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  • World’s Bitterest Beer?

    January 5th, 2010FletchtheMonkeyBarley wine, Bitters, Comment, Real Ale

    Are you a huge hop head? Do you crave Humulus Lupulus in your sleep? Maybe you even struggle to wake up after a few “double IPAs” and a night asleep on a hop pillow?!

    Well one Oxfordshire brewer has taken on the challenge to create the world’s bitterest beer, and his strategy: yeah you guessed it, he’s thrown a silly amount of hops into his brew.

    Pitstop Brewery are hoping to hit the Guinness Book of World Records with their bitter bitter

    Pitstop Brewery are hoping to hit the Guinness Book of World Records with their bitter bitter

    Pete Fowler of the Pitstop Brewery near Wantage rose to the occasion after a friend reckoned he couldn’t match the bitterness of US craft beers, and in Mr Fowler’s words ‘that was like red rag to a bull’. The beer (or barley wine) has over £100s worth of hops plus additional hop additives for one 9 barrel keg of the beer compared to a usual £5 worth.

    Bearing in mind the brewer himself hasn’t tried it yet and is expecting it to be in the region of 500 IBUs* (a theoretical number which scares the pants of my tastebuds) it raises interesting questions on innovation (or should I say ‘innovation’).

    Is this an ‘extreme beer’? Or is it simply a boisterous take on the traditional British bitter, tongue in cheek and one finger up to the extremists? Or just a bit of fun?!

    Let’s compare to Tactical Nuclear Penguin which seems to have been a success so far for BrewDog. They’ve brewed it to push boundaries and simply because they can, which the beer loving world are mostly praising. Is it drinkable? It’s an acquired taste I reckon, it’s as smooth and drinkable as an Imperial Stout aged for a few years and I admire BrewDog for making it and laying the gaunlet down for brewers to push the boat out further.

    So should we take Mr Fowler’s brew in the same light, or not take it too seriously and be guilty of pandering to BrewDog because they are glamourous and modern?

    The deciding factor will be if throwing a load of hops into an English bitter makes a good beer? I wouldn’t sit down on an evening with Tactical Nuclear Penguin, but I enjoyed the experience. I guess the only way I’ll know with this one is to give it a go and taste it when the beer goes on sale at the Royal Oak in Wantage (from late January).

    If I still lived in Oxfordshire I’d be making a short hop down past Oxford one evening, but unfortunately I can’t justify the trip from West Yorkshire, so I’ll have to rely on someone else’s tasting notes.

    I’ll leave you with Garrett Olivers’s words, which seem kinda relevant:

    “The hoppiest beer? It’s a fairly idiotic pursuit, like a chef saying, ‘This is the saltiest dish.’ Anyone can toss hops in a pot, but can you make it beautiful?”

    If Pitstop Brewery get the record the real test will be if the beer actually tastes any good, but you have to admire the balls of a small brewery to give it a go. As a bit of fun, it’s got them a nice news story, as a serious pursuit, the proof will be in the pudding.


    Mark is better known as @fletchthemonkey and started writing about beer in 2009. When not content with spending all day on the internet working in digital for an multichannel retailer, Mark waxes lyrical at and types up match reports for Leeds Guide magazine.

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3 responses to “World’s Bitterest Beer?” RSS icon

  • I was just about to use the Garrett Oliver quote but you are one step ahead!

    It’s a bit of fun and I like it. It’s got them some small publicity and I’m sure it’ll sell out (it bloody needs to, the amount of hops that have gone in!). Whether or not it’ll be drinkable… who knows! At least it’s a barley wine and not a session ale.

    Then there’s the whole ‘but you can’t taste past 120IBU’ (or whatever) arguement. Or the fact that Mikkeller brewed a beer with 2007IBUs… And is this the actual IBU or theoretical IBU…

    Good on them I say. I like the spirit they’ve one it in; they are smiling in pictures as if it’s some joke they are having, not aking themselves too seriously.



  • FletchtheMonkey

    @markdredge Use it mate! To be honest I’ve seen it borrowed a few times, most recently by Reluctant Scooper I think.
    I think these guys are gonna have a good time getting this tested and if they can make a record out of it all credit to them!
    I can’t see it topping any drinkability awards but I say that in the hope of standing corrected!



  • Five hundred IBU’s is slightly excessive, although IPA’s were brewed by Amsinck in the 19th century with 400 IBU’s and only 6.5% abv, but these were matured for 12 months or longer and low alpha acid hops were used. The use of low acid aroma hops and year long maturation produces a beer which is not too unbalanced.

    Personally, I would just save myself money by brewing an IPA using 20% aa hops instead of bucket loads of 3% hops, so half the wort wouldn’t be soaked up by the hops and then I would bottle it young to avoid 12 months storage and sell it to beer afficionados for big bucks who don’t mind paralysing their tastebuds for the night.

    Got to go, my tea’s getting cold and it needs another 20 lumps of sugar.



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