Brain and Body

Music Makes Beer Taste Better, New Study Finds

August 1, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Photo credit: Dr. Felipe Reinoso Cavalho (image has been cropped)

Multisensory information can impact the way we perceive taste.

According to new research published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, music can influence the way individuals perceive the taste of beer.

A UK band, called the Editors, collaborated with the Brussels Beer Project to create a porter-style beer inspired by the musical and visual identity of the band.

Contrasted with the malty, chocolate flavors from the grains used in the production of the beer, the ale had a medium body and hints of citrus from an Earl Grey infusion. Specifically, the creators designed the beer to reflect the style of the band’s new album, called “Oceans of Light.”

A team of researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and KU Leuven were curious whether an individual’s taste experience could be influenced by music and packaging design, so they designed an experiment using the new beer.

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The team, led by Dr. Felipe Reinoso Cavalho, recruited 231 study participants, all at least 18 years of age, to drink beer in three different conditions. First, there was a control group who drank the beer from a bottle with no label and no specific song in the background. Second, there was a group who drank the beer from a bottle with the beer’s specifically-designed label. Finally, a third group drank the beer from the labelled bottle while also listening to one of the songs on Oceans of Light.

Before tasting the beer, the participants rated how tasty they thought it might be, and then following the tasting, they reported how much they actually enjoyed the drink. According to the study results, those who drank the labeled beer with music playing in the background reported a greater enjoyment than those who drank the labeled beer alone.

“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,” Cavalho said in a press statement.

"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.”

"It seems that the added pleasure that the song brought into the experience was transferred into the beer's flavor,” he continued.

Going forward, the researchers hope to keep studying how music and sounds can influence certain characteristics of food and drinks, like sweetness, bitterness, sourness, and creaminess.

"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,” Cavalho explained.

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