A Belgian researcher has found that people’s perception of the beer they’re drinking can be influenced by the music they’re listening to, according to a story in the Daily Mail.
Or, as Dr. Felipe Carvalho of Vrije Universiteit Brussel puts it in much more science-y terms, “For the first time we have demonstrated that it is possible to systematically modulate the perceived taste and strength of beers, by sonic cues.”
The study asked volunteers to taste three beers and rate their sweetness, bitterness, and sourness while listening to different types ambient background music. What participants didn’t know was that all the beers were the same, but researchers saw distinct differences in how they rated the beers based on the music they were listening to.
When “a Disney-style track” was on, beers were rated as being sweeter. A song with “discordant high-pitched notes” caused participants to rate beers as being more sour. More bitterness was detected when listening to “a deep bass rumbling sound.”
Researchers conducted experiments with three organic beers, which varied from pale to dark, and from 4.5%–8% ABV, all with similar results. They wrote in their conclusion, “The results demonstrate that soundtracks that had been specially developed to evoke a specific taste can effectively be used in order to influence the participants’ beer tasting experience. The present study underlines the potential of sound to enhance eating and drinking experiences.”
It is believed the phenomenon on display in the study is synesthesia, which occurs when one type of stimulation leads to the involuntary stimulation of another sense in the brain.
One person the results will come as no surprise to is Heston Blumenthal, a renowned chef who has experimented with combining certain sounds with his dishes. Blumenthal’s “Sound of the Sea” features seafood and edible seaweed on a bed of sand-like tapioca set to a soundtrack of breaking waves.
“Context is incredibly important,” he told the Daily News. “Listening to the waves lapping up against the shore, most of us have heard that somewhere in our lives. It’s all about ‘nudging.’ If you nudge people—not turn them into lab rats—they have chance to lose themselves in a memory that is triggered by food.”
So, will we begin to see hop-forward breweries playing more music with “deep bass rumbling sounds” in their taprooms to enhance their beer’s flavor? Only time will tell.