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Thread: Salt in Beer

  1. #1
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    Salt in Beer

    So I'm having beer with the in-laws today, and my father-in-law puts salt in his Sam Adams Oktoberfest. This is common practice for him, regardless of the beer he is drinking. He homebrews and appreciates good beer. However, his beer of choice, generally, is Budweiser (He grew up poor and doesn't generally spend more than he has to).

    Now, I always thought when he put salt in Budweiser, he was trying to make up for the lack of flavor by accentuating what was there, a function salt serves well. However, I've seen him salt a Belgian saison (my homebrew), SNPA, Shiner Bock, a homebrewed IPA, and now Sam Adams Oktoberfest (and others, I'm sure). These are not flavorless beers. What gives?

    The simple explanation is that the man loves salt. But, he's not the only person I've seen engage in this activity, and it's not only when drinking flavorless American and Mexican lagers that folks do this.

    It occurs to me that salt and sweet are nice counterpoints, and it may simply be a natural appreciation for that interplay that drives him to salt his beer. I've also considered the fact that some beers I've made have required the addition of sodium chloride to approximate the water profile of a given brewing city or style, and that on some level maybe my father-in-law may have a proper sense of balance in terms of a beer's character.

    Of course in a sense there is a venerable tradition of salt in beer, including a mostly-forgotten old German style of salt beer called Gose, which I understand was/is quite salty (and not all that quenching, naturally). Salty snacks are a staple of bars, both because they go well with sweet flavors in liquor and beer and because they make you thirsty.

    But does anyone know where/how this practice of adding salt straight to a glass or bottle originated? Any theories on why this was originally done (other than maybe covering off flavors)?

    Is my father-in-law just practicing a habit he can't quit? Or is there something else cultural, historical, or practical that I'm missing?

  2. #2
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    Re: Salt in Beer

    I don't know about the historical or cultural. My first thought is that he wants to kill a lot of the carbonation. When I first started dating the lovely lady that would become my wife, I couldn't figure out why she was always putting salt in Sprite. After finely getting comforable enough to ask her why she was so wierd, she explained (and demonstrated) how the salt deactivated a lot of the fizz without affecting the actual taste.

    Tom

  3. #3
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    Re: Salt in Beer

    Quote Originally Posted by TBoner View Post
    Is my father-in-law just practicing a habit he can't quit? Or is there something else cultural, historical, or practical that I'm missing?
    My guess here is all of the above. I have seen this on both coasts. I pay it notice and realize to each his own.

    Then again, that's just me.
    Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.

    Bob Marley.

  4. #4
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    Re: Salt in Beer

    When I was a kid, (I'm now 53), I remember it was not uncommon for old guys to do this.
    Why?
    I don't know. One guy had a part time job at the bowling alley I worked at.
    I was 17 and he was a WWII Vet and he drank Altes because that was what they gave the soldiers and he put salt in it.
    ovh

  5. #5
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    Re: Salt in Beer

    I remember a lot of the old timers at my hometown pool hall used to add salt and when I asked one why he agreed with what Tom said about the carbonation for the most part. "Takes the head off the beast" if I remember his words exactly. I do remember that this was only done with draft beer and usually it was Schlitz at the pool hall. All the salt shakers in the place were old Pony Miller bottles with plastic shaker caps....
    Dane
    I don't drink to excess. But I'll drink to most anything else.

  6. #6
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    Re: Salt in Beer

    I saw this done too, in Montreal taverns when I started to frequent them in my 20's.

    It was done to make the head rise. If you pour some salt on a beer, the head rises naturally. But also (or what is saying the same thing) it may have been done to make the beer less carbonated because that is the effect of a head on a beer, the excess CO2 in the mix of beer and foam tends to dissipate. But some drinkers may have liked the effect of drinking the beer through the head as many do today: for this reason I never complain about short measure, within reason anyway.

    Indeed Gose, which I sampled with Jeff Yeast and Ed Phelan last year in Chicago, was an old, regional beer style of the German lands - but probably also made elsewhere in Europe and now disappeared almost everywhere - and lightly spiced with salt. It is possible that the practice of adding salt to beer today is a faint echo of that old practice, in the folk memory as it were.

    It was apparently added as a flavoring, and indeed possibly to counterpoint the malty sweet quality of beer, or perhaps when hops were not available.

    My own theory is it was added as a preservative, to prevent souring.

    Gary

  7. #7
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    Re: Salt in Beer

    It's pretty common with the Hispanic culture in California to put both salt and and lime in Mexican beers....always cans, The can is opened, salt sprinkled over the top and then a lime wedge added. Usually Tecate and Modelo Especial.

    I typically do this when I drink Tecate or Modelo. I like the taste with a very cold, light Mexican beer.
    "That rug really tied the room together" -- Jeffery Lebowski

  8. #8
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    Re: Salt in Beer

    Quote Originally Posted by NorCalBoozer View Post
    It's pretty common with the Hispanic culture in California to put both salt and and lime in Mexican beers....always cans, The can is opened, salt sprinkled over the top and then a lime wedge added. Usually Tecate and Modelo Especial.

    I typically do this when I drink Tecate or Modelo. I like the taste with a very cold, light Mexican beer.
    In fact, Miller is now selling Miller Chill, which already has the lime and salt pre-added to the beer.

    https://www.millerchill.com/

  9. #9
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    Re: Salt in Beer

    Quote Originally Posted by robbyvirus View Post
    In fact, Miller is now selling Miller Chill, which already has the lime and salt pre-added to the beer.

    https://www.millerchill.com/
    Oh yeah great point....I've been meaning to try this, was hoping to stumble upon it at a party so i could get a free taste, but what the heck i'm gonna buy a 6 pack and see.
    "That rug really tied the room together" -- Jeffery Lebowski

  10. #10
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    Re: Salt in Beer

    Quote Originally Posted by NorCalBoozer View Post
    Oh yeah great point....I've been meaning to try this, was hoping to stumble upon it at a party so i could get a free taste, but what the heck i'm gonna buy a 6 pack and see.
    The problem here is that adding salt and lime to Miller beer basically amounts to polishing a turd.

    I found the lime too "in your face." It may be to your taste. It wasn't to mine.

    Larry
    I got the St Louis blues, I'm blue as I can get.
    I sent Louis to the liquor store, and he ain't come back yet.
    -Jimmy Johnson, "The Twelve Bar Blues"

 

 

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