The next time your beer tastes off, you might want to blame the DJ rather than the bartender. According to a new study from the journal Food Quality and Preference, due out this September, music has the power to change the way we experience our favorite beverages, affecting both the taste and the strength of beer.
Led by Dr. Felipe Carvalho of Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a team of researchers recently conducted three experiments on a group of volunteers. Without the participant's’ knowledge, the researchers would serve the subjects the same beer twice while only changing the “sound stimulus” in the room. What the study found was that the varying soundtracks did in fact change the way the participants perceived their drinks.
“The objective was to determine whether soundtracks that have previously been shown to correspond to the different basic tastes would significantly modulate the perceived sweetness, bitterness, sourness, and alcohol content of the beers,” an abstract of the study reads. “Overall, the soundtracks influenced the participants’ rating of the beers’ taste and strength.”
According to Eater, the volunteers for the study were from the Music Instruments Museum in Brussels, and were served a selection of pale and dark ales ranging from 4.5 to 8 percent ABV. If the researchers played a light, playful tune, participants reported that the beer tasted sweeter, while a song with a “rumbling bass” translated to bitterness.
“While listening to the pleasant sweet soundtrack, the participant transfers his or her experience and feelings about the music to the beer that they happen to be tasting," the researchers told Eater.
While the research is interesting—and might be enough to convince your friend to pass the aux chord at the party—the study points out that the food and beverage industry could use this new data to its advantage.
“The present study underlines the potential of sound to enhance eating/drinking experiences,” the study reads. “In this way, those working in the food industry may feel progressively more confident in adopting new multisensory techniques while designing eating/drinking experiences.”