Nostalgia for the good 'ol days of college includes the awful taste of Budlight, Budweiser, and PBR (if we've hit rock bottom). Yet, when Queen's, "We Are The Champions" came on, the cheap beer in our hands didn't taste so bad. Science suggests listening to music and drinking alcohol are more intertwined than we believe.
A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found music can influence the way we perceive taste, specifically beer. Different sounds, and even different sound levels, have ways of enhancing or detracting our taste buds. Typically, high decibels lead our taste perception to go down, which is a win if we’re drinking PBRs all night. This is why different types of music can change the way food and drinks are perceived.
In the study, Dr. Felipe Reinoso Cavalho from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and KU Leuven, in collaboration with the Brussels Beer Project and the U.K. rock band the Editors, produced a porter-style ale to pair with the latest album from the band called "In Dreams." The ale had a medium body and used an Earl Grey infusion that produced citrus notes, contrasting with the malty, chocolate flavors from the mix of grains used in production. Over 200 drinkers were invited to experience the beer under three different conditions.
The first group acted as a control and drank beer along with the bottle without a label, and did not listen to a specific song. The second group tasted the beer after seeing the bottle with the label, while the third group drank the beer presented with the label while listening to “Oceans of Light” off the band's latest album. Prior to drinking, the group was asked to rate how tasty they believed the beer to be, and after, rate how much they enjoyed the drink.
The label on the beer did not influence participants' enjoyment of the beer as much as the music did. The third group reported significantly greater enjoyment than the other two 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 Cavalho, in a statement.
Similarly, a 2011 study found certain styles of music could influence our perception of wine flavors. The ratings of the wine (red or white) tended to mirror the ratings of the music that played in the background, such as “powerful and heavy,” “subtle and refined,” “zingy and refreshing,” or “mellow and soft.” These are qualities that are also used to describe wine. Red and white wines were given the highest ratings for being powerful and heavy when drinking to Carmina Burana.
The role of music in our daily lives is more that just sound; it can impact the way in which we perceive the world.
Listen to the Editors while having a beer, and see how it affects your taste buds.
Source: Carvalho FR, Velasco C, van Ee R et al. Music Influences Hedonic and Taste Ratings in Beer. Front. Psychol . 2016.