The flavors in beer vary on an array of variables ranging from yeast and grains to brewing technique and time. Now, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, music is also a factor influencing how we perceive a glass of ale.
Researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and KU Leuven conducted a small-scaled experiment with 231 subjects. Participants were divided into three groups: a control group that drank beer in a label-less bottle without music, a group that consumed beer after seeing bottle packaging, and a group that drank beer from a bottle with a label while listening to "Oceans of Light" from the U.K. band The Editors. All subjects took a survey before drinking regarding how they felt the beer would taste and one after drinking to answer how they actually felt.
The porter-style beer used in the study was created by The Brussels Beer Project, in collaboration with The Editors. The medium body ale (and its packaging) was inspired by the band’s recent single "In Dreams." The final product included an Earl Grey infusion providing citrus undertones and a mix of grains to provide malty, chocolate flavors.
The researchers found that the group of subjects who were presented with a labeled bottle and background music self-reported enjoying the ale more than other groups.
"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,” said Felipe Reinoso Cavalho, who led the study, in a news release. "In this case, we have shown that people that previously knew the song that was used in the experiment, not only liked the multisensory experience of drinking beer more while listening to it, but they also liked the beer itself more.”
While the team found that background music heightened the beer-tasting experience, they also found that subjects who were familiar with the band’s music enjoyed the beer more than those who merely recognized the label.
“In general, the beer-tasting experience was rated as more enjoyable with music than when the tasting was conducted in silence,” write the authors in the study. “In particular, those who were familiar with the band that had composed the song, liked the beer more after having tasted it while listening to the song, than those who knew the band, but only saw the label while tasting.”
Since the findings are preliminary, Felipe says the next steps are conducting more research and understanding how sounds impact our dietary choices.
"We want to keep assessing how sounds can modulate perceived flavor attributes of food and beverages, such as bitterness, sweetness, sourness and creaminess,” said Felipe. "We also want to understand how sounds can influence our decision making process, in order to see if different sounds could, for example, lead people towards healthier food choices."