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22nd April 2014

Edinburgh Science Festival experiment finds sight a significant influence on the taste perception of beer

An experiment into the taste perception of beer conducted at Edinburgh International Science Festival has found that visual stimuli can significantly affect how we perceive flavour.
The Science Festival teamed up with local Edinburgh microbrewery Barney’s Beer, along with psychologists from Mountainview Learning and Prof Charles Spence from Oxford University to study how festival-goers tastes were influenced when shown two specially created beer labels – Genius Loki and Liquid Hop Chemistry. However, the tasters were unaware that the contents of the bottles were the same. The experiment was conducted at two events – the Science Festival Lates’ evening at the City Arts Centre (3 April), and at scientific farmers market SciMart (6 April).
Overall, drinkers gave Liquid Hop Chemistry, with its vibrant green and yellow coloured label a better overall taste rating. They also found it to be 30% more ‘citrussy & fruity’ tasting than Genius Loki, which had a warmer coloured label, showing that the label on the bottle exerted a significant influence on people’s rating of the beer. In particular, the green and yellow label also led to significantly higher ratings in terms of taste quality and willingness to purchase , though interestingly the label had no impact on price estimate.

While previous studies have looked either at the impact of label and packaging colour, or at the impact of descriptive label, this is the first study to combine the two. The idea for the experiment and the beer used was brewed specially for the Festival by Barney’s owner Andrew Barnett. This gold and malty shape-shifter evolved from Barney’s bestselling Volcano IPA, and is a single hop beer featuring the only commercial use of Keyworth hops in Scotland.

Dr Gorkan Ahmetoglu, a lecturer and Director of Consumer Behaviour and Management and Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths University said: ‘We tend to believe that we are fully aware and in control of the machinations behind our senses – but in actual fact, even something as basic as taste can be influenced by hidden psychological persuaders. The subconscious brain plays a much bigger role in our perception of the world than most people tend to believe. When people are given chocolate yoghurt to eat in the dark and told it’s strawberry, the majority will say it has a good strawberry taste! The subtlest cues can influence our perceptions of the taste and quality of the products we buy, and have a significant effect on our health by nudging our behaviours in the world of food and drink’.

The fascinating experiment by Barney’s Beer at the Edinburgh Science Festival is another great example of how psychology can nudge even our taste buds. Behavioural science offers a fantastic tool for brands to create a premium, quality product without changing any tangible part of it’.

Andrew Barnett, owner of Barney’s Beer & brewer of Genius Loki said, ‘Science is at the heart of brewing and collaborating with the Edinburgh International Science Festival has allowed me to indulge in some excellent beer-science geekery. The experiment has shown how strong the associations between certain colours & visual cues can be, and the influence this can have on enjoyment of beer. There are clear implications for brewers to get their packaging, as well as their beer right’.


For further information, please contact: Liz Wallace, Press Officer on 0131 553 8643 / 07708 795 320 or .

Edinburgh International Science Festival is supported by the following Major Funding Partners: 
The Scottish Government City of Edinburgh Council 
The Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund
The Edina Trust Baillie Gifford
Diabetes UK Scotland EDF Energy
Scottish Gas Medical Research Council (MRC)
Wellcome Trust Natural Scotland (Scottish Government)
Wolfson Microelectronics Selex ES

Notes to Editors

Beer and Science

In 2013, Edinburgh International Science Festival collaborated with Barney’s to produce Culture #1, a beer fermented using the first yeast isolated in 1883 by Emil Hansen. The strain was supplied from the national yeast archive for the occasion. Building on this first collaboration, this experiment was designed for the 2014 Festival.

Genius Loki is the official Science Festival beer, which – in a nod to the experiment it was created for – is named for the fiery, trickster god of Norse mythology, and also the most powerful volcano in the solar system, found on Jupiter’s moon Io. Loki is a single hop beer featuring the only commercial use of Keyworth hops in Scotland. Keyworth were a result of a breeding programme culminating in the 1950s using open pollination of American Neo Mexicana hops. The variety was abandoned by brewers in the 1950s as too citrussy. However, the flavour profile is ideal for today’s tastes.

Barney’s also participated in the Festival’s Sensation event, curated by Jelly & Gin and featuring beer writer Pete Brown, which explored the inter-relationship of the senses, examining how music affects taste perception, and how drinkers respond to extreme beer flavours.

This year’s Festival experiments were designed in collaboration with behavioural psychologists from Mountainview Learning .

Edinburgh International Science Festival

With over 25 years’ experience of engaging audiences of all ages with innovative and entertaining science, Edinburgh International Science Festival was the first and remains one of the best science festivals in the world. The Science Festival presents hundreds of events for adults, children and families across the city for two weeks from Saturday 5 to Sunday 20 April 2014. The programme offers talks, workshops, experiments, activities and events, with full details of the programme available online at .

Barney’s Beer

Andrew Barnett (Barney) is the son of a brewery worker who got his first taste of brewery and maltings work aged 16. A degree in Brewing & Distilling Science drew him to Edinburgh in the late 80s and number of positions in brewing & distilling followed; including time at the Whitbread, The Fountainbridge Brewery, Edinburgh, Whitbread, Brugal Rum and The Macallan. Barney’s was established in 2010.

Barneys is available throughout Scotland and nationally through If you want to know more and keep up to speed on Barney’s latest creations visit or follow Barney’s blog on Facebook.

Please note: I am currently working away from the Science Festival Office. You can reach me on 0131 226 0014 or 07708 795 320.
Liz Wallace
Press Officer
Edinburgh International Science Festival
T: 0131 553 8664
M: 07708 795 320


Suite 1 | Mitchell House | 5 Mitchell Street | Edinburgh | EH6 7BD

The next Edinburgh International Science Festival will take place 5 – 20 April 2014. Visit to join our mailing list, receive e-news and be the first to hear about the new festival programme.