“Scientists find the formula for the perfect pint!” says pub chain who paid those scientists

What factors go into creating the perfect beer? It’s an age-old question, if you believe The Sun and the Daily Mail, who both declared the search for the ultimate tipple was over, after scientists (or ‘Beer Boffins’ according to The Sun) discovered the formula to creating the perfect pint:

How to pour the perfect pint: Scientists devise complex formula for ale lovers (though following it after you’ve had a few could be tricky)

Scientists claim to have cracked the code of every drinker’s dreams – what makes a perfect pint.

Based on surroundings, music volume and the number of drinking partners, researchers have devised a formula that can calculate what makes a perfect pint for any given individual.

The equation also takes into account the availability of snacks, the ambient room temperature, and the number of days until you are required back at work.

Source: Daily Mail, 19 October 2012

Scientists discover formula for the perfect pint… And they had supped around 1,000 drinks along the way!

BEER boffins reckon they’ve finally discovered the secret of the perfect pint

For centuries, Brits have debated what it is about a favourite tipple that makes it stand out from the rest. Now experts reckon they have finally cracked it – after asking 1,000 volunteers around the country to take part in a mass survey for brewers Taylor Walker.

The result is a mathematical formula that takes into account everything from pub ambience to the time of day and what snacks are available in your local boozer at the time you consume the pint.

Source: The Sun, 19 October 2012

So far, so good – and the formula produced certainly looks like science: 

E = -(0.62T2 + 39.2W2 + 62.4P2) + (21.8T + 184.4W + 395.4P + 94.5M – 90.25V) + 50(S + F + 6.4)*

But what does this actually mean? Handily we’re provided a helpful key:

T = The ambient temperature in degrees Celsius 

W = The number of days until you are required back at work

P = The number of people with whom you are drinking 

M = Related to your mood whilst drinking the pint 

V = Related to the volume of the music being played

S and F are related to the availability of snacks and food.

Decoding the formula, we can see that the ‘beer boffins’ have concluded that the perfect pint occurs when a drinker is in pub is of ambient temperature with snacks available, where the music isn’t too loud, with lots of people around (but not too many), at a time when the drinker has a large number of days until having to go back to work.

Those beer boffins, how DO they do it?

Still, that said, just because the formula matches what we might come up with ourselves with a moment to think about it, doesn’t make it false, right? Well, no – but it might make it irrelevant, especially if the source was less than genuine…

The complex formula was devised after researchers polled 1,000 volunteers from up and down the country on what conditions they preferred when drinking their pint.

Dr David Lewis, who calculated the formula at Mindlab on behalf of pub chain Taylor Walker, said: ‘Following all of our research we developed a formula for the perfect pint.

In fact, the formula was commissioned by a pub chain – presumably to then declare that they not only know how to make the perfect pint, but that a pint in their pub is scientifically guaranteed to be the perfect pint.

As for the survey of 1,000 volunteers from up and down the country – the article certainly makes it sound like these volunteers had to visit many pubs, sample many drinks and really put themselves through their paces before offering their opinions, doesn’t it? After all, as The Sun declared:

…and they had supped around 1,000 drinks along the way!

So what was the research methodology carried out by these scientists? It was… an online poll via friends of the site OnePoll:

So much for volunteers, and so much for legitimate research.

And what of Dr David Lewis, the scientist behind the research? What role do they, and their so-called ‘Mindlab‘ play? How much legitimacy do we have there?

At Mindlab International we provide cutting-edge insight into the behaviour of individuals in a wide range of situations.

Our proprietary Neurometrix2 technology will allow you to make better informed business decisions, improve sales and enhance brand efficiency.

In other words, Mindlab may be scientists, but they’re very clearly also a brand and market research company, masquerading behind the banner of scientific legitimacy. And they have form – from this year in the Daily Mail alone:

The point here is clear – while the formula Mindlab were paid by a brewery to come up with may describe reality, and may fit in with what we know, that doesn’t make it real science. When the source is so clearly commercially-motivated, and the goal is to achieve publicity, discussing the merits of the research is to be taken in by the smoke and mirrors of the trick. The only story here is that Taylor Walker and Mindlab wanted to get headlines, and they succeeded.