Are you the Beer Nerd? The one who tries to decode everything scribbled on a beer bottle? If yes, what does IBU mean in Beer? Do you need help deciding? 

In Beer, IBU refers to the International Bitterness Unit. The IBU calculates the bitterness of the Beer. A beer can have a minimum IBU of 5 and a maximum IBU of 120. You can pick the best Beer that suits your palate based on the IBU values.

If this intrigues you, let your curiosity get the best from this article. Here, we will briefly explain what IBU is, what it means in the context of Beer, how IBU is measured, what adds bitterness to your Beer, and what the IBU scores of some of your favorite Beer brands are. Isn’t it a treat? So, wait no more. Raise your beer mug and scroll down.

What Is IBU?

Being a Beer lover brews some mysteries in my head. What percent of alcohol is Beer? What is IBU rating in Beer?

ibu in beer

To state bluntly, “IBU” is an acronym for “International Bitterness Unit”. But what does it mean? It is the unit that quantifies the compounds that add bitterness to the Beer chemically. The higher the IBU, the more bitter the beer tastes. The lower IBU puts the Beer on the softer end of the gustatory scale. 

For most beer lovers, IBU is the deciding descriptor of how the Beer would taste. Should they go for it or not? However, for some, IBU has nothing to do with the taste but is a way to be aware of their go-to drink. To put it in simpler terms, it’s a game of perception. 

See Also: Is Root Beer A Coke Product? Everything You Need To Know

What Does IBU Mean in Beer?

Let’s delve deeper and understand the concept of IBU and what it means for Beer. You must have caught up with the basic idea that IBU measures bitterness.


Now, let us see it through a technical lens. “What does IBU mean for beer?” The International Bitterness Unit gauges the isomerized and oxidized forms of alpha acids, polyphenols, and other bittering chemicals in the beer brewing process. If you want more precise details, the IBU tells you about parts per million of isohumulone present in Beer.

What is isohumulone? It is the acid in hops that renders Beer its bitter taste. Another question comes to light. What is hops? Most of my beer-enthusiast friends must be aware of what hop is. But, new brewers out there, keep going. The mystery will be decoded in a little while.

How Do You Measure And Read IBU?

Now, let’s see how you can measure it. The most common and reliable method to measure the International Bitterness Unit is spectrophotometry. A little recollection from chemistry classes would give you an edge here.

Spectrophotometry is a way to assess the light absorbed by a chemical substance when a beam of light passes through it. Now, let us apply this principle to understand how IBU is measured quickly

  1. Take a sample of Beer (you can extract it from either the fermenter, resin tank, or a sample of the final product).beer fermentation
  2. Combine the sample with an acid and a solvent. (Acid- Hydrochloric acid, Solvent- Isooctane).beer with acid
  3. Acid separates the iso-alpha acids from the beer sample and dissolves in the solvent. beer sample
  4. A beam of light passes through the solvent.beam light passes through solvent
  5. The process highlights the compounds with a light absorbance of 275 nm.
  6. Note the reading displayed on the visual monitor.visual monitor
  7. The reading on the spectrophotometer * 50= IBU value.spectrophotometer

What is the IBU rating in Beer?” IBU values for Beer lie on a scale ranging from 5(mild Beer) to 120(complex Beer). But that does not imply the bitterness score can’t be higher. It can go up to 1000 or even beyond. When discussing measurements, do you know how to count calories in a beer? If not, do you want to browse the calorie count in Beer?

Different Beer with their IBU Range

Enough of the word talk. What is IBU rating Beer? Let’s correlate by giving you the IBU ranges of popular Beers.

different type of beers

  • Stout Beer: Stout Beers have an IBU range between 20 and 40. Stouts like oatmeal stout with a silky texture fall on the lower side of the IBU scale( 25-40). However, the ones with bolder taste can even have IBU up to 70(Imperial stouts).
  • American Larger: The secret to your favorite crispy, light American Lager is its low IBU score, which lies between 5 and 15. 
  • Pale Ale: Pale Ales fall somewhat midway. Their IBU value is more than Stout and American Larger but less than IPA. American Pale Ale does not contain any substitute to counterbalance the bitter taste, with an average IBU value of 50-70.
  • India Pale Ale: IPA needs no introduction. It stands out because of its complex taste. India Pale Ale is crafted with both high IBU(50-70) and Alcohol By Volume scores.

Next time you drive up to buy Beer, look at the IBU score. If you decide to have a couple of your favorite beers on your way back, go through how many beers you can drink and drive.  

See Also: How Many 12 oz Beers In A Pitcher: Your Complete Guide

Why is there bitterness in Beer?

We talked enough about IBU and what does IBU mean with Beer. Now, let’s come to a root question. From where does the Beer get its bitter taste? 

Hops are plants with tiny yellow pods or cones with essential oils and resins that give Beer its aroma, flavor, and bitterness. The two primary compounds that play a vital role are alpha and beta acids. Alpha acids are one of five types if we fish deeper, out of which humulone is present in hops.

english bitter 

During brewing, the alpha acids break down into iso-alpha acids, which are soluble. The soluble form of alpha acids renders bitterness to the Beer. In contrast to Alpha acids, the beta group has a harsher flavor. Because of their insoluble nature, they add less to the bitterness of the Beer.

Apart from hops, yeast also adds to the flavor of Beer. However, some beers are yeast-free. 

See Also: Yeast-Free Beer: Your Ultimate Guide for 2023 

How can we reduce the bitterness in the Beer?

Hops make the Beer bitter. The stronger the hop, the more complex the Beer. So, how do you reduce the bitterness? 

bitter beer

  • If hops are the culprit, reduce their amount or use the less bitter hops.
  • During the brewing process, increase the amount of malt. It will dilute the bitter flavor.
  • Adding sweeteners can be an easy way.
  • Similarly, a citrus ingredient can give a delicate twist to your bitter Beer.
  • Try to add fresh hops. Stale ones elevate the bitterness.

Wondering, “What does IBU mean in beer?” Understanding IBU, or International Bitterness Unit, is crucial when adjusting the bitterness level in your beer.


What range of IBU is considered best?

Beers with an IBU range of 10-80 are the most commercial.

Which beers are hoppy?

Bitter Beers and ones with fruity, flavourful aromas are called hoppy beers.

Are Beer with IBU 90 bitter?

Beers with IBU over 60 are considered bitter. So, yes, Beer with 90 IBU will taste bitter.

How will Beer with 45 IBU taste?

A beer with 45 IBU will have a taste on the milder side of the bitterness scale.


By now, you are clear on what is IBU with Beer. If not, let us sum it up for you. We started with what IBU stands for in Beer. IBU, or International Bitterness Unit, is a parameter used to chemically analyze the compounds that add the characteristic bitter flavor to the Beer. The most common method used is spectrophotometry. The bitterness on a scale ranging from 5 to 120.

However, how an individual perceives Beer’s taste highly depends on other factors. An excellent crisp beer has no replacement. All beer lovers will agree; our preference may vary with IBU, but love for Beer stays united. Let’s say cheers. Oh, and yes, do share your first beer story. What does Beer taste like? Was it on the bitter side or softer? 

Try Bavarian beerfor a better drinking experience.

See Also: Beer Can oz: Understanding The Standard Sizes

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