An in-depth analysis of beer flavor and its impact on consumer refreshing perception
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Beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage worldwide and a known source of refreshment. Refreshment is defined as an emotional response to a food consumption experience; nevertheless, there is a very limited understanding of beer refreshment and its impact factors. The objective of this study was to determine how sensory attributes, specifically flavor and alcohol-related, impacted refreshment post-beer consumption using a survey, consumer study, and volatile analysis. A preliminary beer survey (n = 1,050) indicated that consumers believed beer was highly refreshing (≥8 out of 10). Flavor and temperature were major impactful factors for refreshment, along with a “clean and crisp” flavor profile. According to survey results, a consumer study was conducted to test how flavor types and alcohol levels impacted beer refreshment. Participants (n = 322) rated 13 beer samples (three flavor types: citrus, cucumber, or lime x 4 alcohol levels: 0%, 2.5%, 5.0%, and 7.5% abv., plus the control: non-alcoholic beer base- Heineken 0.0) for liking and intensity of refreshment as well as six sensory attributes. The consumer study elucidated that alcohol levels and flavor types significantly affected consumer's perceived refreshment based on ANOVA, MANOVA, and partial least squares (PLS), p < 0.01. A majority of consumers preferred a citrus-flavored beer and an alcohol level of 2.5% abv. Volatile profiles of three pilsners (Carlsberg, Heineken 0.0, and Michelob Ultra) were analyzed using solid-phase microextraction-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (SPME-GC-MS). Volatile analysis indicated specific esters (ethyl acetate, ethyl butyrate, ethyl hexanoate), terpenes (D-limonene and linalool), and aldehydes (acetaldehyde, isovaleric aldehyde, hexanal, nonanal) were common volatiles in three beers, which might associate with acceptance and preference by consumers. The significance derived from this thesis research revealed that flavor type and alcohol level significantly impact perceived refreshment. The addition of citrus flavor to the beer base with a 2.5% abv. created an ideal experience of sensory attributes and the highest overall acceptance. In the development of new and existing beers, a balance of flavor, alcohol, and volatiles are imperative for the refreshing perception.