I Long for the Days When IPAs were Actually Bitter-Not Just ‘Alcoholic’ Fruit Juice-Without Hops!

On August 13th of this year, 

Other Half Brewing teamed up with The Veil Brewing to release one of the strangest, most seemingly paradoxical beers ever made. 

https://firstwefeast.com/drink/hoppiest-beers-of-all-time/carbon-smith

By now, both the Brooklyn and Virginia breweries are some of the most famed IPA makers in the country, proponents of the hazy Northeast-style “juice bombs” that are de rigeur these days.

 And on that Saturday in August, geeks were champing at the bit to acquire cans of their latest collaboration, Topical Depression. 

Now for the kicker: the IPA had a reported zero IBUs.

Standing for International Bitterness Units, IBUs were at one point the purest measure of hoppiness in a beer.

 If Scoville Units told you how scorching a hot sauce was, 

IBUs told you how hoppy an IPA was. 

Then, over the last few years, as breweries started relying on hop varietals that were fruity, not bitter—like the Galaxy and Citra used in Topical Depression—IBU numbers & perceived bitterness, began dropping. 

Likewise, dry-hopping became a crucial weapon in an IPA brewer’s arsenal, adding an intense aroma and flavor, but not raising IBUs one lick. 

Thus, an unheard of zero IBU IPA suddenly became not just possible, but sought-after.

Still, I long for the days when IPAs were actually bitter, not just alcoholic fruit juice

That was the case back around the turn of the decade, when “hop bombs” were arising with punishing names like Palate Wrecker and Tongue Buckler.

The average IPA then used to register around 70-100 IBUs, with most folks believing anything over 100 to be imperceptible and just a theoretical measurement. 

But that didn’t stop an array of brewers, from Denmark to Delaware, from battling it out to hold the crown as makers of “the hoppiest beer ever.

Here, we take a look at the 10 hoppiest beers of all time, as defined by IBUs—that brewing statistic that has almost become obsolete.

  • 10. Dogfish Head Hoo Lawd
    Released: 2015
  • IBUs: 658
    Dogfish Head claims that Hoo Lawd is the highest IBU beer ever made that has been independently lab tested—most of the other IBU numbers below are based on in-house calculations. Like with Scoville Units, most brewers just estimate a number, usually well above what is technically thought to be even possible. Brewery founder Sam Calagione called Hoo Lawd “DEFCON-one-hoppy,” as it utilizes an experimental hop known as “Alpha Beast” alongside Simcoe, Warrior, and Amarillo hops. It was only available for one night last year at Dogfish Head’s Rehoboth Beach brewpub, and then earlier this year during Boston’s Extreme Beer Fest.
  • 9. Arbor/Steel City DCLXVI
    Released: 2012
  • IBUs: 666
    We didn’t realize the British isles cared about IBUs until this collaboration brew came out in early 2012. Uniquely, this was actually a black/Cascadian dark IPA, the “in” style of the moment. The offering created a minor frenzy in England, though the 6.66% ABV, 666 IBU beer is starting to make me think these boys might be some of them devil worshippers.
  • 8. Mikkeller 1000 IBU (tie)
    Released: 2010
  • IBUs: 1000
    The second half of the aughts brought the world the IBU Wars. Trying to get out of the recession, people were bitter—and so were the beers. Mikkeller’s offering came at the tail end of this arms race, and pretty much put an end to it—both due to its extraordinary high number, and the farce of it all. The first (and still only) widely-released beer on this list, few drinkers believed 1000 IBUs was possible, nor that brewery founder Mikkel Borg Bjergsø had actually had that number independently confirmed. Wrote Mikkel to the haters: “truly sorry if we offended anyone by brewing our ‘1000IBU’. We do know about the difference in theory and actual measures and never stated to have brewed a beer with an actual IBU of 1000. When we brew a beer like ‘1000IBU’ it is a gimmick, yet it is also because we like to test the limits in brewing…(sic).”
  • 8. Invicta 1000 IBU (tie)
    cervejaspelomundo
    Mondial de La Bière Rio
    View Profile 
  • cervejaspelomundo
    Released: 2013
  • IBUs: 1000
    You wonder if the only reason this brewery didn’t get a lawsuit for swiping Mikkeller’s name and idea is because Invicta is located in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. Hop assaults may have started late in the South American country, but it’s only fitting this popular craft brewery should have been the one that first laid down the IBU gauntlet.
  • 7. Hart & Thistle Hop Mess Monster V2.0
    Released: 2011
  • IBUs: 1066
    This gastrobrewery from Halifax got on the big board with this monster made by a brewer who claimed: “I didn’t design this beer to win any contests, rather for the full-on unforgettable experience of hop oil in your glass.” He also bragged that he didn’t utilize any hops extracts, throwing shade at Mikkeller who had allegedly used them. With a most excellent punny name, this was the rare IBU bomb that was well-received by drinkers, though the brewery went out of business in 2014.
  • 6. Zaftig Shadowed Mistress ESBlack IPA
    diamondsealtd

    View Profile
     
  • diamondsealtd
    Released: 2014
  • IBUs: 1100
    This is perhaps the strangest beer on this list, mainly due to its stylistic confusion. The Citra-hopped offering is described by its Columbus, Ohio brewery as part-IPA, part-ESB, and part-barleywine. In fact, the beer used a half-pound of hops more per five gallons than the brewery’s hoppiest IPA. The brew comes in a sexy, label-less black bottle, befitting the bitterness attack inside.
  • 5. Triggerfish The Kraken
    Released: 2014
  • IBUs: 1254
    My dad has over 4,000 friends on Facebook—big whoop. But passing a paltry 1000 fans was enough for this South African brewery to attempt an IBU bomb. By the time this beer was brewed, they now had 1254 fans  &  that’s what the IBUs would be (theoretically!) set at. If you’re wondering, the brewery now sits at 3,513 fans, which would—spoiler alert—break the IBU record. Let’s do it!
  • 4. Mikkeller X Hop Juice 2007 IBU
  • IBUs: 2007
    Years before 1000 IBU, Mikkeller had first tested the heights of bitterness with this experimental beer brewed specifically for the Copenhagen Beer Festival. I’ll let Mikkel explain it again because he’s so articulate: “Some people hated it, some people liked it and one thing’s for sure—it did not taste like a 100, 200 or even 300 IBU beer…(it) tasted like chewing a hopfield…and I personally loved it… (sic)” Actually, most all people hated it, as the beer only registered a meager 78 (out of 100) on ratings website RateBeer.
  • 3. Arbor FF #13 – 2012 Double Black IPA
    Released: 2012
  • IBUs: 2012
    Britain’s Arbor Ales brewed this 2012 IBU offering to celebrate London’s hosting of the 2012 Olympics. Another black/Cascadian IPA, the brew was packed with a fairly atypical mix of Bravo, Zeus, Galena, and Summit hops. Released strictly on cask, the beer was well-reviewed, though I’m surprised the IOC didn’t send them a cease and desist for the shameless logo theft. Those IOC folks are ruthless.
  • 2. Flying Monkeys Alpha Fornicatio
    theflyingmonkeys
    15.1k followers  
  • theflyingmonkeys
    597 posts · 15.1k followers
    Released: 2011
  • IBUs: 2500
    The bitterness inherent in hops come from alpha acids which, when boiled, are isomerized and increase IBUs. 
  • That was the thinking behind this 13.3% ABV beer, created by an unheralded Ontario brewery that decided to join the bitterness battle well after America had moved on to other interests. Released in honor of Ontario Craft Beer Week, only one keg and six bottles were ever packaged.
  • 1. Carbon Smith F*cks Up Your Sh*t IPA
    IBUs: 2600
    Managing to squeeze two of Carlin’s seven dirty words into one try-hard beer name, this Scottish brewery also claimed a whopping 2600 IBUs in its brew. Coming out in the summer of last year, the beer world mostly snored, almost completely ignoring this offering. (Do you know how hard it is to not get content-churning bloggers to cover your claim to hoppiest beer ever made?) The few folks that did try the beer f*cked up Carbon Smith’s sh*t via lackluster Untappd scores.

 Hop flavor of Founders Centennial IPA?

BeerAcocate

https://www.beeradvocate.com/community/forums/beer-talk.39/

Discussion in ‘Beer Talk‘ started by Brushkanna, Apr 25, 2012.

Thread Status:
Brushkanna
Devotee (429)
Jun 27, 2011
New Jersey

What is the distinct hop flavor in Founders Centennial IPA, is it all Centennial hops? That particular flavor characteristic is really bitter for me and I’m trying to identify it.  

  • #1
    Brushkanna, Apr 25, 2012
    Heatwave33
    Initiate (0)
    Sep 13, 2011
    FloridaPure Awesomeness!Heatwave33, Apr 25, 2012
    Horbar, Jnorton00 and Massbmx like this.

    dukes
    Initiate (0)
    Apr 2, 2012
    Maryland

    Are you asking which hops they use in Centennial IPA? Because that doesn’t determine bitterness. Any hop can be bitter depending upon how much and when it’s added to the boil. Though some hops can produce a perceived harsher bitter than others.

    #3
    dukes, Apr 25, 2012

    FatSalad
    Initiate (0)
    Apr 19, 2012

    Kadonny will jump up my ass if I say it, since “I really need to expand the number of IPAs I drink”, but Centennial hops, in my opinion (especially in single hop C beers), taste of candy pineapple.

    #4
    FatSalad, Apr 25, 2012

    kzoobrew
    Initiate (0)
    May 8, 2006
    Michigan

    FatSalad said:
    Kadonny will jump up my ass if I say it, since “I really need to expand the number of IPAs I drink”, but Centennial hops, in my opinion (especially in single hop C beers), taste of candy pineapple.

    You know, you should really expand the number of IPAs you drink.

I do taste candied pineapple with Centennial but I notice this flavor much more with age. I really do not pick up a lot of candied pineapple in Two Hearted but give me a Third Coast Old Ale with a bit of age on it I really start to pick in up. In most IPAs I notice a blend of citrus and floral flavors.

#5
kzoobrew, Apr 25, 2012

klaybie
Initiate (131)
Nov 15, 2009
Illinois

As far as I can tell it’s Centennial and Centennial only, I get pineapple, grapfruit from it. An outstanding beer to say the least.

#6
klaybie, Apr 25, 2012

LiquidTable
Initiate (0)
May 3, 2011
Michigan

It’s 100% Centennial hops. The typical flavor characteristic is grapefruit/orange rind/pineapple with a hint of pine.

  1. Bitterness is related to the alpha acid content of the hops, and how much are used. This beer is heavily dry-hopped so it has a higher perceived bitterness than actual measured bitterness. Don’t quote me on it but I believe it’s only about 60 IBUs…#7
    LiquidTable, Apr 25, 2012
    klaybie
    Initiate (131)
    Nov 15, 2009LiquidTable said:
    It’s 100% Centennial hops. The typical flavor characteristic is grapefruit/orange rind/pineapple with a hint of pine.
  2. Bitterness is related to the alpha acid content of the hops, and how much are used. This beer is heavily dry-hopped so it has a higher perceived bitterness than actual measured bitterness. Don’t quote me on it but I believe it’s only about 60 IBUs…[quote]   Yep, according to the bottle it’s 65 IBU’s.TongoRad
    Poo-Bah (2,550)
    Jun 3, 2004
    New JerseyFatSalad said:
    Kadonny will jump up my ass if I say it, since “I really need to expand the number of IPAs I drink”, but Centennial hops, in my opinion (especially in single hop C beers), taste of candy pineapple.

    I think that Founders Centennial has quite a bit of residual caramel malt sweetness, so that may be a contributing factor there, especially the ‘candied’ aspect. I haven’t gotten that quality in, say, Two Hearted or Stone IPA.

I don’t know what type of hops Lagunitas uses in Maximus, but I really get huge pineapple in that one, though it is more of grilled pineapple rather than candied. Great stuff- that baby was on my heavy rotation during Feb/Mar.

#9
TongoRad, Apr 26, 2012

HeadyBeer
Initiate (0)
Aug 25, 2009
Pennsylvania

LiquidTable said:
Bitterness is related to the alpha acid content of the hops, and how much are used. This beer is heavily dry-hopped so it has a higher perceived bitterness than actual measured bitterness.

Yes alpa acids and the amount of hops all help you determine the bitterness. 

How long they are boiled actually has much more to do with bitterness. Basically, your first addition hops will give you the majority of your bitterness. The later addition hops add flavor and the aroma. Heat extracts bitterness (boiled longer gives you more bitterness…) so dry hopping should add aroma and no bitterness.

#10
HeadyBeer, Apr 26, 2012

hopfenunmaltz
Meyvn (1,404)
Jun 8, 2005
Michigan

Dry hopping does not add IBUs. It does add essential oils and Beta Acids. The Beta Acids become bitter when oxidized. The oils add the impression of hoppiness.

The analytical measure of IBUs does not go up.The perception of bitterness does though.  
#11
hopfenunmaltz, Apr 26, 2012

musicforairports
Initiate (0)
Jul 15, 2006
New York

I get a distinctive and largely one-note flavor of grapefruit and orange from Centennial IPA, and other Centennial-exclusive IPAs. I can pick Centennial out easier than many other hops.

#12
musicforairports, Apr 26, 2012

LiquidTable
Initiate (0)
May 3, 2011
Michigan

HeadyBeer said:
Yes alpha acids and the amount of hops all help you determine the bitterness. How long they are boiled actually has much more to do with bitterness. Basically, your first addition hops will give you the majority of your bitterness. The later addition hops add flavor and the aroma. Heat extracts bitterness (boiled longer gives you more bitterness…) so dry hopping should add aroma and no bitterness.
Click to expand…

hopfenunmaltz said:
Dry hopping does not add IBUs. It does add essential oils and Beta Acids. The Beta Acids become bitter when oxidized. The oils add the impression of hoppiness.-The analytical measure of IBUs does not go up.The perception of bitterness does though.

To clarify, I did not mean to imply that dry-hopping imparts bitterness. Essential oils in the hops provide the flavor and aroma. Those oils are voltile and boil off in high heat. Regardless, the perceived bitterness is affected by the late addition hops as well, particularly the flavor addition. Perceived bitterness is your taste and olfactory senses tricking you into believing something is more bitter than it is, because of other related flavors and aromas.

#13
LiquidTable, Apr 26, 2012

Brushkanna
Devotee (429)
Jun 27, 2011
New Jersey

musicforairports said:
I get a distinctive and largely one-note flavor of grapefruit and orange from Centennial IPA, and other Centennial-exclusive IPAs. I can pick Centennial out easier than many other hops.
I think you are correct the centennial hop is distinct and easy to pick up on

#14
Brushkanna, Apr 26, 2012

BoneyardBrewer
Initiate (0)
Apr 24, 2005
Michigan

tho there is minimal to no flavor contribution, I believe the bitter addition is Nugget. At least at one time they used Nugget for a number of beers.

#15  
BoneyardBrewer, Apr 26, 2012

Kadonny
Meyvn (1,325)
Sep 5, 2007
Pennsylvania

FatSalad said:
Kadonny will jump up my ass if I say it, since “I really need to expand the number of IPAs I drink”, but Centennial hops, in my opinion (especially in single hop C beers), taste of candy pineapple.

Don’t take my comments out of context please. We were talking tropical IPAs. I said if you think Two Hearted is tropical, then you need to try more IPAs. I stand by that. Don’t mix my words to make it into something it’s not.

You can get pineapple flavors in the centennial hop, but the main flavors are still grapefruit and orange. Centennial and Two Hearted both have pretty big orange flavors, Two Hearted much more so, when fresh of course. Others obviously agree as per this:

musicforairports said:
I get a distinctive and largely one-note flavor of grapefruit and orange from Centennial IPA, and other Centennial-exclusive IPAs. I can pick Centennial out easier than many other hops.

#16
Kadonny, Apr 26, 2012

 

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2 thoughts on “I Long for the Days When IPAs were Actually Bitter-Not Just ‘Alcoholic’ Fruit Juice-Without Hops!

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