How to Overcome Misconceptions Consumers Have About Hops

I’ve got to say that I am getting irritated with how often I hear the phrase ‘Oh, that has higher IBUs in it and I don’t like hoppy, so I don’t want to try it.’ Hey you! That imperial chocolate stout, that you aren’t afraid of, has more IBUs than most IPAs!
As a brewer, it is my job to take into account such things and IBU, ABV, and SRM when designing a recipe, along with many other factors. The reason I take a look at these things is to determine the balance that I want to achieve.What the consumer wants to know is, what is that balance exactly? As in, ‘what does it taste like?’ If all they focus on is the IBU and not all of the wonderful factors that make up that beer, then they will miss out on what that beer could bring to their palate.

For instance, our signature brew at Bear Island Brewing, “Idaho® Potato Ale,” is an IPA style that is very balanced and tropical. It is intended to be more of an “east coast” style that is very drinkable even though the IBU is higher. However, if a consumer sees that number on a menu at a bar and they do not like extremely ‘hoppy’ or ‘bitter’ beers they shy away.

It is a shame when this happens because the No. 1 comment we receive on our IPA by those that do not prefer said style is ‘I don’t usually like IPA’s but I would absolutely drink this. It is very balanced and not overly hoppy.’ Yes, it has hops in it, five varieties to be exact. The reason to not judge a book by its IBU is that there are so many varieties of hops and malt to bring it into balance. Our IPA utilizes earthy and clean hops for bittering and the awesome tropical Mosaic hop for some flavor and mainly aroma.

Some hops are extremely ‘hoppy’ (aka bitter) while there are others that provide a nice balance in a manner that does not taste as aggressive like Pine Sol. Now with the many different arrays of hops that have citrus, tropical, stone fruit, floral, mint, dill, lemon, lime, thyme, etc., one doesn’t have to be afraid of them. I can easily brew a lower IBU beer that tastes extremely hoppy vs. a higher IBU beer that tastes extremely balanced.

Sp what is a consumer to do when picking a beer style these days? By all means, take a look at the IBU on that menu or bottle but also consider the style of beer and the ABV, as certain malts add sweetness and higher alcohol also lends to the sweet side.   Don’t judge a beer by its cover.

The best thing would be for breweries to utilize a scale that communicates what the beer tastes and smells like. Introducing Bear Island’s “Bechtover Beer Scale.” This scale is a simple way to “plot” what a beer tastes like. A simplified version is going on our bottle labels to communicate what said beer inside tastes like.

Bechtover Scale
There are a vast amount of factors that can influence the perceived taste of a beer. Where wine is really only subject to the type of grapes, beer is subject to the many types of barley varieties, hop varieties, yeast varieties,H2O varieties and anything else the brewer feels like adding in. I’ll say it again: “HEY YOU, DON’T BE AFRAID OF IBUs!”UP NEXT FOR BEAR ISLAND:  “Christmas in your Mouth,” a winter spiced ale; the limited release of “Lady M,” an Imperial Lavender Chocolate Stout; and the special return of “Tripel Tater,” a Belgian Tripel brewed with 3 varieties of Idaho® Potatoes.

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