The Disgruntled Chemist was in Minnesota last week. He went out to a few local bars, and wrote about his encounters. Check out this one where met a girl who had martini olives in her beer. She claimed the olives were a substitute for the salt she normally put in her beer. Yeah, salt. SALT! In her beer. Salt. In. Beer. What’s up with that?
I was intrigued. Now, this practice wasn’t entirely new to me; one time when I went out to dinner with family I saw a guy pour salt in his Budweiser. I’ve been trying to figure out why he would do that ever since. So, I did some research*. Here’s what the beer advocate had to say:
Putting salt in beer stems from a few philosophies – all of which seem to have had a purpose at one time or another. An old wives’ tale said that putting a sprinkle of salt in your beer would stave off cramping during hard work. Dehydration can cause cramping of the muscles, because of the depletion of minerals in the body. Adding salt to the beer would make the worker thirsty, and thus he would drink more beer to relieve the dehydration.
Others add salt to beer for flavor purposes; post-prohibition (1933) beer had turned into somewhat of an ugly being. Breweries had to cut costs and started to use cheaper ingredients like rice and corn, which made for a nearly flavorless beer. These beers are still around, though most people have become accustomed to flavorless beer and so have no need for the salt. Many South and Central American beer drinkers will add salt, and sometimes hot sauce and/or lemon, for flavor, or to mask off flavor in beer.
The last reason we found, which also makes no sense, was to add salt to beer to knock the carbonation out. Why not just pour the beer out hard or swirl it a couple times?
Really and truly, there is no reason to add salt to your beer (unless you are 80-something and traditions die hard with you). Nowadays, adding salt to your beer is a complete oddity, something of the past. Save the salt for a good steak, and leave the beer alone!
According to the girl in the bar, “It’s a midwestern thing,” and someone from Southern California wouldn’t understand. I wouldn’t want to understand it. Why drink a beer that needs the added flavor of salt**? Why make your beer flat?
But if you like ruining your beer, there are products you can buy that allow you to do just that. We are so entrenched in our consumerist culture we’ll pay for something that will screw up another thing we bought.
* I googled salt+beer.
** You know how you’re supposed to add a lime wedge to Corona? It’s because the bottle is clear, and the beer skunks when exposed to light for long periods of time (ie, in a display case). The lime (or salt, or hot sauce) covers up the skunk.