The idea that just the right amount of alcohol can make us more creative earned the seal of scientific accuracy from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago back in 2012. Now, that research has paved the way for a beer that seeks to unlock our creative potential, sip by sip.
The beer, engineered by Danish communications firm CP+B and brewed by Copenhagen-based microwbrewery Rocket Brewing Company, is called The Problem Solver. It's described as a fruity, hoppy, IPA. Its 75-centiliter bottle has hash marks running up its side, telling you exactly how much to drink based on your weight. It’s not an exact science because of the variance in our respective alcohol tolerances and dehydration levels. And then there’s the problem of actually stopping when you get to your appointed hash mark. For that, we haven’t quite figured out a solution.
But let's back up a step.
In their experiment three years ago, University of Chicago researchers divided 40 participants (all males), into two groups of 20. One group stayed sober while the other was given just enough beer to reach a .07 blood alcohol content. Then the researchers had both groups perform a range of tasks. One task involved word association, where the researchers would give a few words—say, river, piggy, and blood—and ask the participants what word was needed to form two-word phrases—in this case, bank. But it wasn’t enough to just get it right; research also asked how the participants got to their answers. Those who were intoxicated had significantly more insightful solution processes, or, they solved the problems more creatively.
The researchers also had the participants perform memory-based tasks, which the intoxicated group was significantly worse at. The idea here is that alcohol makes us bad at remembering things, but that’s good because distraction can enhance creativity.
Getting to that perfect .07 blood alcohol level without carrying around a breathalyzer is kind of a trick, though. Drink too little and you start feeling sleepy. Drink too much and your good ideas inevitably fall along the lines of: And I’m going to tell my boss exactly what I think of his stupid face. Yeah!
“We actually tested the beer working on creative ideas for our clients. We have come up with some pretty creative ideas,” says Mathias Birkvad, who works for CP+B. He wouldn’t give any hints on his team’s beer-fueled epiphanies even when I pried, saying that they were still confidential. But he did say that The Problem Solver makes an appearance at most after-hours meetings. Before you start thinking, this all sounds very “Mad Men,” know this: About three drinks would put a 150-pound guy close to the .07 BAC mark. That’s what Don Draper drinks before breakfast.
As an aside, it’s important to note that beer only makes you a more creative thinker for a limited period of time. It won’t actually raise your I.Q., although, last year researchers at Oregon State University found that a compound in hops could increase cognitive function in mice. Unfortunately to get the same effect, humans would have to drink upwards of 5,000 beers a day—a task even we are not up for.
Currently The Problem Solver is only available in Europe (clearly proving that Europeans fear America’s collective brain power and don’t want to give us a boozy boost). Birkvad says that CP+B is working on exporting the beer to the states, though we’ll believe that when we see it.
Subscribe to Outside
Save 66% and get All-Access: Print + iPad