It’s no secret taking risks and seeking thrills comes with a heady dose of adrenaline. That “rush” is what keeps people coming back for more. Interestingly enough, that attraction to potent sensations also translates to food and drink preferences. Those who perceive bitter tastes more intensely than the average person are more apt to enjoy bitter beers, like IPAs (India pale ales), and drink them more often, according to research from Penn State.
In the study—published on Science Daily—sensory researchers analyzed 109 beer consumers, roughly half men and half women, mostly in their 30s. They completed personality questionnaires and did a blind taste test of three beers (two pale ales and a lager)* and two bitter solutions (quinine, the compound that makes tonic water bitter, and tetralone, a hops extract), then rated the intensity and how much they enjoyed each.
*In order to represent the range of bitterness across pale ales, the team settled on one that’s extremely bitter (Troeg’s Perpetual IPA Imperial Pale Ale), along with one that’s more moderate (Founder’s All-Day IPA Session Ale). They used Budweiser as the lager.
To come to this conclusion, researchers factored in how much pale ale participants regularly consumed (i.e. weekly, monthly or yearly); personality determinants like affinity for risk-taking; bitterness sensitivity; and “liking” ratios, in which participants rated specific beers and their overall liking for all beer in general. In short: People who embrace precarious situations are also more likely to prefer bitter, pale-ale-style beers—if they have that heightened sense of bitterness.
“Traditionally, most researchers find that people who experience bitterness more intensely avoid bitter food or drink—so with heightened bitterness, they like it less, and therefore consume it less,” researcher John Hayes, associate professor of food science at Penn State, said in a press release. “But here, we find that people who seek higher sensations and are more risk-taking, they like bitter beer such as India pale ales, if they also have greater bitter taste perception.”