What does 53 IBU's taste like?

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poppalarge

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I've recently upgraded my equipment from 3 gallon pot to a 6g.


I've recently made a Pale Ale

I used 50g Perle hops @ 60m for bittering. And then 25g Amarillo at 15 mins and again at 0 mins and Beersmith says it's 53 IBU's.

The beer is arguably still a bit young after only 2 weeks conditioning but it seems to taste fairly bitter right now. Not unpleasantly so, but lets just say noticably bitter

My question is, maybe because of my older equipment maybe my IBU readings, and thus my understanding of tasting IBU's is out of kilter.

So... what does 53 IBU's taste like?
 

Yooper

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The answer is "it depends"!

The reason is this. Say you had a light lager with an OG of 1.040. IBUs of 53 would be unpleasantly bitter.

If you had a barley wine with an OG of 1.100, the beer would be not quite bitter enough and lean towards sweet.

The reason is complex, but it boils down to the IBU/SG ratio.

Beer is all about balance, and the bittering needs to be balanced with the sweet malt.

Some beers lean toward bitter (say, an IPA) while others lean toward sweet (a wee heavy for example). But even so, there needs to be a balance and that's where looking at the IBU/SG ratio comes in.

A pale ale at 53 IBUs may be a bit bitter (normally they are 30-45 ) but there are also ways of making the bitterness smoother, by choosing less harsh hops for bittering and flavor. Also, a pale ale of 1.040 with 53 IBUs (an IBU/SG ratio of 1.325!) will be much more bitter tasting than a pale ale of 1.060 with 53 IBUs ( an IBU/SG ratio of 1.13)! Most of my pale ales have an IBU/SG ratio of .750-.800, depending on what I'm making.
 

Heavywalker

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I think that 53 IBU's can taste extremely bitter if the right balance of flavor and aroma hops are not added to the boil. For example 53 IBUs that were all from bittering hops would taste bitter and very little flavor would come through. Also the ABV, residual sweetness, and maltiness all have an impact on how the hops come through in a beer.

With that said it is still young and the flavors will change over time.
 
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The answer is "it depends"!

The reason is this. Say you had a light lager with an OG of 1.040. IBUs of 53 would be unpleasantly bitter.

If you had a barley wine with an OG of 1.100, the beer would be not quite bitter enough and lean towards sweet.

The reason is complex, but it boils down to the IBU/SG ratio.

Beer is all about balance, and the bittering needs to be balanced with the sweet malt.

Some beers lean toward bitter (say, an IPA) while others lean toward sweet (a wee heavy for example). But even so, there needs to be a balance and that's where looking at the IBU/SG ratio comes in.

A pale ale at 53 IBUs may be a bit bitter (normally they are 30-45 ) but there are also ways of making the bitterness smoother, by choosing less harsh hops for bittering and flavor. Also, a pale ale of 1.040 with 53 IBUs (an IBU/SG ratio of 1.325!) will be much more bitter tasting than a pale ale of 1.060 with 53 IBUs ( an IBU/SG ratio of 1.13)! Most of my pale ales have an IBU/SG ratio of .750-.800, depending on what I'm making.
^this times 7.

It also depends heavily on where those IBUs come from. If they were all from a bittering addition, then it'll be crazy bitter. If they came mostly from late additions, there will be loads of hop flavor.
 

454k30

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I'm going to say it even though its been said: it depends. I like Yooper's ratio way of thinking of things. My beer swilling buddies always complain that there isn't a way to tell how bitter a beer will be based on the IBU. That results in them drinking either too sweet or too bitter, for them, beer. I didn't notice what your SG was but a pale ale with 53 IBU sounds to me like it is going to be very dry and floral. Take that beer to the Northwest and they'll love it, go the southeast and they'll poor it out: that's just my experience though. Cheers!
 

Heavywalker

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I didn't think hop czar was that bitter, I think it has hops that give a spicy profile but not really bitter.
 

peterj

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Were you doing partial boils before and now you are doing full boils? If so, there might be a big difference in your IBU calculations and you will just have to get used to how the IBUs are with your new setup. All the calculations are just predictions anyway, so the only thing that matters is that you know what 53 IBU tastes like for your setup using the same IBU formula that you you always use.
 

Demus

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+1 on the depends answer, for additional reasons than already posted. Even if we assume a fixed hop schedule, 2 different beers with 53 IBUs can taste completely different.
-the variety of hops, even assuming same acid levels, will change bitterness perception.
-the water profile, various water parameters can enhance or mellow perceived bitterness.
-the yeast strain. Different strains can enhance or mellow bitterness as well.
-don't forget, the drinker!!! One person may find 53 IBUs perfect, another may find it over the top.
The bottom line is all IBUs are not created equal. That unit of measure is simply not an accurate way to measure the flavor of beer. Perhaps in the future we will have a way to measure it more accurately, but for now we're stuck with trial and error...
 

gr8shandini

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Unless you're planning to age this beer for quite a while, what you're tasting now is pretty much what you're going to get in terms of bitterness.

As for your original question, I like to use this chart as a rule of thumb:


However, that's just a rule of thumb. There's a lot of things that can influence your perception of bitterness. For example, I brew a dry stout at 1.040 that clocks in at 36 IBU, which is off the scale here, but isn't what anyone would consider "hoppy."
 

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