Beer is a mystical creature. It has the power to do so many things, both good and bad. For starters, beer can make you brave, loud, fun, silly, joyous, and flirty. On the negative side, it can also make you sad, angry, depressed, annoying, loud, and lose all judgment.
Have you ever wondered why you can drink so many Coors Lights and be just dandy, but the moment you have a Stone IPA you feel like you drank a gallon of happy bubbles? Alcohol content and hops create a fraction of drinkability.
Each beer has two specific numbers, ABV, and IBU. They are usually on the beer list at bars and restaurants next to the name of the beer. On bottles and cans, the placement varies. The ABV (alcohol by volume) is that number to tell you just how drunk you are going to get. Coors light 4.2%, which in on the low range. My favorite IPA, Space Dust by Elysian Brewing is an 8.2%. It’s a very different story; I can have only one Space Dust, and I’m good to go.
The other number on the beer is the IBU. Also known as International Bittering Units. This tells us the amount of hops that you will be able to taste in the beer, the bitterness from the alpha acid from the hops itself. The lower the IBU, the less hops you taste. Coors Lights IBU is at 10. Space Dust is at 62. If you are a person who likes the more hoppy beers, look for a higher IBU. More than likely, if it has a high IBU, the ABV will match. Stouts and Porters don’t seem like they have a high IBU, just because of their sweet tastes, but they can surprise you.
If you are a beer snob like myself, you will be looking at both of these numbers religiously now that you know what they are. It is good to know how many beers you can drink without getting sloppy, and how bitter it is going to be.
Special thanks to Bryce Eddings, the Beer Expert over at about.com. You can find his article here.
Mind your ABVs and IBUS!