Beer: liquid sex, or substitute for soup?

Is this why you drink tepid beer?

William Schlackman was an American psychologist specialising in attention grabbing market research projects carried out on behalf of big companies. In 1966 he suggested that, for English drinkers, beer was a substitute for sex.

We’ve strug­gled to track down a copy of the research report itself which is, uh, frus­trat­ing, but there’s a sum­ma­ry of its con­tents in A Month­ly Bul­letin for Jan­u­ary 1967:

At the super­fi­cial Freudi­an lev­el of the uncon­scious mind, beer-drink­ing was found, incred­i­bly, to be equat­ed with sex. More pro­found research revealed this equa­tion with sex to be but a defence enabling the beer-drinker to deny his true moti­va­tion… Hunger, the psy­chol­o­gists point­ed out, is strong enough in prim­i­tive man to stim­u­late the hunt and the kill. In prim­i­tive man, in oth­er words, hunger is overt­ly a more pow­er­ful dri­ve than sex… It comes as a sur­prise to most of us to learn from the leader of the brew­ery’s research team, William Schlack­man, an Amer­i­can doc­tor, that what a beer-drinker feels when open­ing time approach­es “is the prim­i­tive ten­sion of the hunt.” In civilised man, as in prim­i­tive man, “it may out­weigh the sex dri­ve.”

The Dai­ly Mir­ror also picked up the sto­ry, quot­ing Schlack­man exten­sive­ly. Here’s a clear­er expla­na­tion of his point about beer and sex, in his own words:

The reg­u­lar drinker puts his love life sec­ondary to his pub life, which is the real rea­son why so many mar­riages founder over drink… Con­firmed drinkers are rarely wom­an­is­ers. In fact, they are often hos­tile to women and to pubs that encour­age wom­en’s cus­tom.

So beer dis­places sex – got it.

The Mir­ror arti­cle also picks up on a sug­ges­tion by Schlack­man that the par­tic­u­lar­ly British taste for “tepid” ale rather than cold lager was because…

Beer, which tra­di­tion­al­ly even school­boys used to drink for break­fast, sub­con­scious­ly bears an image very close to that of soup.

Schlack­man’s research team came up with a set of per­son­al­i­ty types matched to beer pref­er­ence:

The typ­i­cal draught-bit­ter drinker was a farm work­er on his way home from the plough-field… The mild-and-bit­ter drinker: A 50-year-old under­paid clerk, dream­ing of win­ning the pools… The Bass and Wor­thing­ton drinker: A hairy-chest­ed dock­er… One of the inter­viewed peo­ple though that the typ­i­cal Bass drinker would prob­a­bly be a wife-beat­er, too.

That’s one of those star­tling state­ments that makes clear just how much the per­cep­tion of brands and types of beer can change over the course of decades.

Of course, this should all be tak­en with a pinch of salt: this kind of pop Freudi­an analy­sis has rather gone out of fash­ion. In 1969, Schlack­man sug­gest­ed that Eng­lish peo­ple liked tea because it remind­ed them of home, moth­er and the womb, which says it all, real­ly.

You can read more about William Schlack­man and how he end­ed up liv­ing and work­ing in Lon­don this obit­u­ary – he died in May at the age of 88.