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I'm in the process of formulating a recipe for my first IPA, but there is an extremely wide range of bitterness on most scales - something like 40 - 120. I have no idea if I like beer in the lower or upper range.

I recently drank Brooklyn IPA 7%, which is the freshest IPA in my memory right now. Approximately in what part of the range is that beer?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Keep in mind that published "standards" have little to do with commercial beer. The BJCP guidelines that most of us know are are for comparing one beer to another in a homebrew comp. They have little to no bearing on the commercial beer world, where the brewers can call their beers whatever they like and brew them however they want to. So, there's really no way of categorizing the hop level of commercial IPAs. Some, like Alexander Keith's IPA, are so low that you can't even really believe it's an IPA. Others are so high that you may find the beer undrinkable. If you're trying to make your own, I suggest you find an IPA that has the IBU number available and see what you think of it. Another useful concept that will help you is BU:GU ratio. That's Bittering Units:Gravity Units. Personally, for IPAs I like at least a 1:1 ratio....that would mean 70 IBU for a 1.070 beer. By trying different beers and noting their BU:GU ratio, you should be able to come up with a number that fits your tastes.

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As Denny points out, the key is balance. Knowing the IBUs of the beer only gives real meaning when you also know the OG. 50 IBUs might taste fairly bitter if the OG were only 1.035, but would be less pronounced if the OG were, say, 1.060. – mdma Sep 19 '11 at 1:47
@denny When you say BU:GU, you mean GU from malt, right? Since for example corn sugar wouldn't leave any residue sweetness? Also: Damn, this is one of those times I wish I could accept multiple answers... – Max Sep 19 '11 at 10:13
No, it includes any fermentable, sugar included. – Denny Conn Sep 19 '11 at 15:37
I see I got some downvotes on this. If you downvoted, could you explain why? – Denny Conn Sep 23 '11 at 17:15

American IPAs are supposed to have from 40-70 IBUs. Many commercial examples stick to the lower end of this spectrum, Brooklyn IPA has 45 IBUs for instance. IPAs with lower IBUs (40-50) are more likely to do better commercially since most people don't like crazy amounts of hoppiness in their beer.

However, many beers do well on the higher end of this spectrum. Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA has 60 IBUs (fitting), Bear Republic's Racer 5 has 75, and Stone's IPA has 77.

Keep in mind that IPAs are not just about bitterness, you also want the right flavor and aroma from your hops as well. Bell's Two Hearted Ale is not extremely bitter, but is well regarded in the style because it has good hop aroma and taste.

I would say your best bet is to run to your local beer store and pick up a variety of IPAs to do some research. Many breweries will list the IBUs either on the bottle or on their website. Taste a few of them and decide just how bitter you want your final beer.

Final note: Some beers venture into the 80+ range for IBUs but that is generally seen in double or imperial IPAs where there is more malt to balance out the bitterness. If you plan on making a 7% beer I would stick between 40-70 unless you REALLY like bitterness.

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