The difference between a good beer and a great beer could be the door that hits you on your way out to take a swig. There’s just something about having a cold one outside that makes the overall experience, including the taste itself, more enjoyable, experts agree. By taking the beer out of the kitchen or the bar, it becomes more celebratory, yet rebellious in nature — both aspects of life busy that parents could use more of.
“People have better associations with being outside, so their mood is generally higher,” Matthew Johnson, a professor of psychology at Hult International Business School in San Francisco, told Fatherly. The indoors, on the other hand, conjures memories of work, deadlines, responsibilities. “Having a unique experience can galvanize the pleasure response, so you would enjoy a beer a bit more by being outside.”
When people don’t drink too often or too much, a few beers can go a long way toward creating a pleasurable, relaxing experience. Alcohol kicks off a healthy release of endorphins, and a dopamine response along the reward pathways of the brain, research shows. There is also evidence that alcohol inhibits the central nervous system’s ability to respond to stress, which may explain why alcohol, in moderation, helps you unwind.
When you then take that experience outdoors, you get the added benefit of vitamin D, which helps to boost mood, immunity, and even weight loss, Johnson says. “I would imagine that this general phenomenon of alcohol reducing stress is compounded by being outside, given the positive associations we have,” he says.
Individuals who have had positive experiences with the outdoors are most likely to benefit from sipping a cold one in their backyards, Ryan Daley, a Master Cicerone and Senior Educator at Anheuser-Busch, told Fatherly. “Most people are already feeling great being outdoors, soaking up the sun, and hanging out with family and friends,” he says. “This is why drinking beer in the summertime is so enjoyable.” Daley says beers that incorporate summers smells such as flowers, fruits, grills, and even sunscreen, to maximize the experience. He says beer styles such as kölsche, session IPAs, saisons, goses, and dark milds are all good options.
Beyond positive associations with nature, Johnson suspects that there’s something sweetly transgressive about drinking outdoors, especially in areas that have laws prohibiting it. But it’s not just the fear of getting reprimanded by a beach cop that motivates the rush. Perhaps the most important association people have with drinking outside is that it typically occurs during special occasions. A drink on your porch reminds you of a drink at a sprawling, outdoor family reunion, and helps reproduce those pleasurable feelings.
It’s not simply that the ambience of nature helps enhance what’s great about beer, but what’s great about beer also enhances what is great about the outdoors. It’s a better party when they both show up together.
“The primary reason why we beer would enhance the feeling of being outside is because both mirror the same, desirable emotions,” Johnson says. “The outside environment physically resembles the emotions we typically enjoy through alcohol, like being uninhibited and unconstrained.”