However, that all changed last week when I was invited to a music and beer matching event hosted by beer writer Pete Brown; it was entitled Why do guitars taste like hops? and about how certain pieces of music can affect the beer you taste. This is something Brown has being pursing for a while, and he has been joined in his research by academic Charles Spence, who is (take deep breath) Professor of Experimental Psychology & University Lecturer, Somerville College Oxford (I did rather blot my copy book when I said to him: Somerville, isn’t that the women’s college?), and Head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory.
So before I think and drink deeply, what else is there to know? Oh we were in a private dining room at Michelin star restaurant Quilon restaurant in Westminster, where Brown paired six beers with five pieces of music.
At the start there was some interesting stuff about how certain pieces of music bring their own mood: the Jaws’ theme is probably the most famous. There was stuff about the complexity of taste, about how there are trillions of aromas and how our brains decode chemical signals, all of which I’m probably not doing enough justice to — but then I got thrown out of Physics O-level and scraped through a Chemistry CSE (aka Certificate for Simple Escalopes).
So on we went — first of all starting with Goose Island 312 and Blue Moon with Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. I’m not a Neil Young fan, I think the only piece of work by him I know is something from 1980, can’t even remember the name, but I do remember that when I was a music journalist he was a big noise with the hipsters. Both the beers for me are moderate but what I did find interesting was that Blue Moon edged it; drunk when the music was playing it seemed to have a fuller flavour than when the music wasn’t playing. The 312 was thin and that is all there is to say about it — even Metallica couldn’t have roused it.
Duvel and the Pixies Debaser — this pairing seemed to bring out the beer’s bitterness, something that I hadn’t noted before (at this stage my notebook has the phrase ‘Status Quo on Ketamine’); it made the beer less elegant, which is a good thing. It made me think of a smelly leather jacket (I used to own one). Again I refer to my notes: ‘the Duvel feels soiled…’ Again a good thing.
Liefmans Cuvée Brut cherry beer and an acid house track from Voodoo Ray, A Guy Called Gerald. I wasn’t sure about this one, but then perhaps I couldn’t overcome my antipathy to the cherry beer, while I recall acid house made me feel I wanted to take on an army, I would have gone for a more aggressive beer, an imperial IPA? But that’s me, I never did do peace and love. But again referring to my notes what I did like was the fact that I was being challenged, I wasn’t a nodding donkey.
Finally we got to try Chimay Blue and Fuller’s Vintage 2011 with Debussy’s Clair de Lune and Jimi Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower. I felt that the Chimay became thinner during the Debussy though the Fuller’s Vintage was like a Tiger tank ripping through the forests when drunk with Hendrix.
And that was that: the evening continued but I was left with a host of thoughts and questions about how this all worked. It is fascinating stuff and thoroughly challenging; also it’s indicative of how some beer writers are trying to work out a different way of articulating what we drink. If you get a chance to see Brown make Duvel feel soiled or Blue Moon taste palatable then I would hasten along.