Today, we’re discussing the generations-old tradition of adding salt to beer. Yes, that’s a thing, and it’s more popular than you think! Sure, micheladas are always served in a salt-crusted beer mug, but that’s more of a beer cocktail. Adding a pinch of salt to your regular beer is something else.
Some people add salt to beer because it’s supposed to play the role of a natural flavor enhancer like it does with food. It can also enhance the carbonation of the beer and balance out the bitter flavors in beer.
Learn all there is about it and see if salt is just what your beer needed!
Beer and the Primary Flavors
Before heading into adding salt to your mug, let’s analyze how beer interacts with the primary flavors we detect with our tastebuds.
Sweet — Sweetness in beer is relatively uncommon, which is interesting, considering all beers are made from a sweet, almost honeyed wort. Yeasts eat up most of the sugar, though, and for that, they reward us with precious alcohol. Some beers are quite sweet, though, especially juicy styles like Hazy IPAs. Chocolate stouts made with lactose can be pretty sweet as well.
Sour — Sour beers are traditional in Belgium and Northern France, and, today, the style is replicated worldwide. Sourness is entirely compatible with beer, as it livens the flavors and increases the drink’s freshness.
Bitter — We can safely say all beers are at least a little bitter. It is the hops used to condition the beer and add stability to the brew, what adds bitterness to our favorite beers. We love bitterness in beer so much that we take it to the extremes with double and triple IPAs.
Saltiness — Saltiness and beer are two words seldom seen in the same sentence, but we must acknowledge the minerality in the water used to make beer can be the difference between a good beer and a great one. There’s some truth here; minerality, AKA saltiness, can enhance beer’s flavor. So, can you emulate that with a pinch of salt?
The Science Behind Salt In Beer
Salt or sodium chloride (NaCl) is one of the most abundant molecules on the planet. And the oceans are its primary source. Salt plays a critical role in what we eat and drink — It is a natural flavor enhancer. This means a pinch of salt might liven our favorite beer’s flavor in the same way it makes our soups and stews taste better, but is it really the case?
Another reason to add salt to your beer is to enhance its carbonation. Bubbles can only form in nucleation sites, whether they’re minuscule cracks in the glass or stains in dirty mugs. Every grain of salt can immediately become a nucleation site for new streams of bubbles to form, which, although won’t change the beer’s profile much, can add some liveliness to stale draft beer.
Salt also balances out the bitter flavors in beer; that’s how primary flavors work — some flavors boost others while other flavors cancel each other out. If that’s the case, you can tone done your beer’s bitterness on the spot. Then again, you can always drink a blond ale if you’re not into bitterness.
Salt can make you thirsty, which could encourage you to drink more beer; on the other hand, small amounts of salt can help you retain water better, meaning you might not have to visit the bathroom as often. Then again, this is no hard science, and we all react to salt differently.
Should I Add Salt To My Beer?
If you’re hanging around with friends and there’s a salt shaker in hand, nothing stops you from adding a little salt to your beer. We won’t judge.
Will salt make your beer taste better? Probably not, unless you dissolve it completely, meaning you would have to stir your beer, losing carbonation in the process.
Will salt make you feel better, less bloated, or less dehydrated. Not a chance. You’re always better off consuming beer in moderation and knowing yourself.
If I’m a homebrewer, can I add salt to my beer? Now that’s interesting! There are many brewing salts and treatments that can enhance your brewing. Prepping your brewing water to giving a final touch to your brew. Salt can be one more tool in your brewer toolbox. As with everything home brewing-related, do your own research and remember that experimentation is critical.
There’s definitely room for salt in the beer world, whether it’s a tradition around the table or a new brewing technique. Salt is all around us. Why not add it to our beer?