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International Bitterness Units or IBUs as they are more commonly abbreviated are something that really only brewers and beer geeks talk about. IBUs are a measure of bitterness in beer, with one milligram of isomerised alpha acid (the main bittering acid derived from hops) equal to one IBU. It’s important, however, to note that a beer’s perceived bitterness often will not match up with its IBU count. For instance, an Imperial Stout with 60 IBUs will usually taste less bitter than a German Pilsner with 40 IBUs due to its higher level of sweetness and body from its heftier malt bill.
With us so far? OK, let’s continue…
It’s generally accepted that the palate reaches its bitterness threshold at about 100 IBUs. So when Swan Valley’s Mash Brewing decided to commemorate its 500th batch by brewing an Imperial IPA with a calculated 500 IBUs, I knew to expect a ludicrously bitter, hoppy beer. More than a year after it was brewed, it remains (to the best of my knowledge) the most highly bittered beer brewed in Australia.
Brewed in August 2011, Mash 500 was the last beer at Mash brewed by the breweryâs foundation brewer, Dan Turley.
âThis was a really special brew,â says Dan (pictured on brew day above). âWe wanted to do something a little different for our 500th brew and after many beers and much discussion, we decided it couldn’t be anything else other than a beer with 500 IBUs. Crazy, perhaps undrinkable, but who cares, it sounded like fun!â Â The hops chosen were all high alpha acid varieties in an effort to hit the targeted 500 IBU mark, although this still resulted in close to 30kg of hops in the kettle â several times more than the amount used in Mashâs regular beers. Summit, Millennium, Magnum and Galena hops were utilised in the boil, with Cascade and Citra used for dry hopping.
The malt bill was comparatively simple, with Munich and Crystal malts lending toasty, biscuity and caramel notes to the beer, while a âfair whackâ of sugar was used to give the product a dry finish and help get the alcohol up to a considerable 8.2 per cent.
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