It’s 6 p.m. on a weekday evening and you’re headed to your local dive for a pint of something simple. You drop your bag on the scuffed, slightly sticky floor and grab the nearest empty barstool, proceeding to order whichever brew happens to be on the happy-hour list that night. The bartender tilts the empty glass below the tap, fills it to the brim, then sets down the sudsy, amber-colored pint on an emblemed coaster in front of you, reaching below the bar to reveal a shot-glass-sized jar of something salty. Peanuts, pretzels, popcorn — ever wonder why our beers come served with a hefty heap of salt? Here’s why:
Salt Makes Beer Go Down Easier
Literally. When we consume sodium chloride, aka salt, the receptors in our brains that perceive bitter tastes are temporarily weakened. The bitterness in your beer is a byproduct of the addition of hops, those little tiny seed cones added during the brewing process to impart zesty, citrusy flavors in your future pint. Take a sip of your beer, really engaging in the flavor profiles that you taste when swallowing. Try it again after eating a handful of peanuts. You’ll quickly notice that the beer seems smoother and easier to drink. Easier drinking leads to faster consumption, and faster consumption leads to more beer purchases, which is exactly what those bar owners want.
Salt Creates Thirst
Though this may seem obvious, consider how profitable these little salty investments can be in terms of bringin’ home the bacon for bar owners. A four-pack of 80-ounce (five-pound) bags of peanuts costs around $30 at your local Costco or BJ’s. That’s a mere $8 and change per five-pound bag. Consequently, depending on which major city you’re drinking in, that $8 could be the cost of one single pint at the bar you’re sitting at (hello, New York!). A small handful of peanuts may cost the bar owner around a dime yet has the strong potential to turn someone’s single post-work drink into two or three. A 20-cent investment for $20 worth of beer sales? Sounds smart to us.
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Beer Makes Snacks Taste Better
Not much of a peanut/pretzel person but can’t seem to put them down when at your local watering hole? Makes sense to us. Alcohol enhances the taste of salt and fat on our palates, making your average bowl of peanuts taste just a little bit better when slurping that beer (also the reason why you’re generally craving fries over kale when swigging suds, though that’s usually the case on our end regardless of what’s being sipped). In conjunction, salt also alters the chemistry on your tongue (see first point), making your beer more enjoyable as well. Tastier snacks and more satisfying beer? We’re in for both.