Deeply entrenched rivalries are what makes the world go round. New York versus New Jersey. Giga Pets versus Tamagotchi. Boat propellers versus manatees.
And then there are beer rivalries: Cologne versus Düsseldorf is one particularly fraught example. Both cities, located in North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany, claim to have the superior beer. But a new study, published online this week, is putting a big damper on the long-established competition. Cologne loves its golden pale ale Kölsch, while Düsseldorf lauds its dark copper-colored Altbier. The study, however, says the two beers taste exactly the same.
The rivalry between the two cities—which are located less than 40 kilometers apart—extends to more than just beer preferences. The residents of the two cities each allegedly claim to be smarter. And better at celebrating Karneval. In other words, they're unlikely to feel kindly about this new study.
In fact, if you go to Düsseldorf and order a beer, you may be told "Ex, oder Kölner." This evidently means "bottoms up, or you must be from Cologne"—an insult of the first order. And if you show up in Cologne and order an Altbier, you're not going to make many friends.
Enter Professor Helmut Quack (seriously!) of the Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences. Quack says that he tested 50 men from Düsseldorf and 50 men from Cologne. When asked which beer they preferred, 78 percent of each group picked their hometown beer. But when they were blindfolded, all hell broke loose.
They couldn't tell the beers apart.
When asked whether they liked the beer, whether it tasted fresh, mild, or herby, their answers were "nearly equal," the researchers say. Then the main event: the participants were asked to identify the beer. That's when their long-held allegiances came crashing down: The participants gave the correct answer only 55 percent of the time, which is pretty much the same results as if they had randomly chosen.
According to The Local, Quack said, "These results are quite amazing, because it is unbelievable that men cannot differentiate objectively between Kölsch and Alt."
A writer for the Cologne-based Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger weighed in: "My dear Professor Helmut Quack, we Cologners do not care that you have found out after 15 years of researching that there's no difference in taste between Kölsch and Alt. We will stand by Kölsch." Then he added "Do you still have friends?"
Quack says the study shows that there is a connection between how something tastes and its color, brand, and emotional meaning to the taster.
He better steer clear of North Rhine-Westphalia altogether.