A Visual Guide To Beer Bitterness : IBUs By Style

The BJCP guide contains a variety of beer measurements that define different styles of beer.

I’ve drawn this beer bitterness chart to describe the target IBU value of every beer style, according to figures given in the guide.

Hop cone
In nearly all beers, bittering hops are added to counteract the sweetness of the malt sugars that make up the rest of the wort.

Some beers contain relatively few hops while others, such as India Pale Ale, are defined by a high degree of bitterness and hop aroma.

Hop Bitterness

Hop bitterness is produced by alpha acids contained within their oils. Its effect on beer can be measured in two ways:

  • Alpha acid units (AAUs)
  • International Bittering Units (IBUs)

AAUs are a product of the percentage of alpha acids present in a particular hop and the weight used in a given recipe. This figure is commonly stated in beer recipes.

The IBU is a more precise measure of bitterness that takes into account other factors such as the boil temperature and duration, and the amount of sugars in the wort.

The IBU number tells you how much of the potential alpha acid has been absorbed (isomerised) by the wort, and is the bitterness figure that’s most often used by brewing software. It’s also used in the BJCP style guide.

The BJCP has defined the target IBUs for more or less every style of beer. I often consult this when planning hop additions for a recipe, if I have a particular beer in mind.

It’s useful to see the range of bitterness for a particular style, and to use brewing software to develop a schedule of hops that will produce that.

Of course, there are many more things to consider when planning hops additions, such as whether you want a lot of residual hop aroma (in which case, add them at the end of the boil) or if you purely need them for their bittering qualities (in which case, add them at the beginning).

However, the BJCP statistics are a useful starting point.

Beer Bitterness Chart (IBUs by Style)

Using the BJCP guidelines, I’ve prepared this diagram showing the target IBUs for every beer style:

Beer bitterness Chart derived from the BJCP Style Guide

A pdf of the IBU chart can be found here: IBUs according to the BJCP Style Guide.

I hope you find this useful when planning your next recipe.

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