After centuries of converging on balanced, smooth beers, the industry suddenly lurched sideways in the 21st century. While large brands now have to fear for their existence, men in beards are making a fortune selling pronounced, bitter craft brews.

The business segment may have been with us all along, according to a new analysis. The survey of 109 beer consumers in a blind experiment found that greater perceived bitterness increased the appeal of beers. This is the opposite of most foods.

But is that jumping on the IPA bandwagon or are they really different from everyone else? Their survey results claim they are different - risk takers, even. People who engage in spicy foods, for example, also regard themselves as adventurers. But being adventurous can be relatively safe when your only real side-effect is a difficult bowel movement so self-identifying may be part of how people see themselves and so do it to show others. If you buy $300 in gear to go rappelling down a cliff you're not really as adventurous as a soldier who ties an L-seat with rope and goes down a cliff with bullets going off, but to people who only play video games you're a thrill-seeker.

The participants rated two pale ales - one moderate in bitterness (Founder’s Brewing Co) and one bitter (Troeg’s Perpetual Imperial Pale Ale) - and a lager - Budwesier - 

Then they did a regression model to create a correlation between the bitterness and personality traits. Yes, that's sketchy, the kind of thing social psychologists do if they want to create a "scientific" way to claim political liberals are more intelligent or conservatives are more charitable, but it is what it is.

Participants also ranked quinine, a malaria treatment and the old-timey compound from the cinchona tree that makes tonic water bitter, and hops extract Tetralone. They found that those who considered themselves sensation seekers and preferred quinine bitterness had a higher liking ratio for the Troeg’s; but only in conjunction with each other.

So what does that really mean? Are you friends just bitter? Nah, but unless they have read this article you can tell them science says they are if they don't drink Budweiser. Bitterness in sensations may not have a real personality correlation, but it least explains why people like IPAs.

Citation: Higgins, M. J., Bakke, A. J.,&Hayes, J. E. (2020). Personality traits and bitterness perception influence the liking and intake of pale ale style beers. Food Quality and Preference, 86, 103994. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2020.103994