Over the past decade, the American craft beer movement has skewed hoppier and hoppier. IPAs, double IPAs and triple IPAs crowd beer store shelves. But if you’re someone who has never been able to get on board with the influx of bitter beer, the issue might actually be genetic.
According to NPR, for years scientists have been aware that about a quarter of the population has a taste receptor gene (known as TAS2R38) that makes them more sensitive to bitter foods. What happens when you eat bitter food is that compounds in your meal bind to your taste receptors, and that particular receptor creates a very strong bond and very bitter flavors as a result. A recent study set out to understand to what extent this led people to make food choices.
What researchers discovered was that people who didn’t have TAS2R38 consumed significantly more bitter foods. In the case of vegetables for example, they ate 200 more servings a year. On the other hand, people who do have the receptor avoided green vegetables entirely. After some bad experiences with kale or brussels sprouts, they wrote off the entire class of food.
As for how these genes play into enjoying beer, if only 25 percent of people don’t deal well with bitter foods, that means that genetically speaking, three-quarters of us are potential hopheads for whom American breweries keep pumping out IPAs, which could explain their prevalence.
But since brewers keep pushing the bitter envelope on their beer, even those of us who like a hoppy beer may have to learn to like them even more.