IBU — it’s a term many of us have seen when reading about beer. But what does it mean?
IBU stands for International Bitterness Units, a scale to gauge the level of a beer’s bitterness. More specifically, IBUs measure the parts per million of isohumulone from hops in a beer, which gives beer bitterness. The IBU scale can range from 0 to 120+, but at this point, the human tongue can’t taste any more bitterness.
Why Measure IBUs?
The IBU scale was invented because it felt important to measure how bitter a beer was, and the assignment of numbers helps with conceptual understanding. In short, the IBU scale is a way to quantify and better understand a beer.
But while the numbers are clear, the perceived bitterness of beer can be very different. In general, there is a correlation between IBUs and experienced bitterness, but to fully grasp the concept, we need to talk about perception.
Not So Perfect a Tool
Beer is all about balance, and IBU isn’t the only indicator of how a beer may taste. It’s not uncommon to see a beer with a high number of IBUs that doesn’t actually taste bitter, as malt/grain character and sweetness can balance out bitterness in a beer. For example, a technically bitter, high-IBU amber ale can taste sweet as a result of the deep amber malts used. Similarly, a German pilsner can have a low IBU number and taste quite bitter because of its lean, crisp malt character.
IBU Ranges by Style
Many beer drinkers have found that there’s a general IBU range they prefer, and styles of beer tend to fall within a particular IBU range. The list below identifies some common beer styles and their associated IBUs.
- Light Lager — 4-10
- Blond Ale — 14-25
- Saison — 20-38
- Pilsner — 25-45
- Dry Stout — 30-35
- Pale Ale — 30-50
- Hazy IPA — 30-50
- Hazy Double IPA — 45-80
- West Coast IPA — 50-70
- Imperial Stout — 50-80
- Double IPA — 65-100
IBUs at Firestone Walker
We offer a variety of beers at Firestone Walker, with options across all across the IBU scale. Some of our current offerings on the lower end of the scale include Feral One at 10 IBU and Firestone Lager at 17 IBU, while beers coming in a bit higher on the scale include Union Jack and Psychedelic Arcade, both at 60 IBU.
If you’re interested in seeing the IBU rating for your favorite Firestone Walker beers, visit the Our Beers page on our site and click on whichever brew you want to know more about.