IBUs and Pounds per Barrel of Hops

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old faithful
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IBUs and Pounds per Barrel of Hops

Postby old faithful » Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:45 am

In continuing my readings on historical beers, I've read that pale ales and IPAs in the 1800's used between 2-6 pounds hops per barrel, a barrel being 36 gallons. The lower end was for pale ales and "domestic" IPA, the higher end for beers intended for export to India or for long keeping. I've read too that after 1900 the range dropped quite a bit, where presumably it is today. Hops were and still are mostly I think dried and bagged in large sacks, so weight would have been dry weight from cwt sacks.

Today, hop rates are measured in IBUs. Does anyone know how to correlate IBUs with pounds of hops per 36 gallons?

This would give some idea of which beers today reach say the 5-6 pounds per barrel hopping that export IPAs got before the era of refrigeration. Would any of the pales made in Ontario today be in this range? What about the highly hopped beers made by Dogfish Brewing, or Phillips, or some of the beers from the excellent Grand River brewing company in Cambridge?

I realise that lupulin levels may have changed since the 1800's, and that there is a difference between aroma and bitterness hopping, but still, it would be interesting to know which modern beers in general can be said to be in this historical range for the exported India Pales and long keeping beers.

Gary
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Postby Derek » Thu Feb 12, 2009 9:20 am

There's a lot of variables, but you can play here:
http://www.probrewer.com/resources/tools/bitterness.php

Example: For an OG of 1.060 (mid range for an old IPA?), 5lbs in 1.16 barrels (31 gal/us barrel), 3% AA (does anyone really know what the alpha acids where back then?), boiled for 60 minutes should yeild ~100 IBU.
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Postby old faithful » Thu Feb 12, 2009 9:29 am

Okay thanks, that is helpful, so this would suggest around 100 IBUs per English barrel, which is quite astonishing. 1060 would be about right for many IPAs then (and now). Not sure how lupulin and the aa's have changed but I would discount this because we are going more (I'd suggest) for a general impression. Hops will vary anyway with climate and area and variety... I know in the old days they would use mixtures of old and newer hops, to balance out the effects and for consistency. So I'd think we'd have to discount for practical purposes this aspect although it is a good question.

Which modern beers are hopped that highly?

I wonder what, say Granite IPA is in terms of IBU's/hops per 36 English/Canada gallons. It is fairly hoppy to me. Would it have been hoppy to a brewer in the mid-1800's? Then too the Granite's fine IPA (one of the best beers in Canada in my view) is not meant for long shipping. Perhaps it resembles more a domestic English pale ale in Victorian times.

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Postby markaberrant » Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:19 am

All good stuff here folks, I think you are on the right track.

Just keep in mind that when Derek says "100 IBU" that is only the estimated IBU, not actual IBU.

Based on the reading and research I have done, it is my opinion that estimated IBU values are pretty much meaningless. Yes, I know it is all we have to go on, and it does give you a vague idea of how the beer may or might taste, but all of the formulas for estimating IBUs (having multiple formulas is a problem in itself) are rough estimates at best.

As well, IBU "stats" (calculated or measured) have very little relation to how the final beer "tastes."

I recently conducted my own testing where I brewed IPAs that were "calculated" at close to 200 IBUs, yet the end result were beers with very little bitterness, and this has been observed by myself, beer judges and other tasters. I have no idea what the "measured" IBUs were in these IPAs, but through further research, I discovered that the sulfate levels in my tap water were much lower than my local water report indicated. IBU formulas make no account for sulfate levels, yet sulfate has a huge impact on perceived bitterness. About a month ago, I sprinkled a bit of gypsum in a glass, then filled it with some of my non-bitter IPA, and the bitterness "magically" appeared.

I'll be brewing a "historical" English IPA tomorrow with "calculated" IBUs around 137, and building my own water from scratch with much higher sulfate levels than my local tap water. I'm quite anxious to see how it will turn out.

Again, just my opinion, but I think it is false to look to IBUs as a definitive measurement of bitterness (let alone "hoppiness" which I didn't even mention).
Last edited by markaberrant on Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Derek » Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:21 am

That estimate would certainly be the maximum they might have obtained.

On the low end, if the hops were only 2% AA & they only used 2 lbs, you'd only have 28 IBU's.

So there's a lot of variability, and when they used a larger quantity, they may have been compensating for old/stale hops.

Somewhere in the middle (2.5% AA & 3.5lbs?) might be more reasonable estimate... 60 IBU?
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Postby old faithful » Thu Feb 12, 2009 11:59 am

Okay then why not go to a simpler way and perhaps one more accurate.

How many pounds of hops (I am referring to bagged dried hop flowers not pellets) are used per gallon to brew a pale ale today? Is it a half-pound, two, three? What is it I wonder for the Dogfish "minute" beers?

And (back to the earlier perspective), taking 60 IBUs as a possible 1800's "average", is that fairly high today? I do not brew myself and don't know. What commercially available pale ales/IPA would be in this range?

Gary
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Postby Derek » Thu Feb 12, 2009 12:25 pm

With todays high alpha hops & vacuum storage, I think it would be even harder to compare by-the-pound.

Coincidentally DFH60 is right at 60 IBU:
http://www.dogfish.com/brewings/Year_Ro ... /index.htm
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Postby old faithful » Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:41 pm

But still, can any commercial brewers here state approximately what is used - not pellets but normal bagged hops - per barrel (or 36 gallons) of finished beer, if not for their own beers, then as an industry yardstick? That would give some idea of the range in relation to pale ales in the 1800's (when something like 2-5 pounds or more hops per barrel were used depending (mostly) on the keeping quality needed). Even accepting that alpha acid levels are different and freshness may have been lesser then, I think it would be interesting to know this.

The domestic English hop market a century ago considered hops a year old or more "old" and hops under that young, basically. Old and newer were blended for their brews. I think we will never know for sure but if e.g., someone told me, the average microbrewery pale ale uses 1 pound per hops (or 2 or 3 or whatever it is) per barrel of finished beer, it still tells me something I think about relative values of hop bitterness. Also, pale ales were brewed all over England with different waters then - and in Scotland, so differences resulting from water chemistry no doubt played out then too. I am trying to average all this in mind if you see what I mean.

Thanks about the 60 IBU level for Dogfish Head 60 minute, it does tell me something and that beer I would say is a fairly bitter one, and probably does more resemble the norm in U.K. 100 years ago for pale ales than many (most?) pale ales made by the micros today. However, the ones that are lower in IBUs might resemble some lighter ales of that time (e.g., the AK beers) and perhaps even the Victorian mild ales, which also were hopped rather more than milds of today.

Another factor of course is aging - stocking beers lowers the hop attack. And beers today in general are not subjected to long aging like that, with exception for bottle-conditioned beers I suppose. Orval is in effect a stocked pale ale type of beer. At some 12 months of age it tastes reasonably bitter but not greatly so IMO. What about its equivalent over 100 years ago...?

Gary
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Postby markaberrant » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:21 pm

I don't think there is an industry yardstick anymore in regards to lbs of hops per barrel. There are so many hop varieties used today, with an insane array of alpha acids (from as low as 2-3% to 20%), and a limitless way to add hops to beers today (mash hops, fwh, bittering, finishing, hopback, dryhop, etc), it's virtually impossible to come to any sort of average.

And knowing that DFH 60 claims to be 60 IBUs is of little help. I wouldn't be surprised if DFH actually has had the IBU level tested, as they are big enough to do so. But another brewery, who doesn't have their beer tested, could also claim to have 60 IBUs, when it may actually be 40 or 80 or 60. THERE IS NO WAY TO KNOW.

And what does 60 IBU tell you? Nothing, it's just a statistic. Yeast, malt and water are just as important when determining how "bitter" a beer is.

For example: attenuation rates. I was looking at recipe stats for some historical imperial stouts, and the amount of hops used equated to something in the neighbourhood of 200 IBUs (calculated). But the average attenuation was only around 60%, and these beers were typically aged before selling, so the end result was likely nowhere close to as bitter as the IBUs would lead you to believe.

Don't get me wrong, I love learning about historical beers, and how commercial beers are made today. However, there are so many "non-measurable" intangibles that play a role in the finished product of a beer which statistics simply cannot account for.
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Postby old faithful » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:39 pm

Well, I understand. And a full body can stand more hops than a lean one, to be sure. But still... Look at this extract I just saw on the Fuller site in U.K.:

"The four major ingredients of beer are water, malt, hops and yeast. An average daily brew of Fuller's flagship brand London Pride uses 750 barrels of water, 13 tonnes of malt, 110 kilograms of hops and 320 kilograms of yeast. All of this produces 640 barrels or 184,320 pints of London Pride - that's enough to give every spectator at a Wembley Cup Final three pints each - possibly not a very good idea, but it does give you some idea of the scale the brewery works on!".

That works out to under half a pound hops per barrel if I calculate right.

Does Fuller use whole flowers? I don't know. That is an important point.

Gary

N.B. I think age does change hop character - to a point. I have had fresh and aged Orval, we all have, and they differ, but not radically so, I think.
Last edited by old faithful on Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby markaberrant » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:43 pm

I'm pretty sure Fullers uses Target for bittering, which is high alpha.

For the English IPA I'm brewing tomorrow, I'll be using the equivalent of 2.8lbs/US barrel.

There is a homebrew recipe for Pliny the Elder (claimed to be written by Vinnie himself) that calls for the equivalent of 6.28lbs/US barrel.
Last edited by markaberrant on Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby old faithful » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:45 pm

Okay good 2.8 pounds, puts it in the zone definitely for some 1800's IPAs.

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Postby old faithful » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:47 pm

6 pounds per barrel is what I've read is pretty near top-range for the best exported IPAs, close to what the Burton brewers would have used. I'll have to try Pliny The Elder. I've been to RR but drank his English-style bitter (which was great), and one of the sour oak-aged beers.

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Postby Derek » Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:47 pm

Good point on the different hopping techniques.

DFH60 may not be the best reference for taste. It's continuously hopped, so it'll have more flavour per IBU (and boiled hop flavour is different than dry/wet hopped).

During the industrial revolution, I think they typically used bittering hops near the start of the boil, then dry hops (without much, if anything in between)... getting the most bitterness & flavour/aroma per pound.

A quick search does reveal that many IPA's are still in that same pound/barrel range:
http://letmegooglethatforyou.com/?q=hop ... el+and+IPA

Given the MUCH higher AA% of the newer hops & better storage techniques (even just making pellets), some of these brews will certainly have more IBU's than the originals... though there's certainly other factors that'll contribute to the perception of bitterness.
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Postby old faithful » Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:18 pm

All good points, but the old timers used both bittering and aroma hopping in the kettle (i.e., apart from dry-hopping). There are lots of statements that hops should not be long-boiled where it is desired to impart more the aroma of hops than their bitterness. This was done especially for ales.

Just sampling a Greene King IPA and it does taste pretty authentic I think: dry and fairly bitter (not intensely so); fairly lean in body, which is how IPAs were made (well-attenuated); and yet flavourful and aromatic. I drank it cold (atypically for me) and it tasted really good.

Gary

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