Hearing your favorite song at a bar doesn't just improve the ambience of your 21-and-up social endeavor. A recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that the music we listen to while drinking significantly influences the taste of whatever brew we're bringing to our lips.
The Brussels Beer Project teamed up with the UK rock band Editors to concoct a porter-style beer. (Tasting notes included hints of citrus, Earl Grey, chocolate, and malt — all of which was supposed to represent the musical flavor of Editors' most recent album, In Dreams.) Dr. Felipe Reinoso Cavalho of Vrije Universiteit Brussel and KU Leuven led a team of researchers to conduct several taste-testing experiments involving this novel beverage.
231 lucky participants were invited to a lab to sip the beer under three separate conditions. Prior to testing the brew, all subjects rated how tasty they anticipated the beverage would be. After throwing back a few swigs, everyone reported how much they ended up liking it.
The first (control) group drank the beer from a bottle without a label in a room full of silence.
The second group drank the beer from a bottle with a label designed to be reminiscent of the band's visual identity.
The third drank the beer from the labeled bottle while listening to "Oceans of Night," a song from The Editors' latest album.
Results revealed that those who listened to music while drinking the labeled beer reported higher levels of "liking" the beverage than groups who consumed the same beverage without a label and in the absence of music.
"It seems," remarked Cavalho in a press release, "that the added pleasure the song brought into the experience was transferred into the beer's flavor." (This in addition to the visual stimulation via the label that seemed to enhance participants' ratings of the beer's flavor, albeit not as much as the music did.)
Previous studies have confirmed the influence of auditory inputs on our non-aural senses. For example, Oxford University's Charles Spence and colleagues have demonstrated that listening to classical music can make wine taste sweeter. And in a surprising study carried out by University of Queensland researchers Leah Sharman and Genevieve A. Dingle, heavy metal music can induce feelings of calm in angry listeners. High-energy music has also been shown — by Brunel University's Costas I. Karageorghis and colleagues — to improve exercisers' responses to fatigue, enabling them to power through exhaustion rather than give up.
Carvalho et al. are careful to point out in their paper that "music is usually bounded to personal preferences and, hence, different songs can presumably lead to different emotional reactions." So while the participants in his study got a kick out of Editors' new tunes, the same beer-taste-boosting effects of hearing "Oceans of Night" may not have been observed among folks who strongly disliked the band's sound.
But bar tenders, restaurateurs, hosts of all types of social gatherings involving adult beverages, or anyone looking to enhance their enjoyment of a well-earned after work drink should take note. Get acquainted with the musical taste(s) of whomsoever you're trying to impress — even if that's just yourself! — and queue up their favorite album to increase the odds they'll enjoy the cold one you're trying to sell them on.