And just like that, I’ve jumped from the humble homebrew to the relatively insane and insanely expensive Mikkeller 1000 IBU. Take a moment get your bearings and adjust.
Now, if you don’t know what an IBU is don’t feel bad – I thought it was a beer gang called Insane Brewers United for a while – but in actual fact it stands for International Bittering Unit. The number of IBUs in a beer indicates roughly how bitter it will taste, just like the ABV indicates roughly how drunk it will get you.
To give you a bit of a benchmark – Epic Pale Ale has an IBU of 45, while the Armageddon (which is pretty bitter if you ask me) has an IBU of 60. Now look again at the title of this post. 1000 IBUs. Seems crazy, right? The kind of thing only a member of Insane Brewers United would make? Well lets just find out.
From the pour it certainly looked serious. It wasn’t clear and golden like most IIPAs I’ve had, but cloudy and brown – as if all those IBUs were floating around and murking it up (I do know this isn’t actually how it works). The nose was dominated by caramel malt, but the hops were there too – sweet and fruity, not the classic grapefruit/pine thing that I automatically assign to most American IPAs, but more ripe pineapple and stone fruit.
In the mouth it was bitter, yes, but not 16.6 times more bitter than an Armageddon. It was sweet and malty, with a sharp bite at the finish which lingered for awhile, but it didn’t wring my tongue out and require me to swill a litre of milk as I had hoped it would.
There are a couple of reasons why it didn’t do that. First of all, apparently the human tongue can only perceive a certain amount of bitterness – something like 80 to 100 IBUs I’ve heard – so you can pile it on in droves after that and it won’t really make any difference. Second, Mikkeller state that this only has a theoretical rather than an actual IBU of 1000, though I’m not even sure what that means. Can I say I have a theoretical height of six feet and a theoretical bank balance of millions?
I guess the whole 1000 IBU thing was just a bit of a marketing stunt. But it’s OK, because it was a tasty marketing stunt, and it taught me a valuable lesson about International Bittering Units which could come in handy if I ever enter a beer geek pub quiz. Win win!