Improving your drinking experience….
Pete Brown has done a lot of work on this topic, as well as writing a great blog about everything beer. Pete talks about how your senses overlap and can confuse, alter and accentuate each other. Here are some of the suggestions, courtesy of The Drinks Business, for matching that came up from a recent experiment that Pete undertook with Prof. Charles Spence:
US wheat beers Goose Island 312 and Blue Moon – Neil Young’s Harvest Moon (1992)
“Both wheat beers suggested lazy summer evenings, the sun draining slowly over the distant skyline; and Blue Moon edged ahead through its, and the music’s, richly sweet timbre and notes of dreamy melancholia.”
Belgian blonde ale Duvel – The Pixies’ Debaser (1989)
“The grunge band’s hyper-ventilating guitar and surrealist lyrics set against Duvel’s frenetic blond bubbles and throat-grabbing, lip-wiring flavours”. Brown added: “I like to think both the beer and the track are a little bit intoxicating, dangerous and thrilling.”
Liefmans Cuvée Brut cherry beer – Voodoo Ray’s A Guy called Gerald (1988)
“An early acid house single incorporating the muffled voices of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Pete’s theory being that ‘sour’ pairs with high pitched dissonant sounds. The idea with this pairing is that both demonstrate real, quirky character, without being too extreme.”
Chimay Blue Trappist ale and Fuller’s majestic Vintage Ale 2011 – Debussy’s Claire de Lune and Jimi Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower.
He said: “These darker, heavier more complex beers paired synergistically with the contemplative mood of the music”. Brown added: “Both beers and tracks are complex and multi-layered, swooping and diving around your consciousness.”
Prof. Charles Spence was also the brains behind Campo Viejo’s Colour Lab at The Streets of Spain Festival, and was commissioned to see how people’s experience of wine changed in certain environments where sound and light had been altered.
The results found that:
- Red light and sweet music is the ideal combination, increasing enjoyment up to 9%
- Green light and sour music increased freshness and reduced intensity by 14%
- Red lighting on its own brought out the fruitier notes of the wine
- Green light on its own brought out the wine’s freshness
Glasswear & Theatre
“There is only one satisfactory type of wine glass, and it will serve for any kind of wine.
It is colourless, rather tulip-shaped, and the upper rim of the cup narrows.”
– Raymond Postgate, creator of the Good Food Guide
Well, evidently that’s not so true any more. Victoria Moore, in her book How to Drink, goes into detail on everything from building up an exciting but functional drinks cupboard, which are the best brands of spirits and even how to make world class ice. Furthermore, she also discusses how the shape of a glass affects taste.
Glassware won’t improve a drink but it’s shape can alter how the liquid is spread over your tongue thus articulating and highlighting certain notes and flavours: Chardonnay from a larger glass enables the release of more tropical flavours from the wine whereas a smaller glass, for red wine in particular, can have the sensation of smoothing the tannins of the wine whilst making it taste more complex.
Image from Business Insider
This obviously takes us dangerously close to the realms of snobbery – there’d be nothing worse than a wine ‘buff’ going into great detail about not only the wine being served but also the glassware they’ve specifically bought! Even when it comes to Champagne, industry experts differ in their views – an ample glass will amplify the taste, a narrower one will narrow it according to Dom Pérignon’s Chef de Cave, Richard Geoffroy. Champagne… from a wine glass… just not the done thing is it?!
Then, there’s the sense of theatre and added value that you get from drinking out of a nicely designed glass – Grolsch have recently launched ‘The Jar’ in Romania and, according to Catherine O’Connor from Canadean, “[it] will boost brand loyalty long-term. Consumers feel more connected to brands that have a presence in their home, with novel branded glassware acting as a memory aid and thirst generator.”
The bit about being a memory aid is interesting, particularly given the illustrations above concerning how taste and experience can be altered by the senses.
Some of today’s more innovative drinks businesses have created products that enable people at home and bartenders alike to consistently produce high quality, enjoyable drinks and experiences. Funkin, for example, have developed a great range of purees to help bartenders – the products are both high quality and time saving given nobody really wants to peel, chop, blend and sieve their own fruit for cocktail mixes. The company has also launched a range of non-alcoholic cocktail mixers which can be turned into your favourites.
Cocktail maestro, Ryan Chetiyawardana’s White Lyan in Hoxton has gone one step further by getting rid of perishables in favour of pre-batched mixes basically with the view that, by doing this, bar staff can completely control their serve and get it right each time. There are business benefits to this; time is saved, wastage is reduced and smaller premises don’t need to clutter their bar with all manner of cocktail making paraphernalia. Furthermore, and coming back to the improvement of your drinking experience, bar staff are also freed up to interact, entertain and serve their clientele.
Pimm’s on tap is another great example of getting a mix just right every time in order to ensure the consumer always goes away happy. More recently, Diageo have extended the principle to the Mojito – another drink that can vary from venue to venue… I suppose it’s just whether you prefer uniform quality or theatre…
Traditionally, when drinking wine it’s common to let the bottle sit or, if you’re that way inclined, decanting also has its merits and can improve the flavour of your wine. However, in today’s time-poor world more and more gadgets aimed at improving your drinking experience are cropping up.
These include everything from aerators which speed up the breathing process, wine whisks, wine wands(!) and attachable smoothers which have a magnetic field in the pouring spout of the device so that, when the wine passes through the gadget, astringent tannins are softened and the wine becomes more mellow.
If that’s not your bag, here’s a good article that outlines how to turn a naff wine into a good wine – a wine hack if you like.
Bottles are losing some credence versus cans, particularly in the Craft world. The Hobo Beer Co. explains that:
Unlike bottles, cans protect beer from two arch enemies – sunlight and oxygen.
Unlike humans, beer prefers to live without oxygen. Oxygen makes beer taste funny – as in ‘odd’ rather than ‘amusing’. It reacts with elements in the beer to create stale notes and tastes akin to wet cardboard.
Exposure to light, meanwhile, will make the beer ‘lightstruck’. This adorns the beer with an unfortunate, unpleasant “skunk-like” aroma otherwise known as MBT or, as white-coated boffins prefer to call it, ‘3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol’.
This all means that the flavour gets locked into the beer for longer and. Regardless of where you keep it, it stays fresher for longer in can.
They go on to discuss the merits of cans where the environment and convenience are concerned too… and put forth a pretty good argument. Others have followed suit and it’s become the norm to advertise against the use of bottles.
Anyway, maybe all of the above is rubbish and it turns out there’s no better way to improve your drinking experience than to sit in the garden in this sunshine on a Friday evening… it’s up to you. Now you’ve just got to figure out a way to improve your hangover experience.