How many IBUs (International Bitterness Units) can you taste? That’s a very good question, because there are limits to the amount of bitterness the human palate can perceive. For many years, beers like Bigfoot Barleywine with its whopping 90 IBU count were the top of the heat, at least as far as IBU count was concerned. Some beers came in over 100 and those were quite impressive indeed back in the day.
Today, however, there seems to be an arms race going on amongst brewers to brew the beer with the highest IBUs. Mikkeller puts out an amazing 1000 IBU beer, and Flying Monkeys of Canada now has a beer called Alpha Fornication that they claim has a mind-boggling 2500 IBUs. I was thinking about all this as I sipped on a glass of Straight to Ale Gorillanaut Imperial IPA at Stout’s Growlers’ first anniversary party. It sure is a bitter beer, my friends, though there is a lot more to bitterness to this beer as we shall soon see.
Here’s what the brewery says about this not so regularly produced special beer:
The bigger, badder brother to our flagship Monkeynaut IPA, this beer definitely shoots for the moon. A supernova of citrusy hop aroma and flavor up front and a sweet malty backbone make this an aggressive yet well-balanced beer. It finishes with a smooth, lingering hop bitterness. If you’ve ever wondered what an 800-lb. gorilla in a spacesuit drinks, well, the answer is Tang, of course … but when he’s back on Earth and in the mood for a big beer, he reaches for this.
Straight to Ale Gorillanaut Imperial IPA has an alcohol content of 9% by volume and, here’s what you’ve been waiting for, an impressive 275 IBUs. A 32-ounce growler will run you $13.25.
Straight to Ale Gorillanaut Imperial IPA is a beautiful orange amber in color with a generous foamy head and a luscious resiny pine nose. The beer has a medium chewy caramel maltiness with lots of resiny pine hop flavor and aroma, some alcohol warmth and a massive long dry peppery bitterness. This beer is indeed very bitter my friends, but here’s the shocker, it wasn’t all that much more bitter than many imperial IPAs I’ve tasted before.
Here’s why. As previously mentioned, the human palate can’t really perceive bitterness over 120 IBUs. Then too, IBUs are a measure of absolute bitterness elements in beer, not relative. This means that the maltier a beer is, the more the malt sweetness will counteract some of those bitter elements. That impacts the perceived bitterness of the beer. A beer with a lower IBU count can actually taste more bitter than another beer with a higher IBU count.
In hop aroma, Gorillanaut is not out of the ordinary, I imagine to further highlight the bitterness. Hops are added to the brew kettle at different times to effect aroma and bitterness, early for bitterness and late for aroma. In closing, I would say don’t buy Straight to Ale Gorillanaught Imperial IPA for the IBU hype, buy it because it’s a really tasty imperial IPA. On that score there can be no monkeying around with this one.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.