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haeffnkr 05-14-2012 08:38 PM

Beer Balance - Art or Science?

I am trying to perfect my process and tune my brews to my liking. I generally like lighter beers and some medium amber brews that are balanced. IPA beers are not on my radar.

I have searched and have not found a clear answer, because maybe there is not one, regarding what all plays a part in making a beer balanced?
I dont see a calculator to determine beer balance.

Does OG play a bigger role in making a beer balanced than FG?
I would assume you need to factor both in? I would expect a beer that finished at 1.010 would "hide" more bitterness than the same recipe that ended in 1.005, yes?

But I also read some where that a human can only determine differences in bitterness every 5 IBU additions, do I have that right?
But again I would assume 16 to 18 IBU is detectable in a 4% ABV, light hybrid brew.

I have found the below chart in several places and to my taste apparently I like slightly malty, but I can still taste bitterness in beers in this range?

I brewed Yooper's Fizzy Yellow Beer... awesome recipe and beer... anyway... I ended up with brew that was
OG = 1.048
FG = 1.011
IBU = 19 (my target for this brew)
That puts this beer squarely in slightly malty range, but I can still taste hop bitterness, not like IPA bitterness.. but this brew is not like a BMC beer for sure.

Maybe my perception of balanced is off ? :o Is Budweiser balanced?

Interested in your thoughts.

thanks Kevin


Originally Posted by Yuri_Rage (Post 582019)
This chart is a good place to start, and you may be able to reverse engineer it to fit your question a little closer. As a rough guess, a 10% difference in attenuation would only merit a 5-10% difference in bitterness.


After a little math, a beer with an OG of 1.060 would finish at 1.017 for an apparent attenuation of 70%. It would finish at 1.011 if the apparent attenuation increased to 80%. That's a difference in FG of .006. Using the chart above as a guide, a difference in OG of .006 equates to a change in IBU of about 4-5 to achieve the same balance. It's not a perfect answer because I'm mixing FG and OG in order to determine the answer, but it seems about right.

maida7 05-14-2012 08:48 PM

That chart is pretty simplistic. Malt flavor can be different at a given gravity. A 1.048 yellow beer will not have the same malt perception as a 1.048 dark beer. Crystal malt or Munich or roasted malts will have different effects on the "balance" of the beer.

Also, carbonation is a big factor. Highly carbonated beers may taste more bitter.

Also, attenuation is a big factor. Under attenuated beers may taste maltier.

See it's not so simple ;)

maida7 05-14-2012 08:49 PM

Not to mention the effects yeast character and water profile would have on the beer flavor.

Pilgarlic 05-14-2012 08:51 PM

If a beer is "balanced" you will taste hop bitterness (unless there's also no malt character, as in American Light Lagers, which are balanced because they have NOTHING on either side). If you do have some malt character and you eschew hop bitterness, you don't have a "balanced" beer. Doesn't mean it's not a good beer.

homebrewdad 05-14-2012 09:14 PM

So short answer - yes, there is science (bitterness ratios and what have you), but a GREAT deal of beer making - at least at the recipe forumation level - is, indeed, art.

Mongrel 05-14-2012 09:54 PM


Originally Posted by haeffnkr (Post 4085706)
Maybe my perception of balanced is off ? :o Is Budweiser balanced?

Personally, I think Bud is way too sweet.

TyTanium 05-14-2012 09:55 PM

Science informs artistic intuition.

beergolf 05-14-2012 10:38 PM

Part art part science.

The thing that really helped me is understanding the BU:GU ratio instead of thinking about IBU's. If you look at style guidelines it gives you a OG range and an IBU range. So as an example you could be at the high end of the OG range for the style but be at the low end of the IBU range and the beer will not be as balanced as one that has the proper BU:GU ratio. Some styles are more sensitive to the ratio than others.

I brew a lot of Belgians and when I first started making recipes I made a couple of brews that were good but something was just not quite right, and I could not place it.Very drinkable and my friends liked them, but to me just slightly off. Once I figured out the the ratio was slightly off it made a ton of sense to me. Now I know what ratio I prefer for some styles and they may be slightly different than the averages, but I know why I like certain brews.

Here is a great resource to help you understand the BU:GU ratios for all styles.


jtakacs 05-15-2012 01:29 AM

the posted chart is idiotic imo...

maybe if it mentioned SG and FG, maybe - but types of malt matter, types of hops matter, there's just no clean way to create a "balance" chart. say nothing of the yeast , carbonation or water. ugh.

for me, a beer is balanced when you can identify all of the components that went into it, clearly identify them and they work in harmony with each other. gravity, bu, etc., be damned.

i'm drinking my CDA right now which is very malty and has a subdued hops profile (it can handle another 30 bus imo) and it is off the chart unbalanced according to that chart towards the hop side (1.072 & 77 bu) - but it's mashed at a higher temp so the FG makes it have a very malty/rich taste and mouthfee - and the hops cut through it perfectly. i'd call my beer balanced because you can clearly taste the malt, hops, water and yeast and they all work together.

haeffnkr 05-15-2012 04:15 AM

Wow - thanks for all the replies thus far.
I am glad to see I was not to far off in my thinking that FG and other factors play a role in balancing beer.

Seems closer to art to make a good beer that is balanced and balanced in the eye of the brewer !

thanks Kevin

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