How Music Changes the Taste of Your Beer

If you’re cracking open a classically bitter ale tonight, science suggests that you should couple it with the sultry sounds of Barry White if you really want to bring out the bitterness. Recent research that beer-drinkers find their brews more bitter if they are consumed while listening to low-pitch notes, and sweeter when coupled with higher pitch tones, like those of a flute or piano. The study forms part of a growing field of research called crossmodal perception or “sonic seasoning” and it could lead to your favorite six-pack being sold with a soundtrack in the future to help enhance the flavor.

The idea that sound can influence our perception of taste has been around for some time. More than 50 years ago, psychologist Kristian Holt-Hansen was serving Carlsberg Lagers to study subjects and asking them to pair the taste with the perfect pitch. Despite some interesting findings, his pioneering research was not robust enough to be taken seriously, and perhaps the world wasn’t quite ready for fine-tuned food. Fast-forward to 2017, and we have an army of digitally refined, smart phone-wielding Millennials eager for multisensory experiences.