July 19, 2023

Sound Waves on Tap: How Music Transforms the Flavour of Beer

By Rohan Patel

There are a few things in this life that make a perfect pair; cheese and wine, gin and tonic, and of course beer and music. From a lively club to a more mellow after-work drink at the local, the two always go hand in hand.

But the relationship between music and beer extends far deeper than simply enjoying a pint whilst listening to the latest hits…

In recent years, psychologists have zoned into the ways in which music can influence the perceived taste of beer. Different soundtracks don’t just impact the setting, but also the particular flavours and notes that drinkers pick up on. Adding to already fertile ground for collaborations between music artists and breweries, the research encourages us to experiment with how the two interact.

With a growing preference for at-home beer consumption,  how can breweries make the most of these insights? Is it possible to craft a truly multisensory experience for beer lovers? And could this be a way to level up the drinking experience?

Source: Statista (2022)

IPA Harmony Experiment

In 2019, the British Beer Alliance explored the relationship between music and beer using Indian Pale Ales (IPAs). The organisation took 3 different IPAs and paired them with their own distinct musical tracks. Participants in the experiment were asked to report on the flavour of each IPA whilst the tailored track played.

The study found that themes and emotions within the music enhanced related flavours and notes in the IPA. For example, a Latin and tropical track with a fruity IPA led to participants reporting more pronounced citrus flavours within the drink.

Cavalho x The Editors x Brussels Beer Project

In his 2016 study ‘Music Influences Hedonic and Taste Ratings in Beer’, Belgian researcher Felipe Cavalho teamed up with UK indie rock band The Editors and the Brussels Beer Project to test beer satisfaction ratings when paired with music.

The head brewer got to work considering the sonic and visual identity of The Editors when creating the brew recipe. 231 participants were then split into 3 scenarios: those drinking from unmarked bottles with no music playing, those drinking from labelled bottles with no music playing and a final group drinking from labelled bottles with The Editors’ ‘Ocean of Night’ playing.

The results found that the third (multisensory) group enjoyed the beer the most, and were willing to pay “significantly more” for the beer than the control group (unlabelled bottle, no music). 

Harnessing Music for Beer Brands

So, how have brands used this research to blend these mediums?

Minneapolis-based brewery, Day Block, have brought music-beer synchronisation to their live music venues, creating a specifically formulated beer tailored to the sounds of a partner local band. Offered at their venue, this brew offers an enhanced sensory experience of both products, beer and live music, simultaneously. 

Taking a more personalised and stay-at-home focused approach, Budweiser collaborated with Spotify as part of its 2018 “Be a King” campaign. Using Spotify's insightful data analytics, the two brands looked into what music Budweiser drinkers were listening to. From this, Spotify provided personalised playlists based on listening habits.

The Future of the Music-Beer Partnership

So, how can more breweries and venues make better use of something as simple as sound to improve satisfaction, target selected flavours and enhance the way customers experience their brand?

With a growing preference for at-home drinking, where 28% of Younger Millennials (24-31) prefer to drink at home than go out (Source: Mintel), breweries should capitalise on the music and beer integration tailored for individual and small-scale multisensory experiences. With AI transforming the music industry and the way people enjoy their favourite artists, it could provide an opportunity for beer brands and music services to collaborate on a new level. For example, with Spotify’s recent “AI DJ” feature, there is certainly scope for beer lovers to enjoy tailored music and soundscapes at home depending on the brand and flavour of beer they are drinking at that moment.

However, there is still a large proportion of drinkers who prefer to go out to enjoy their beer. For them, venues should focus on transforming the listening experience which they offer. Taking inspiration from the careful selection of sounds in listening bars such as Peckham’s Jumbi, combining highly curated playlists with the beers on offer could provide a new way to elevate the casual drinking experience. Combining this with the format of clubs, separating rooms based on genre could be used to pair selected beers with specific music where the genre, vibe and energy of the songs complement the flavours in the beer.

This unique edge for brands and venues to offer an enhanced experience for customers is certainly still on the rise with the exploration of multisensory experience in the beer industry set to be an exciting one.