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?