Tag Archives: IBU

#188 – Gaspar

#188 - Gaspar

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Gaspar is one of the three Christmas beers produced by Alvinne to celebrate the Epiphany. See my review on Balthazar (#163) for the background. Whereas the previous report concentrated on the swarthy King of Sheba, this one looks more closely at he who was claimed to be the King Of Tarsus.

As with all the three wise men though, there is actually very little evidence to support exactly who they were or where they came from. Even the gifts they purportedly brought to the crib of Jesus are stuff of legend. Stories throughout history have called them Kings, wise-men or Magi – the truth is nobody really knows anything other than at the birth of Jesus there was a visitation of men from the East who bore gifts. Nobody can say for sure there were three or that all three brought a different gift other than that gold, frankincense and myrrh were presented.

With regards to Gaspar, Jaspar or Caspar as I knew him at school, legend has it that he was a white-bearded king from the land of Tarsus (now in modern day Turkey). Others say he was the Indo-Parthian king called Gondophares, whom interestingly the name of the Afghan city of Kandahar is said to be derived from. Bible historian Chuck Missler also refers to an Armenian tradition which locates Gaspar from India. Whoever he was, or wherever he came from, tradition has dictated that he brought gold as his gift. Some have said this was to represent the spirit of the new born baby, others have suggested the gold was testimony that Jesus was born a king.

Whoever he was, or wherever he came from, at least he brought gold and not this beer. The whole course of history could have been changed in an instant had the Alvinne Gaspar exploded all over the son of God, as it did over me. Sometimes you forget that beers have a life of their own, and I never seem to learn my lesson. Twenty minutes later in a new set of clothes and with little more than two-thirds of a beer left I started again and to be honest wished I hadn’t. This was foul. I’m largely a big fan of the Alvinne picobrewery, and do not wish to cast aspersions so for now I will just suggest this was a one-off bad brew. Lots of likeminded souls rate the Gaspar and its 115 IBUS, so perhaps whatever it was that caused the nuclear reaction in the bottle was probably the same thing that made this beer taste of stale camel urine.

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Filed under 1, Alvinne, Belgian Strong Ale, Camel, Christmas Beer

#150 – Urthel Hop-It

#150 - Urthel Hop-It

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9.5 %

The Urthel Hop-It was born around 2005 when Hildegard van Ostaden (#101) returned inspired from a beer festival in the USA which was devoted to high quality super-hopped beers. In fact in many quarters today, the Urthel Hop-It is considered to be about as hoppy as a Belgian beer can get – even more than the XX Bitter (#131).

This assumption is based on the concept of the IBU (International Bitterness Unit), which I first introduced when drinking the Hopus (#77). This is a scientific analysis of the bitterness of a beer, and the Urthel Hop-It comes out at a rumbustious 180 IBUs. Simplisticly, the IBU is calculated by determining the ratio of isomerized alpha acid to every one litre of beer. For every milligram, one IBU is assigned. Thus for the Urthel Hop-It, there are 180 milligrams of alpha acids, which is a fair bit more than the XX Bitter. People tend to say this beer isn’t quite as bitter tasting as the XX, but that is more to do with the balance and blend, than the IBU rating. Often a beer with plenty of malt can have the same IBU as a pale ale, but taste far less bitter due to the balancing. Many consider the threshold for common decency to be at 100 IBUs, and so when beers end up nearer the 200 mark, the brewery have to work hard to ensure it is palatable.

The IBU can be very accurately measured in a scientific laboratory, but of course this is rarely done. Mostly, brewers apply a set of criteria to estimate the potential IBUs of the beer. The key is to efficiently estimate the utilisation of the alpha acids, and there are three main methods of calculation used. These are the Rager, Tinseth and Garetz methods, and each approaches it in a slightly different way. If I get a chance I will try and go into more detail the next time I find a highly hopped beer on my table.

Anyway, onto the tasting. I can officially confirm that this may be 180 IBUs, but it wasn’t as cheek-creakily bitter as the XX Bitter. It was certainly very hoppy and full of warm spicy goodness, but in a way that left you exploring other strange things going off on the palate. If I hadn’t just eaten a four course meal I would have considered it perfect as an accompaniment to a gastronomical meal. I actually found myself wedged into a tiny area of Brugs Beertje, the famous Bruges beer bar. Where better to sit with like-minded beer fans and celebrate the 150th beer of my journey? The best testimony I can give to this beer, is that one of the Northern ramblers I met on the table next to me was so impressed with my comments, that he promptly ordered one.

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Filed under 8, Belgian Strong Ale, de Koningshoeven

#77 – Hopus

#77 - Hopus

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

Hopus is a beer that has everything to do with hops. Many breweries attempt to offer a varied range of beer styles, and it is common nowadays to include highly hopped beers in that range. In fact, already being 77 beers in to the journey, it is fairly surprising we haven’t really spoken about hops as yet, as they have been integral to the beer making industry for over 700 years.

Their primary uses in brewing are that of a flavouring agent, and an antibiotic against less desirable micro-organisms than the specific type of yeast selected, and it is probably worth dealing with the science before going any further. Hops are most often dried before use in an oast house or similar facility, which goes to work on the resins within the plant. These resins contain two types of very useful acids – alpha and beta. The alpha acids contain a mild antibiotic effect against harmful bacteria and as already mentioned help to propagate the yeast used. These acids tend to also give the beer its bitter flavour. The beta acids do not tend to add to the flavour of the beer, but through their addition to the wort can give the beer wonderful aromas. The brewers choice of end product will largely determine exactly what type of hops to use in the brewing. The former are generally known as ‘bittering’ hops while the latter are known as ‘aroma hops’.

This degree of bitterness imparted from the hops depends on the extent to which alpha acids are isomerized during boiling, and they tend to be measured in International Bitterness Units (IBUs)*. Many European hop varieties tend to be ‘aroma’ hops, whereas the newer American types, are often ‘bittering’ hops. Bittering hops tend to be used for about 60-90 minutes of the brewing process, whereas aroma hops are often only used at the very end of the process. This normally occurs within the last five to ten minutes of the boil. Often, and this is very evident in Orval (#37), the hops are added after fermentation cold to the wort, which gives a very sharp hop flavour, and is usually known as ‘dry-hopping’.

There is plenty more to discuss on hops, but I shall go into that as and when the opportunity arises. This leaves me time to discuss the Hopus. Another beer poured from the rare swing-top bottle and one that exploded into the glass with a wholesome russet colour and a majestic head. The Hopus was certainly a sipper, which in fact lasted a whole episode of Match of the Day 2, and the flavour stayed true to the end. Nothing special, but certainly worth the trouble.

* For a more detailed discussion of IBUs, see Urthel Hop-It (#150).

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Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Lefebvre