As you’re looking over the options listed on menu on the tasting room chalkboard, you will encounter the abbreviations of ABV and IBU followed by numbers accompanying each beer selection.  This information helps explain beer in greater detail and helps you understand what you are about to drink before you drink it.  While centuries of brewing and decades of scientific study have gone into the formation of the ABV and IBU scales, we think it’s more fun to drink beer than attempt to understand it.  Here is a brief explanation to give you the basics of each, in layman’s terms, so you can spend less time reading and more time drinking.

ABV, or alcohol by volume, is the standard measurement, used worldwide, to assess the strength of a particular beer.  The ABV scale is simple in the fact that the higher the ABV, the more alcohol that beer contains.  Lighter beers range from 4-4.5% ABV, with percentages getting higher with heavier styles of beer.

IBU, or international bittering unit, is a less discernable abbreviation that is as, if not more, important when it comes to selecting the type of beer that is right for you.  The IBU scale measures the bitterness levels in beer (based on the amount of hops added) and helps beer drinkers determine which styles of brews are ideal for their taste buds.  This scale can be tricky, however, because higher IBU levels do not always equate to bitterer flavor. The following graph (brought to you by details the average IBU range for the most popular styles of beer and will help guide your beer tasting process.


Anthony Towey
Author: Anthony Towey

Anthony Towey spent over a decade working nearly every position in the bar and restaurant business before being hired as Content Editor and Social Media Manager for StateVentures- publisher of and His combination of writing expertise, marketing savvy, and service industry experience puts him in a unique position to be able to help the local breweries like few else can. He is also the Delmarva Correspondent for and an avid supporter of drinking local.

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