What Makes Beer Bitter?

Have you ever taken a sip of beer and thought, “Wow, this is pretty bitter”? Well, you’re not alone. Bitterness is one of the most prominent flavors in beer, and it’s part of what makes beer, well, beer. But have you ever wondered what makes beer bitter? In this article, we’ll examine what gives beer its bitter kick.

What Makes Beer Bitter?

When it comes to the bitterness in beer, it is all about the hops. Hops are a type of flower used in brewing to add flavor, aroma, and preservative qualities to beer. But more importantly, hops are what give beer its bitter taste. Hops are used in all beers and contain compounds called alpha acids which help balance out the sweetness from the malt by adding some bitterness.

The Role of Hops in Brewing

Hops play a crucial role in developing the flavor and aroma of a beer. Depending on where they are added during the different stages of the brewing process determines what qualities they bring to the beer. For example, hops added early in the boil will contribute more bitterness to the beer, while hops added later in the boil will add more aroma and flavor.

The Bitterness Unit (IBU)

Brewers use a scale called the International Bitterness Units (IBU) to measure the bitterness of a beer. The IBU scale ranges from 0 to 100, with 0 being no bitterness and 100 being extremely bitter. Most beers fall between 20 and 60 IBUs. The higher the IBU, the more bitter the beer will taste.

The Different Types of Bitter Beers

Not all beers have the same level of bitterness; take a look at the following, for example… 

5 pints of bitter beer on a tray next to the words "what makes beer bitter"?
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India Pale Ale (IPA): IPAs are known for their strong bitter flavor. They’re made by adding a large number of hops, known for their high levels of alpha acids early on in the boil; this helps to give them their signature bitter taste.

Pale Ale: The difference between Pale ales and IPAs are they are slightly less bitter than IPAs but still have a noticeable hop flavor. They’re a good choice for those who are new to bitter beers.

Bitter: Bitter is a type of beer that’s been brewed in the UK for centuries. It’s a pale ale known for its balanced bitterness and crisp flavor; even though it is called a “bitter,” it has a much maltier taste than bitter American beers.

Stout: Stouts are a type of dark beer that are known for their rich, chocolatey flavor. Although not typically bitter, they can have a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Last Call

To wrap it up, what makes beer bitter? The answer is Hops. Hops contain alpha acids solely responsible for beer’s bitter flavor. Therefore, the type and amount of hops used and the timing will affect the overall bitterness of the beer.

So next time you take a sip of beer and taste the bitterness, remember that the hops make it happen. Whether you love or hate it, the bitter flavor gives beer its distinct taste and sets it apart from other alcoholic beverages. There’s a bitter beer for everyone, from IPAs to bitters and everything in between.

P.S. Be sure to grab your gift of Big Robb’s top 5 favorite beer recipes from his brew pub; details are on the side of the blog or at the bottom on your phone.  Cheers!

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