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
My 15-year-old beer fridge went kaput the other day. I bought it for $199 so, I’ll consider it an honorable discharge. However, it leaves me in a quandry and I was forced to do an emergency evacuation of my craft beer to a couple coolers. I’ve had a few friends volunteer some fridge space but none made any promises of returning my full inventory. While I try and find a new fridge, I’ll do my part in trying to purge some beer that’s been building in my inventory. I’ll give some rapid fire thoughts on each…
A Beer Has No Name by Liquid Riot Bottling Company
Tasting: September 1, 2017 Style: American Double / Imperial IPA Beer #: 1,103 ABV: 8.2%
(C) 2017 popsonhops
Thanks to my friend, Mark for the goodies from Maine. I’m sorry to hear that his vacation was cut short. Dank hoppy and smokey underneath some bright pineapple sweetness. Hops include: Idaho 7, Mosaic, Citra, and Chinook Hops
Tasting: October 19, 2017 Style: American Double / Imperial IPA Beer #: 1,104 ABV: 8.0%
Another goody from my friend Mark. Lots going on with this beer. Herbal like black tea and lemongrass. Some underlying sweetness of honey and caramel. Bitterness is a little over the top but all in all enjoyable. 91 points.
Devastation by Brewery Vivant
Tasting: October 19, 2017 Style: American Double / Imperial IPA Beer #: 1,105 ABV: 11.6%
(C) 2017 popsonhops
Admittedly, this has been in the back of my fridge for a month. What’s left is yeasty, odd-flavored, sweet with some oak, vanilla and moss barrel influence. Really an odd beer. 75 points.
Big Timber IPA by Big Timber Brewing
Tasting: October 18, 2017 Style: American IPA Beer #: 1,106 ABV: 6.5%
(C) 2017 popsonhops
My first craft beer brewed in West Virginia crosses off state number 37 in my casual pursuit of beer from all 50. A gift from a friend that went to West Virginia. Maybe the first person I’ve known that has been to West Virginia. Very traditional IPA, lots of earthy pine and overpowering grapefruit and lime bittnerness. Has some balance as well with some distinct cracker-like malt. Surprisingly good. Big Timber IPA gets a respectable 87 points from me.
(C) 2017 popsonhops
Chasing Rabbits by Burlington Beer Company
Tasting: October 25, 2017 Style: American Pale Wheat Ale Beer #: 1,107 ABV: 5.8%
Delivers black tea, herbal, and some white wine grapes. Mouthfeel is nice. Like it quite a bit, 91 points.
Orbital Elevator by Burlington Beer Company
Tasting: October 25, 2017 Style: American Imperial IPA Beer #: 1,108 ABV: 8.3%
Brewed with Oat Malt and Flaked Oats and it does deliver a nice mouthfeel. Dank undertone, bold citrus. Froot loops quality flavor. I liked Chasing Rabbits more but another nice beer, 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.
This is known as a Brux ale. Brux as in short for the yeast associated with making this ale, Brettanomyces bruxellensis. One of four sub-types classified under Brettanomyces. This yeast is found growing wild all over the world and is often found on the skins of fruit. The name Brettanomyces is a combination of Briton (as in English) and myces (as in fungus). A patent for the strain was granted in 1906 to the Carlsberg Brewery.
Brett ales aren’t my go to style but this Brux IPA from Finback is smooth and entirely drinkable. My first impression is its polished mouthfeel. I don’t get the barnyard flavors associated with brett and no acerbic flavors either, just crisp with a tad bit of fizziness. Tropical flavors of melon under solid pineapple. The finish does diminish and leave off bitter after taste. Solid summer beer, certainly exceeded my expectations 91 points.
Finback Meridian Tasting: June 24, 2017 Style: IPA Beer #: 1,071 ABV: 7.0%
Meridian as in a longitudal line that runs from North Pole to South Pole. Interestly (at least to me), Websters reports the word as being in the top 30% of all words. Of course that got me thinking, what is the most popular word in English? Can you guess?
1 the 2 be 3 to 4 of 5 and 6 a 7 in 8 that 9 have 10 I
As far as Finback Meridian, it is probably as mundane as the use of the word the. Entirely drinkable and nearly flavorless. Totally meh and worth about 85 points only because it isn’t offensive.