The perceived bitterness of beer and 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) taste sensitivity

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Nov 30;855:813-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1998.tb10665.x.


Pelchat and Danowski found a significantly higher proportion of nontasters of 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) among children of alcoholics than among children of nonalcohlics, suggesting a possible genetic association between alcoholism and PROP tasting ability. They suggested that nontasters may not find alcohol as bitter as tasters do and may be at greater risk for alcoholism because they like the taste of alcoholic beverages more. In the present study we tested this hypothesis by examining how nontasters, medium tasters, and supertasters of PROP judged the taste of two kinds of beer. Forty-seven males and 53 females between the ages of 21 and 49 rated the perceived bitterness of Budweiser and Pilsner Urquell on the oral Labeled Magnitude Scale (LMS). Subjects also rated their degree of liking or disliking for the two beers on a 9-point Likert scale. PROP papers and the LMS were used to classify subjects into tasting groups. The results lent some support to the hypothesis in that male nontasters liked the taste of Pilsner Urquell better than male supertasters, when they tasted Pilsner Urquell after Budweiser. (This finding was not replicated for females). Also, as subjects' ratings of bitterness for the two beers increased, their degree of liking for the taste decreased. Supertasters rated Pilsner Urquell significantly more bitter than medium tasters. Subjects were asked about their drinking habits, and supertasters reported consuming significantly less beer than nontasters when they first started drinking beer on a regular basis. There were no significant differences in current drinking behavior between tasting groups. These results suggest that supertasters are distinct from nontasters with regard to their taste for beer and may to some degree be protected against alcoholism by their dislike for bitter substances.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beer
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Propylthiouracil
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Threshold


  • Propylthiouracil