How music can change the taste of beer

beer-and-music3Beer and music are perfect bedfellows (in fact only a curry could probably come between them). So we found a recent scientific study (how do you get to work on things like this? Cushty number or what!) that showed that your soundtrack of choice can influence how drinks and food taste, and even alter their alcoholic strength, rather fascinating. So if your beer is too bitter or your wine is too sweet – it may be the music you are listening to. 

Volunteers at the Music Instruments Museum in Brussels, Belgium, (the Belgians will do anything to improve the beer drinking experience it appears) were asked to taste a beer, and rated the experience, each time under the influence of a different sound stimulus. Participants were not informed that they were, in fact, tasting the same beer each time. Three type of ambient background music were used ; a Disney-style track – for sweet;  discordant high-pitched notes – for sour; and a deep bass rumbling sound – for bitter. Three organic beers where used, which varied from pale to dark, and from 4.5% alcohol strength to 8%, for comparison of the results.

Each experiment used one type of beer, and a combination of two soundtracks, involving different combinations of perceived taste – bitter–sweet, sweet–sour, and bitter–sour. The sour had the least effect.

Study lead Dr Felipe Carvalho, of Vrije Universiteit Brussel, said: “Participants rated the beer as significantly sweeter when listening to the sweet soundtrack than when listening to the bitter soundtrack. And volunteers rated the beer as significantly stronger while listening to the bitter soundtrack. 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 suggested restaurants might even choose their background music to influence the diners’ taste, as Dr Carvalho explained: “External sound can add value and pleasure to the overall eating and drinking experience. People’s perception of the sweetness and bitterness of bittersweet foods can be modulated by means of customized sweet and bitter soundtracks.”

The researchers concluded: “Overall, the soundtracks influenced the participants’ rating of the beers’ taste and strength. 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.”

It is believed the effect – synesthesia – is caused by one type of stimulation leading to the involuntary stimulation of another sense in the brain.

And it proves that when Heston Bulmenthal cooked up his groundbreaking Sound of the Sea dish he had the right idea. Michelin-starred chef Blumenthal is celebrated for his unusual combinations of food, challenging looks with taste. His gastronomic experimentation led him to combine eating with sound. Sound of the Sea, on the menu of the three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant, Bray, featured seafood and edible seaweed on a bed of sand-like tapioca – all washed down with the sound of breaking waves.

He said: “Context is incredibly important. 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, it appears folk music fans like it sweet and Drum and Bass fans are a bit bitter….

The Germans are at it again – Boga anyone?

boga-508930Those crazy Germans are indeed at it again. This time, those beer obsessed Teutonic’s are combining get fit with get fat after teaching people to do yoga – using beer bottles.

Students have to take part in classic yoga poses but also have to integrate a beer bottle into the routine. The so-called ‘Bieryogis’ say that combining their two favourite things, beer and yoga, is the most fun way to get fit. During the yoga session, students can drink the beer, although some agreed that the session got harder after the second beer.

And after the fitness routine is complete, many of the students usually stay on to continue drinking together.

Many of those turning up for one session in  Berlin recently admitted they were not regulars, but one added: “It is really funny to come just a couple of times. It’s really cool.”

Sport experts, however, are sceptical. Dr Ingo Froboese (yes, I know that sounds made up, but we have researched this, honest!), from the German Sporting School in Cologne, said: “Alcohol clouds the perception, hinders muscle control, impairs balance and restricts endurance.”

He said that the alcohol would also restrict people during the recovery phase, saying that anybody drinking after exercise should stick to water in the hours immediately afterwards, or at the most in the second hour an energy drink.”

Bieryogi trainer Jhula, however, was keen to stress that nobody was forced to drink. She said: “People can drink what they want and when they want.” She added that even pregnant women take part – using alcohol-free beer.

So, a further nail in the “Beer is bad for you” coffin. OR that is what we keep telling ourselves as we adopt the Sphinx pose whilst glugging a Berliner Weissbier….

Bukowski’s “Beer” gets animated.

Bukowski BeerIn a change to our usual obsessions of beer and music or beer and beer, I thought we could chance a bit of beer and poetry (Or “writing” if it makes you feel better). But, as we can’t stray to far from the pleasures of malted barley, hops, water and yeast how about we share a poem with you called (and about) “Beer?”, written by a man with a true renegade spirit , that has been brought to life with a really cool animation.

Undeniably Charles Bukowski could really write.  Equally undeniably Charles Bukowski could really drink. Drinking provided enough of the subject matter of his prose and verse — and, in life, enough of the fuel for the existence he observed on the page with such rough-edged evocative artistry — that we can hardly imagine his writing without his drinking, or his drinking without his writing. It was therefore inevitable that at some point during his notorious career Bukowski would put pen to paper to eulogise about the favourite of his chosen poisons.

“Beer,” which appeared in Bukowski’s 1971 poetry collection Love Is a Dog from Hell, pays tribute to the countless bottles the man drank “while waiting for things to get better,” “after splits with women,” “waiting for the phone to ring,” or “waiting for the sounds of footsteps.”  Although all is not perfect with the beverage, as he writes “The Female” knows not to consume beer to excess in the male manner”, as “she knows its bad for the figure.” However, not one to worry about such trivial matters as ones figure, Bukowski, finds in his beer a kind of solace.

The prose of “Beer” come to life in the animation below, produced by Nerdo. The producer, feeling the writing was a snapshot of the author’s way of life, decided to go inside the author’s mind (surely not a safe journey) to visualise the unfiltered thoughts through the usual visual signifiers of the Bukowskian experience: neon signs, cigarettes, decaying city blocks, tawdry Polaroids — and, of course, beer, literally “rivers and seas of beer,” which no less a fellow animated enthusiast of the beverage than Homer Simpson once, just as eloquently, pronounced “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

And for those of you who want to read along, here is the prose:

BeerCharles Bukowski

I don’t know how many bottles of beer
I have consumed while waiting for things
to get better
I dont know how much wine and whisky
and beer
mostly beer
I have consumed after
splits with women-
waiting for the phone to ring
waiting for the sound of footsteps,
and the phone to ring
waiting for the sounds of footsteps,
and the phone never rings
until much later
and the footsteps never arrive
until much later
when my stomach is coming up
out of my mouth
they arrive as fresh as spring flowers:
“what the hell have you done to yourself?
it will be 3 days before you can fuck me!”

the female is durable
she lives seven and one half years longer
than the male, and she drinks very little beer
because she knows its bad for the figure.

while we are going mad
they are out
dancing and laughing
with horny cowboys.

well, there’s beer
sacks and sacks of empty beer bottles
and when you pick one up
the bottle falls through the wet bottom
of the paper sack
rolling
clanking
spilling gray wet ash
and stale beer,
or the sacks fall over at 4 a.m.
in the morning
making the only sound in your life.

beer
rivers and seas of beer
the radio singing love songs
as the phone remains silent
and the walls stand
straight up and down
and beer is all there is.

More “Beer Is Good For You” News! This time it is the Hops…

MORE SCIENCE! (sorry, I promise to try and write something humourous next time).

Now we all know (or are certainly telling hopconesourselves) that beer is highly nutritious and beneficial to health and there have been plenty of dodgy news paper stories to help back us up. Happily, we now have more ammunition with which to defend our drinking habits as more boffins have been studying that wonder of nature, the hop, and come to the handy conclusion that it may be packed with the biggest health punch.

Hops have been one of the key ingredients of beer — along with grain, yeast, and water — for centuries. Along with their purpose of balancing flavors (adding bitterness to the sweet maltiness) hops have been long known to contain antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, which are useful in preventing microbial contamination during fermentation in the brewing process. But these same antibacterial features so useful in brewing have been linked to medical benefits, too. Hops were used throughout history as a form of folk medicine to treat sleeping problems, hair loss, anxiety, and inflammation. Recently, studies have also found that hops may fight dementia: they contain antioxidants that prevent oxidative stress and cognitive decline.

However, there is still not enough evidence to support the notion that hops can treat diseases. In order to unlock their potential, the latest researchers decided to further analyze how to zoom Hopsin on the compounds that may be advantageous. In the latest study, they noted that there are two compounds in hops that are promising from a medical standpoint: humulones, which are alpha acids with anti-inflammatory and anticancer features; and lupulones, beta acids that may also have some healthy properties. However, in order to make a medicine from these compounds, scientists would need to properly extract them from the hops — but existing methods are messy, and there haven’t been analytical standards to compare them to. Ideally they hope to create humulones and lupulones synthetically,to ease the process of turning them into medication.

We think they are being a bit wet however, we work with hops everyday. Sure they get messy, but if the end result is worth it (like a fine West Coast Pale Ale), then what is the issue? More news on this when it breaks.

Apologies to Will our Head  Brewer for my hamfisted attempt at understanding science stuff. Ed