Can a beer be brewed to complement music? Is that taking the art of craft beers too far? New research opens up new marketing opportunities.
Combining Beer And Music
A study published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that brewers should collaborate with musicians to create new tasting experiences. Researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and KU Leuven ran the study. A limited edition beer was brewed by The Brussels Beer Project in collaboration with the UK band The Editors. The porter-style beer was inspired by the music and look of the band. Apparently.
So, for those of us not aware of The Editors’ sound, what does it taste like? Imagine a porter infused with Earl Grey tea (which gives citrus flavours). Also add a unique combinations of malts, barleys and hops to give bitter, cocoa and biscuit flavours. The alcohol content weighs in at 5.3%.
So, can flavours be mapped onto sounds?
The study references previous research that suggests that they can. Using a one minute fragment from the song Oceans Of Light, the researchers state that “the results of a number of studies carried out by different research groups, high spectral balance, staccato articulation, syncopated rhythm, high pitch, among others, are musical/psychoacoustic elements that correspond to sourness.” They also expected the piano in the second verse to affect the sweetness detected in the beer.
Two hundred and thirty one volunteers participated in the experiment. Who wouldn’t like to partake in a free beer tasting session? I suspect that the portion size may have come as a disappointment though. Everyone had his or her own 33cl bottle but only got a third of it to drink.
Before starting, everyone rated how tasty they expected the porter to be. After tasting the beer they reported how much they enjoyed it.
Seventy three participants sampled the beer with no label on the bottle. Each person drank alone, in relative silence, far away from background noise and wearing earphones.
The next group also drank in silence, but with a label on the bottle. This was to test if the visuals provided by the label affected their enjoyment.
The third group had the bottle, the label and one minute of Oceans Of Light played through the earphones.
So what effect did the music have on beer enjoyment? Well, the people who heard music enjoyed the taste of the beer more. You probably guessed that, didn’t you?
“We have been able to see that people tend to feel more pleasure when experiencing beverages along with sounds that are part of the beverage’s identity.” – Dr. Felipe Reinoso Cavalho
A Relaxing Brew
Furthermore, people who were aware of the band’s music enjoyed the beer more. So there you have it. Proof positive that marrying songs with beer enhances the enjoyment of both. It’s only a matter of time before our favourite bands release bespoke drinks with their albums and concerts.
I have some niggling doubts. Sitting in front of a computer screen with mute earphones on and drinking a small amount of beer doesn’t sound like the most enjoyable of experiences to me. Or the most relaxing. I can fully imagine my mind wandering due to the unfamiliarity of it all. Maybe I’d be straining to hear something from the nearly-quiet background murmur? Maybe my full focus would not be on the the subtleties of my drink?
I would have thought that adding music would make the whole experience more enjoyable and less distracting. Maybe people enjoyed their drink more because they were relaxed and able to concentrate on the beer? If they knew the song then that would be one less novel experience to focus on. Maybe filling one sense with a familiar song allowed them to focus more on the novel tastes of the drink?
I would have liked it if the researchers had tried snippets of other music. Would the drinkers enjoy the beer as much with a fragment of music that the beer was not designed for? Would a piano concerto make the beer taste sweeter? Would death metal make it taste more bitter? Would Bollywood hits uncover hidden spicy tones?
Interestingly, the first two groups enjoyed the beer as much as they had expected to. The third group answered an extra question – how much they enjoyed the beer with music experience. They enjoyed the beer after tasting it more than they expected to. They “significantly” enjoyed the sound-tasting experience more. But does that automatically mean that the beer was suited well to the song? Or would any pleasant music suffice?
Still, if you’d like a beer on your own, put on some music. The music will probably not be tailored specifically for your beer but it would make an interesting experiment. I plan to (responsibly) try it several times over the next week. All in the name of science 🙂