Anyone remember those silly commercials from Keystone Beer a decade or so ago? The one with the toothless man sucking his lips in to create the most wonderful rictus grin anyone’s ever seen? He was, apparently, representative of what “bitter beer face” looked like. Everyone in the commercial would scream and run around like Armageddon was here.
Sigh. What was the line from Shakespeare? “What foolish beer drinkers these mortals be,” although I believe I’m paraphrasing. Sure, if one prefers their beer to be dull, lifeless, homogenized water masquerading as a real beer then so be it. I usually side with the IBU camp.
The abbreviation is short for International Bitterness Units — a measurement of the amount of hops used and their overall acidity. On one end of the scale you will find inexpensive American lager/pilsner averaging around 5-15 IBUs. Boring. The opposite end of the same scale has the average IPA around 50-75 IBUs. Now we’re getting somewhere. After all, hops = flavor. That bitterness from the hop oil balances out any overt sweetness from the malted grains and provides flavors ranging from floral to citrus to pine.
Stone Brewing Company’s Ruination IPA is a study in ridiculous IBUs; a “liquid poem to the glory of the hop,” as they call it. Clocking in with a mouth-puckering 100+ IBUs, Ruination is loaded with Centennial and Columbus hops for an extra pine and grapefruit quality. It pours up a giant head of meringue foam with honey yellow ale glowing from below. Thick, sticky sheets of lacing hang down the interior of the glass like paint on a wall.
Your sniffer is going to need a vacation after smelling Ruination. Truckloads of candied grapefruit and pine resin all but drown out more slight notes of tangerine and flowers. This one is as bitter as your ex-girlfriend. It’s like sticking your tongue to a 9-volt battery. Massive grapefruit rind with lemon… just a hint of malt sweetness at the end. The long finish leaves the mouth watering like a lawn sprinkler.
Local “hop-heads” have been waiting for a long time to see this one show up on tap. Their reward is a spicy ale with skyscraper-high flavors.