Putting salt in beer also called salting beer may seem like a strange concept in this day and age due to the high quality and diverse flavors of beer on the market, however, it was not too long ago that doing so was a very common practice. Although there are many reasons why people salt their beer and we are going to look at 10 of them in this post; the main reason used to be to improve the flavor of the beer, especially in North America where the quality of the beer had declined significantly.
The Origins of Salting Beer
There are conflicting reports of when and where putting salt in beer originated and unlike many of the good beer origin stories, salting does not appear to have a very storied history.
Some claim that the first beers to have salt added to them were Gose beers out of Germany sometime in the 13th century, it is worth noting that in this case, it was the brewers who added the salt during the brewing process to modify the taste and not the beer drinkers’ per se.
Other reports indicate that this practice originated in Mexico, but in this case, it was the beer drinker who added the salt to their beer to enhance its flavors along with other ingredients such as lime, lime juice, spices, and tomato juice.
In the United States and Canada putting salt in beer became a very common practice during the Prohibition years all the way up until the Craft Beer revolution of the 1990s. During prohibition and as a result of a grain shortage breweries began using lower-quality ingredients in their recipes such as corn and rice which negatively impacted the flavor of the beer.
Breweries quickly discovered that these lower-quality ingredients cut their production costs significantly and most continued to brew beer using these ingredients well into the 1990s with some still doing so today. To improve the taste of this watered-down, bland, and tasteless swill, consumers started adding salt on their own.
10 Reasons People Put Salt In Beer
The following are the 10 reasons we researched into why people put salt in their beer. Some of them we agree with and others we are undecided on. We will leave it to you to try for yourself and make a decision.
Improve the Taste
Adding salt to your beer can lower the bitterness level of overly bitter beers and also increase the sweetness and sour levels in other styles. It is also able to an extent neutralize any off-flavors from the beer. Also, many people very much enjoy the taste of salt itself and genuinely enjoy the extra salty flavor it provides to the beer.
Carry on a Tradition
There is a good chance that if someone enjoys putting salt in their beer it is because they learned it from a close family member, either a father or grandfather and they are simply carrying on the family tradition. Having said that the tradition does not necessarily have to come from a family connection but rather it could be how people drink their beer in certain towns, cities, or parts of the world and it is just the way they do things around them parts.
Salt Lowers the Bitterness
Some people who enjoy salting beer indicate that they do so as it reduces the bitterness level of some of the more bitter beers on the market these days, some versions of IPA are known for being extremely bitter, if you sprinkle in some salt it is said to reduce the bitterness allowing the sweeter taste to shine through.
Increase the Sourness
For Mexican alcoholic beverages including beers that either have lime juice in them or a slice of lime on the side such as Michelada and Corona, people have been known to add salt to enhance the sourness of the lime as salt is known as a natural flavor intensifier.
To Become Intoxicated Faster
Although some people claim putting salt in beer will make you become intoxicated quicker there are conflicting reports on this. Salt itself does not make you drunk, however, people who claim combining it with beer increases the rate of intoxication suggest this happens because salt widens the duodenal sphincter in your stomach giving the alcohol quicker access to your small intestine which is where it is then distributed to the bloodstream.
In Order to Drink More Beer
Once again this is another reason that is up for debate and there are varying rationales as to why people think you will be able to drink more beer if you add salt to it. Some claim that it will make the beer go flat which they claim will make it less filling allowing you to consume more of it. Others claim that by making it flatter it also reduces the gas in your stomach once again allowing you to consume more of it. Still, others claim that the salt will make you more thirsty which in turn will entice you to drink more of it. Lastly, we have seen people claim that the salt is going to keep you hydrated which to us means you will not get as intoxicated and be able to consume more.
Increase the Carbonation
As you have seen there are a lot of conflicting reports as to what salt in beer does, this is another one. As we just covered, it will make your beer flatter but others also claim it will increase the carbonation or bubbles. Here is our take on this, yes salt will make the beer go flat, but prior to going flat and as soon as you add the salt to the beer it will foam up significantly, but it does not last long. So if you like a large head on your beer then sprinkle in a pinch of salt, it will interact with the carbon dioxide and push the bubbles to the top creating a temporary but substantial-sized head.
To Prevent Burping (Gas)
You may have seen videos of people online touting their method of pouring a beer by basically dumping it into the glass is the proper way to pour a beer as it allows all of the foam to come out of the beer resulting in the gas being expelled out of the glass instead of in your stomach with the end result of you becoming less gassy.
Adding salt to your beer essentially does the same thing. As we discussed, salt increases the carbonation temporarily but creates a lot of foam. This foam is full of CO2 which is released out of the glass instead of into your stomach, less gas in your stomach means you will be less bloated and also burp less.
Fewer Trips to the Washroom
Salt helps your body to retain water and keeps you from becoming dehydrated. Alcohol causes your body to become dehydrated, this is why you go to the bathroom so much when you are drinking. Salt to a degree prevents this from happening by helping your body retain water while you are drinking resulting in fewer trips to the washroom.
To Prevent & Cure a Hangover
A large reason for a hangover is your body is dehydrated since alcohol is a diuretic and causes you to flush your system of water. As we have discussed, salt helps you to stay hydrated while you are drinking. Very much like drinking a glass of water between beers. The more you can stay hydrated while drinking the less of a hangover you will have the next day.
As far as curing a hangover the next morning some people add some salt to the hair of the dog that bit them the night before, meaning the same drink that they became intoxicated on. They drink this mixture and claim it cures their hangover. We understand that increasing your sodium levels can help you become hydrated again and lessen the hangover but perhaps a Gatorade would make more sense?
Is There a Downside to Adding Salt to Beer
Like anything, too much of a good thing can be a problem so if you are going to salt your beer then do so in moderation.
If you already enjoy the flavor of your beer then do not add salt to improve the taste because it may just have the opposite effect on it. Some beers are meant to have a certain level of bitterness and by reducing the level it might negatively impact the overall flavor profile of the beer.
We have mentioned how salt can help to keep you hydrated, this comes with a caveat, you must still consume water. Salt helps your body to store water, if you are not consuming any water it will have none to store and can actually result in you becoming dehydrated faster from the beer. The key is to consume some water between beers and the salt will help maintain your hydration.
And of course, there is the concern over the fact that too much sodium in your diet can cause health problems. If your family has a history of high blood pressure and you have been advised to leave the sodium alone then adding salt to your beer is probably not a smart idea.
How to Put Salt in Your Beer
When it comes to putting salt into your beer there is no special technique involved, our only recommendation is to start small, a little pinch will do you. Be careful not to overdo it as you can ruin your beer by doing so very easily.
When it comes to the type of beer to salt most people will do so with lighter beers, typically lagers, blondes, golden and pale ales. Beers such as IPAs, APAs, Porters & Stouts typically do not respond well to having salt added to them.
Beer Salts vs Table Salt
You can also buy salt that is designed to be added to your beer, they are produced for this purpose and will add unique flavors to your beer. Many of the beer salts are simply a more coarse salt than table salt but provide a similar taste profile, however, others are flavored to taste like a mixture of salt and lime or lemon. Beer salts are very common in parts of Central and South America.
Salting beer although nowhere near as popular as in days gone by is still quite commonplace in many parts of the world. Most times people will put salt in beer to improve the taste of a lower quality beer and also possibly because it is a family tradition or commonly practiced where they are from. If you decide to try this for yourself we recommend starting slow, add a little pinch of salt first and see if you enjoy the taste. Flavored beer salts may also be something you wish to try.
P.S. If you brew your own beer or want to start we recommend you pick up our gift to you of Big Robb’s top 5 favorite beer recipes from his brewpub. Details are on the side of the blog. Cheers