Mmmm! Vinegar beer

This little piece of light reading: “The Influence of Expectation, Consumption and Revelation on Preferences for Beer” looks like it will be fun to study when we can track down the December issue of Psychological Sciences.

For now there’s the New York Times summary (free registration). Here’s the nut:

In previous studies, psychologists had found that putting brand labels on containers of beer, soft drinks and other products tended to enhance people’s subjective ratings of quality. But the new experiment demonstrates that this preference involves more than simple brand loyalty. It changes the experience of taste itself.

“It’s a clean demonstration that what we think is going into our mouth actually changes what we taste, down to the level of the taste buds themselves,” said Michael Norton, an assistant professor of business administration in the marketing department of the Harvard Business School.

Leonard Lee, a recent graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, conducted the tests by having participants taste two beers each, one a regular draft of Budweiser or Samuel Adams, and the other the same beer with a few drops of balsamic vinegar added.

When they tasted blind 60% of participants preferred the balsamic “M.I.T. Beer.” Knowing which beer had the vinegar before tasting changed he results. Only about a third of the patrons who were told the identities of the beers beforehand then chose the M.I.T. beer.

Like lambic brewers didn’t already know that.

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