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Bitter is better - A review on the knowledge about bitterness in beer
Ch. Schnberger

Bitter is, or should be, a descriptive term for beers. What makes the beer bitter in the first place is the use of hops. The range of bitter units in beers used to be between 20 and 50 IBU (International Bitterness Units). Nowadays there is a very clear trend towards mild beers with bitter units between 10-25 and sometimes even lower. Originally used as a preservative in beer, newest findings show us what hop-derived substances offer in regard to health benefits. So there is hope that a new triumphant success of hops might go along with a new increase of bitterness in beer. Bitterness is a topic which is very important for all brewers and being a question of taste it can be discussed to everyones taste. This article is to give a review on the knowledge about bitterness in beer and the challenges in sensory and analytical evaluation of bitterness. The bitter taste reception is different from the reception of the other four taste qualities, which are sour, sweet, salty and umami, because evolution told us to be alert to bitter foods and rightly so since it can be equated with dietary danger. Rancid fats, hydrolysed proteins, plant-derived alkaloids, and toxins generally have an unpleasant bitter taste. Also microbial fermentation often results in bitter tasting compounds (1). But bitter flavours also contribute to the palatability and digestibility of food and beverages. Beer is not the only consumer good with the tendency of decreasing bitterness. Responding to taste-driven consumer demand of less bitter food, the food industry generally tries to remove bitter compounds like phenolic compounds, flavonoids, isoflavones, terpenes, and tannins from foods destined for human consumption. Because of such efforts, current food supply is less bitter than it might otherwise be (2, 3).

Descriptors: bitterness, taste perception, iso-alpha acids, bitter units, sensory

BrewingScience - Monatsschrift fr Brauwissenschaft, 59 (March/April 2006), pp. 56-66