If you’re a beer loving Londoner, you’d have to be living under a rock/within an Amish community/in jail not to have heard about London Beer City, a full week of beery events at pubs, bar and breweries around the capital. From Saturday 9th August to the very end of Saturday 16th, beer lovers have and will continue to participate in everything from live brewing to meeting brewers to…beer and music matching?
That’s right; on Thursday night I wandered down to The King’s Arm’s in Bethnal Green to see if Pete Brown, beer writer, could persuade me that we use more than just our taste buds when drinking beer.
Of course, the combination of beer and music is nothing new with a relationship reaching back over hundreds of years. Live music has often been a way for pubs to attract custom, music halls being a prime example of this. What this can mean is that we contextualise beer, associating it with past memories and experiences. Pete gave us the example of a friend who, when asked what his favourite beer was, gave him a long and detailed tale of being on honeymoon by the beach, the sun shining and the glass ice cold, but couldn’t recall the name or even the taste of the beer! I have a soft spot for a particularly shoddy beverage that transports me straight back to my student union every time I take a sip (it’s a Scottish staple- that’s all I’m saying).
Using scientific (and some not so scientific) theories, Pete explained to us how the brain influences and interprets flavour. You can try it yourself by tasting food or drink while holding your nose; keeping your mouth closed, free your nose and see what happens (in my case it was “OMG IT’S A GREEN SKITTLE”.) This simple experiment alone demonstrated that flavour is not just about your taste buds, but about using all of your senses (if I had seen the green skittle before eating it I would have had preconceived expectations). So, if our brain can interpret flavour then surely that means we can manipulate it using other factors such as music?
I won’t take you through every song and beer pairing as you might want to go to one of Pete’s events yourselves, but I can reveal that my favourite match of the night was Duvel with the Pixies’ Debaser. Described as ‘energetic, effervescent, thrilling and slightly dangerous’, my love of both the beer and the song obviously influenced my enjoyment, taking me back to dingy nightclubs surrounded by sweaty men (oh, hang on, I’ve said too much).
For you sceptics out there; I understand. I went in a cynic and I came out singing ‘I’m a Believer’. Now to find a beer that goes with it…