Not happy with the taste of your beer? Try changing the soundtrack. According to a new study out of Belgium, music can alter how people perceive the taste — and even the strength — of beer.
According to an abstract, the study — which was led by Dr. Felipe Carvalho of Vrije Universiteit Brussel — comprised of three experiments "in which participants tasted a beer twice, and rated the experience, each time under the influence of a different sound stimulus. The participants were not informed that they were, in fact, tasting the same beer." Volunteers at the Music Instruments Museum in Brussels tasted three different beers in a range of styles from pale ale to dark, with alcohol content that varied from 4.5 to 8 percent ABV. They were exposed to three different kinds of background music, and asked to taste and rate each beer while listening to each one.
The researchers found that a "Disney-style track" caused people to rate the beers as tasting sweeter, while deep, rumbling bass made beer taste more bitter. "'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," they concluded.
It seems that an individual's musical tastes may also come into play: "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 wrote.
Volume matters, too: A previous study showed that excessively noisy environments can have an adverse effect on how people perceive the taste and texture of food.
So sound can affect how humans perceive flavor, but what about changing the actual taste of the beer? Philadelphia's Dock Street Brewery put that to the test last year when they used a custom-made pair of headphones to expose a barrel of golden saison to the sounds of the Wu-Tang Clan for six straight months, for a (supposedly) extra-funky brew.