IBU has been an important craft beer label initialism for a number of years. It stands for International Bittering Units and it’s a numerical score that indicates (you guessed it) bitterness. In the beer world, the higher the number the more bitter the beer. Scores of 25 might represent a mild bitterness while a score of 100 or more might indicate a face-puckering bitterness. As a side note, bitterness isn’t limited to hop-heavy beer as stouts using roasted grains or coffee also present a bitterness.
Over past four to five years, the beer world has seemingly turned 180 degrees. Pushing the limits of 100 + IBU ales has given way to the pillowy soft juicy experiences of New England style IPA. Many brewers today forego the addition of bittering hops in the kettle in favor of a post-boil dry-hopping. While the boiling wort releases the bitter alpha acids found in hop oil, dry-hopping or late addition hops allow for a different hop experience.
Fractal Mosaic Galaxy by Equilibrium Brewing Tasting: January 30, 2018 Style: IPA Beer # 1,128 ABV: 6.8%
I really wasn’t impressed with my first can of Fractal Mosaic Galaxy. It was an easy-drinking beer that went down quick but it was demure and unassuming. While having my second can, it dawned on me the demure piece was bitterness. I see this beer in a whole new light. Taking it in slowly, Fractal Mosaic Galaxy offers up a swirling range of mellow hop characteristics like orange rind 90 points
Beyond the reported style of the beer, a beer label can tell you a lot about a particular beer before you even open it up. This can of Stoneface Brewing Mozaccalypse contains some excellent information on its label so, let’s take a look at what we can decipher.
Sometimes the clues are in the name
First, let’s dissect the name of this beer. If you know your hops you might be able to decipher that this beer is made with Mosaic and Azaca hops. Mosaic hops are called the hop variety that changed the beer world. Developed in 2012, they bring the fruit, most notably, a citrus and tropical combination. Think Hawaiian Punch. Azacca is also a newer breed (2014). Named for the Haitian god of agriculture, it boasts many of the same tropical fruit characteristics. Since the IPA is trending “juicy”, these tell me that I might expect a New England style IPA. If you like certain hops take note for future purchases. I have favorites including, Mosaic, Galaxy and Citra.
Alcohol by volume (ABV)
Sure alcohol content helps you gauge how many beers you can have before feeling a little tipsy, but ABV can also tell you a little about the mouthfeel of a beer. Alcohol has a higher gravity than water and the higher the alcohol content may bring a rich mouthfeel. Stoneface Brewing Mozaccalypse checks in at an average range of 8.0%.
International Bittering Units (IBU)
IBU is a scale that measures bitterness. A few years ago, crushing bitterness was all the rage and beer brewers pushed to produce the highest IBU beers. Experts say the measurable range is between 0 and 100 and anything reported to be beyond 100 is a bit sketchy. On our label of Mozaccalypse, they indicate an IBU of 50. That would indicate a beer with light/moderate bitterness.
Original gravity (OG)
Original gravity is a measurement taken before yeast is added to the cooled wort. This measurement tells a brewer how dense the wort is with undissolved solids or sugar. Yeast feeds on the sugar and creates alcohol. I’d like to say that the higher the OG, the higher the alcohol content, but that’s not always true. There are some yeast strains that cannot survive in higher alcohol content. In these cases, a lot of unfermented sugars and sweetness make it to your lips. But, I’d say OG and ABV are generally related.
There a number of readings for OG. I’ll stick with two, specific gravity and degrees plato. They do translate to each other. I usually peg an average beer at 12.5 degrees plato which (by multiplying by 4) translates to a specific gravity of 1.050. Our can of Stoneface Brewing Mozaccalypse checks in at 17 degrees plato.
Standard Reference Method is simply a gauge of a beer’s color. Some brewers use Lovibond as an indicator of color. Here’s a simple chart of SRM:
1.0 – 3.0 SRM – Pale yellow color 3.0 – 4.5 SRM – Medium yellow 4.5 – 7.5 SRM – Gold 7.5 – 9.0 SRM – Amber 9.0 – 11.0 SRM – Copper 11.0 – 14.0 SRM – Red/Brown 14.0 – 19.0 SRM – Brown 20.0 SRM – Black
So, we’ll note that our can says an SRM of 10 or medium copper in color.
To me, a packaging date is the most important thing to find on a can or bottle. Hops don’t age well and I think an IPA is severely altered once it exceeds 3 months past its original packaging date. Many beer stores don’t pull old inventory and it’s a buyer beware situation. As you can see, our can has a packaging date of June 9, 2017, and today’s July 13th. We’re in range.
What do I expect?
I expect a copper colored, juicy aromatic and flavored beer with only a light to moderate bitterness. I’ll also expect an average mouthfeel.
What did I get?
A little more amber than copper. Mellow juicy sweet aroma. Flavor jumps out with prickly pear and dank resinous smoke. Takes a few sips to get my tastebuds around this Imperial IPA as it seems more bitter than expected. It does mellow and reveals some nice mango and citrus. All in all, a nice beer 89 points.