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A New IPA Is the Most Bitter Beer in the World

Dogfish Head Brewery says they have made “the hoppiest beer ever documented through scientific analysis.” Their new brew, dubbed Hoo Lawd—the name is said to come from the exclamation you will undoubtedly make after you take your first sip—is seriously...

Dogfish Head Brewery says they have made "the hoppiest beer ever documented through scientific analysis." Their new brew, dubbed Hoo Lawd—the name is said to come from the exclamation you will undoubtedly make after you take your first sip—is seriously hoppy, measuring 658 IBUs or international bittering units. For perspective, the average IPA has somewhere between 40 to 60 IBUs.

An IBU, for the uninitiated, is a unit of measure of the bitterness of beer, which comes from hops. The more hoppy the beer, the higher the IBU. A beer's IBU is derived from a complicated formula and is typically way below 100, with blonde ales rating around 15 to 30 IBUs and stouts, like Guinness, going up to 60 IBUs.

READ: Scientists Say Psychopathic People Really Like Bitter Food

Dogfish Head founder and president Sam Calagione, however, wanted to push the limits of hoppiness in a documented manner. He also says he wanted to create a beer that is "DEFCON-one-hoppy!" And so he has.

But if hoppy beer is bitter beer, is this stuff actually drinkable?

Well, Calagione acknowledges his new beer is "abnormally intense." He says, "Hoo Lawd isn't for everyone, but we've had a lot of fun and learned a lot about pushing the outer limits of hop dosing volumes and techniques with this experimental brew."

We just had to learn more about this extremely hoppy beer, so we reached out to Calagione and asked him to tell us more.

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Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione with the Hop Union team. Photo courtesy of Dogfish Head

MUNCHIES: As far as you know, have other breweries tried in the past to create the "hoppiest beer ever," and if not, why haven't they? Sam Calagione : We did our first super hoppy high-ABV IPA, 120 Minute, over a decade ago. Since then, there have been some wonderful, adventurous brewers in different countries targeting very high IBU ratings with certain beers. But as far as our research shows, those breweries referencing over-500-IBU beer were making theoretical claims for these IBU targets—nothing wrong with that. That's based on a mathematical calculation the brewers make themselves on paper. But they do not actually have the IBU rate scientifically verified by a third party lab as we did with Hoo Lawd, which we now know clocks in at a verified 658 IBUs.

What is it about Hoo Lawd that will keep people drinking after that first sip if the beer is indeed that damned hoppy? A thirst for pushing their palate toward a lupulin [the active ingredient in hops] threshold shift. Almost every IPA-lover I know has experienced a version of this phenomena—a thirst for being adventurous and experimental IPA drinkers. It's a similar thrill to the one we get being experimental IPA brewers. We didn't make this beer for mass production. We brewed eight kegs of it to learn more about pushing technical boundaries of brewing inordinately hoppy beers, and as a beer educational component for an episode of our web series, That's Odd … Let's Drink It!, which is focused on the subject of hoppy beers. The episode with Hoo Lawd premiers tomorrow in which my pals—the actors Ken Marino and Joe LoTruglio—try the beer on camera and create a faux Hoo Lawd TV ad that is an homage to the old "That's a spicy meatball!" Alka Seltzer ad. The beer goes on tap at our pub tomorrow at 5 PM, and we will also pour it at the Extreme Beer Fest in Boston in February.

Can you tell us a little bit about Alpha Beast and what makes it such a unique hop? Why are the three hops used in the beer mixed with a C02 extract? There are actually four hop varieties used in extract for Hoo Lawd: Alpha Beast, Amarillo, Warrior, and Simcoe. Alpha Beast is technically referenced as hop variety number 462. Farmers like it because it is late in the harvest window. It's a clean bittering hop.

Walk us through the process of receiving documentation from two independent labs for the beer and how the idea to do so came about. We worked with Hop Union, our longtime hop partners, on this project. We asked them to get two respected external labs to do the analysis for this, so it wasn't us at Dogfish Head sending the beers to labs we already know and/or work with to do the analysis.

Some authorities claim the human tongue can only discern differences in taste up to 110 IBUs, so why even bother with the remaining 548 IBUs? I know I have tried beers theoretically calculated to 100 IBUs and another beer theoretically calculated over 110, and I have tried Hoo Lawd at 658, and I believe I can tell the difference in the intensity and how the bitterness stays with you for each of them. Scientists disagree about whether or not humans can detect more than five distinct tastes. Food scientists are often discovering new pathways and receptors for taste impressions to travel between our mouths and our brains. The experience of drinking Hoo Lawd is kind of like taking the sensory journey from tongue to brain by hitting the hyper-space button in the video game Asteroids. Some beer drinkers make the journey safely and enjoy the rush of the ride. Some beer drinkers' palates sort of explode, and they don't look forward to playing again at all.

Thanks for speaking with us, Sam.