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Validation. Sweet, sweet validation.

Ethan made a post on Facebook: A Huffington Post UK article titled How Sound Affects the Flavour of Your Beer. It intrigued me, even moreso when I saw it discussed a recent endeavor by Pete Brown, one of my favorite — sorry, favourite? — authors.

He picks a variety of different brews and lets the audience test them out (all in the name of science, of course) whilst listening to different genres of music. His aim is to prove how our senses overlap with each other and how what you’re listening to can affect your perception of what you’re eating and drinking.

Given that I have an entire blog series devoted to pairing beer and music, they had my attention. Evidently, my thesis has merit: an entire field exists called “neurogastronomy.” Unfortunately, while Pete Brown has gone farther down the rabbit hole ((I may overuse that phrase, but only because it so very accurately captures a phenomenon I find myself falling into all the time)) than me he still has work to do before he releases more information publicly. He put on another event in May, once again making me wish I lived in the UK.

The wheels turn

I don’t live in the UK. No matter how much I wish it otherwise, I still don’t have Peter Capaldi or Hobnobs Chocolate Cremes. I do, however, have this blog, which I have evidently conned you into reading.

What does that mean? I don’t quite know. I don’t think we’ll do proper tasting events, necessarily: I like to push the boundary of what a brewery would traditionally do — see the book club — but I might leave the events for critically acclaimed beer writers.

I do think I’ll play the home version, though. This will take a few paths:


To be read soon!

To be read soon!

My search for more information on the topic ended fairly quickly: a book has been written on the subject, which seems like a good place to start. The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library has one copy of Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters by Gordon M. Shepherd, or at least they had one copy until I requested it. Sorry.

Shepherd then considers the impact of the flavor system on contemporary social, behavioral, and medical issues. He analyzes flavor’s engagement with the brain regions that control emotion, food preferences, and cravings, and he even devotes a section to food’s role in drug addiction and, building on Marcel Proust’s iconic tale of the madeleine, its ability to evoke deep memories.

One beer, many songs

I plan on doing the “beer monogamy” experiment in July: one week (or more?) drinking only one beer. I might take this opportunity to listen to a song from a variety of albums each night, or I might get two posts out of it keep them separate for science’s sake.

One song, many beers

Some day my prince will come, a song says. What beer completes it?

I suspect this one will be harder, as in addition to the pairing aspect — which, to be clear, at this point I think is just this side of pseudoscience — you have to control for individual preferences in beer. Does the porter pair better than the IPA, or do I just like the porter better? That doesn’t mean I won’t try it, though. Anything for a blog post science.

A song in every tap

Let us ponder what music pairs best with each of our beers. I’ll put our best minds to work, and please offer your opinions as well. For now, let’s restrain ourselves to the five regulars:

  • Frank
  • The Whale
  • The IPA
  • De Maas
  • Rutherford B. Haze

Preliminary findings coming soon.

[citation needed]

A portrait of the artist drinking a Rutherford B. Haze while listening to music

A portrait of the artist drinking a Rutherford B. Haze while listening to music

In the end, remember: I’ll be doing this because I find it fun, potentially interesting, but you shouldn’t draw any conclusions from anything. I just play a doctor on tv, past performance does not guarantee future results, and so on.

It’s not just sound

Although I currently remain skeptical of neurogastronomy, which strikes me as potentially as fraught with issues as fields like evolutionary psychology, the base idea resonates with me.

One day, a year or more ago, someone brought in a growler from Rohrbach’s in Rochester. The back of it had this text:

Upon opening, Rohrbach’s high quality ales and lagers should be consumed within two days.

High quality ales and lagers. That phrase stuck with me. It gave me a strange sensation: almost like a lip smacking in text. I want to drink “high quality ales and lagers.” The shape of the words, the picture they evoke in my mind, it all worked so well.

And above:

How Sound Affects the Flavour of Your Beer

Not flavor. Flavour. Maybe no one but me considers them differently, but I do. It might go back to too many viewings of Red Dwarf as a child, but that extra u has an impact. I won’t think of what it describes as necessarily better or worse, but certainly different.

I have much to consider. I will do so and report back.