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.