bitterness level.

For example, the popular Cascade hop has an IBU rating of 4-7, making it one of the more mellow hop varieties for craft beers. On the other end of the spectrum is Chinook hops, which have an IBU rating between 35-50 and create intense bitterness and hoppy flavors in ales.

As you continue to explore craft beers, taking note of their IBU ratings as well as what types of hops they use can be incredibly helpful in finding your perfect beer! With this knowledge in hand, you’ll be able to easily find brews that are just the right level of bitter or smooth for your taste.

The Relationship Between IBU and Flavor Profile

It’s important to note that while IBUs are a useful tool in measuring the level of bitterness in beer, they don’t tell the whole story.

Different hop varieties contribute more than just their bittering properties—they also add unique aromas and flavors to craft beers. For example, an ale with a moderate IBU rating may still have complex fruity or floral notes due to its use of certain hops.

Understanding how different hop varieties affect the overall flavor profile is key for discerning beer drinkers. Taking note of both the IBU ratings as well as what type of hops are used can help you select brews that match your desired flavor profile perfectly!

In short, understanding International Bittering Units can be a great way to find the perfect craft beer.

Knowing what IBUs mean for beer as well as how different hop varieties affect flavor will help you hone in on brews that suit your palate best, regardless of whether you prefer something light and refreshing or intensely bitter with hoppy notes.

With this knowledge in hand, you’ll never have to worry about finding the wrong type of beer again!

The Impact of Different Yeast Strains on IBU

In addition to hops, the type of yeast used in brewing can also affect a beer’s IBU rating. Different yeast strains produce different levels of alpha acids during fermentation, so understanding which strain is used in a particular beer can be helpful in gauging its bitterness level. For example, some ale yeasts are known for producing low amounts of alpha acids, resulting in beers with lower IBUs than other styles.

So if you’re looking for an extra-bitter beer, it can be beneficial to research what type of yeast was used in the brewing process. Knowing this information will help you find brews that perfectly suit your taste buds!

In conclusion, IBU ratings can be incredibly helpful in finding the perfect beer. From understanding how IBUs measure bitterness to taking note of what type of hops and yeast are used, you have all the tools necessary to select craft beers that meet your taste preferences. With this knowledge in hand, you’ll never have to worry about choosing a brew that doesn’t hit the spot!

Tips for Homebrewers to Control IBU Levels

Homebrewers also have the ability to adjust IBU levels in their own beers. This can be done by tweaking the amount of hops used, adding different types of hops for different levels of bitterness, or playing around with different yeast strains.

Experimenting with these elements and taking notes on each batch will help you hone in on a final product that has just the right level of hoppy bitterness—making it ideal for your taste!

Exploring the Range of IBUs in Beers

As you explore different craft beers, take the time to appreciate the range of IBU ratings present among them. From light lagers with low IBUs to intensely bitter IPAs with high IBUs, there’s something for everyone! Don’t be afraid to try something new and discover a whole world of flavor that comes along with it.

No matter what your taste preferences are, understanding International Bittering Units can help you find the perfect beer for any occasion. So don’t forget to take note of IBU ratings and hop varieties when exploring craft brews—they may just be the key to finding your new favorite beer!

What Do Different IBU Levels Taste Like?

The range of IBUs can help tell you quite a bit about how your beer will taste before you even take a sip! Generally speaking, beers with lower IBUs have a lighter, more subtle flavor and aroma.

Beers with higher IBUs have a much stronger hop presence and may even be described as bitter or astringent. For example, an India Pale Ale typically has an IBU rating of 40-50, which is considered to be quite high when compared to other beer styles like Lagers that usually contain around 20-25 IBU ratings.

Why Do IBUs Matter?

IBU ratings can be incredibly helpful in understanding how your beer will taste before you buy it! If you’re looking for something light and refreshing, then opting for low-IBU beers like Blonde Ales might be the ideal choice. Conversely, if you’re a fan of hoppy beers that pack a punch, then you should look for higher IBU ratings like those found in IPAs.

Knowing what IBUs are and how they affect the flavor and aroma of your beer is an incredibly helpful tool in navigating through the vast selection of craft beers available today. With this newfound knowledge, you can make sure you always find exactly the kind of beer that satisfies your tastes!


Q: What is the difference between alpha acids and beta acids?

A: Alpha acids are responsible for providing bitterness in beer, while beta acids help contribute to flavor and aroma. Alpha acid levels can typically be adjusted more easily than beta acid levels.

Q: How does yeast affect IBU levels?

A: Different yeasts will produce different amounts of alpha acids, which can cause a dramatic change in the overall IBU level of a beer. Knowing what type of yeast was used during fermentation can be very helpful in understanding how bitter your beer might be.

Q: What’s the highest IBU rating for a craft beer?

A: The highest IBU ratings for craft beers typically range from 100-120, though there are some extreme beers with IBU ratings as high as 250! Beers with high IBU ratings tend to be very hoppy and bitter.

Q: What’s the best way to identify IBUs on a beer label?

A: Many craft breweries will include the International Bittering Units (IBU) rating right on their labels. If not, they may list other information like hop variety or bitterness level which can help you estimate the average IBU of the beer. Generally speaking, higher hop varieties or bitterness levels indicate a higher IBU rating.

Understanding International Bittering Units (IBUs) is key when it comes to finding the perfect craft beer. Whether you’re looking for a light and refreshing lager or an intensely bitter IPA, knowing IBUs can help you find the perfect brew every time. With this knowledge, you’ll be sure to appreciate the wide range of flavors and aromas craft beers have to offer!


In conclusion, IBU ratings provide an insight into how bitter or hoppy a beer might be before you even take a sip. Low-IBU beers tend to have lighter flavors and aromas, while high-IBU beers may have stronger hop presence and more intense bitterness.

Understanding these ratings can help you find a beer that suits your palate and preferences better, allowing you to enjoy the best craft beers available!

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which IBU rating is right for you. Whether you prefer light and refreshing beers or big and hoppy brews, understanding IBUs can help guide your choices and make sure you always have the perfect beer ready at hand! So next time you’re out shopping for craft beers, keep an eye out for those all-important IBU ratings!

Executive Chef | Website | + posts

Chef Michael Correll began his restaurant career near his home in his teens as a pizza cook, but soon moved to Philadelphia where he first landed at Jones, an acclaimed Stephen Starr restaurant on Chesntut Street.

It was also in Philadelphia that Chef Correll pursued his culinary education, graduating from the Art Institute of Philadelphia in 2008.

After school he worked for Chef Marc Plessis at Nineteen in the Park Hyatt Hotel before moving to Pinehurst, North Carolina to open the Carolina Room.

See what Baltimoresun.com and Baltimoremagazine.com say about him.

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