Virtual reality

Innis & Gunn brings virtual reality to UK pubs

By Liam Coleman

- Last updated on GMT

Immersive: Innis & Gunn is offering beer drinkers a free virtual reality experience
Immersive: Innis & Gunn is offering beer drinkers a free virtual reality experience

Related tags Virtual reality Taste

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? It's hard to tell at 50 pubs dotted across the UK where Innis & Gunn is inviting drinkers to don a virtual reality headset when trying its beers.

Bar staff at the pubs, which include Bier Halle in Glasgow and Brewhouse & Kitchen in Highbury, north London, have been trained to ask customers ordering Innis & Gunn Original or Innis & Gunn Lager if they would like to try the drinks while wearing a virtual reality headset.

The "Immersive & Gunn" cardboard headsets that customers are given to sample the virtual reality experience

Customers are given a headset, similar to Google Cardboard, which they can plug their mobile phone into to play an immersive 360-degree video, where the world moves with their head.

Innis & Gunn worked with a cognitive neuroscientist to create videos, which they said 'would alter perceptions and enhance the flavours' of Innis & Gunn's lager and original beer. 

Founder of Innis & Gunn, Dougal Gunn Sharp, told The Morning Advertiser​ the company had created these virtual reality experiences to get people thinking about their beer-drinking experience more. "It is about getting people to try this experience and find that the beer tastes and feels very different to what you're used to. If that gets people talking about great craft beer, then that's worked for me."

Gunn Sharp explained the way this worked was by altering perceptions: "When you go into a pub, all the sights, sounds and smells are totally familiar. Wherever in the UK you go, pubs all smell broadly the same and beer tastes similar, so your tastebuds already have a memory and know what to expect.

"When you go into this virtual reality world, all of that is gone and you're not able to draw on these visual cues, so your taste buds are not expecting or anticipating a flavour. That's why I think this is so effective."

The neuroscientist who advised Innis & Gunn, Dr Jacob Jolij, adds: "Whenever you take a sip of your favourite beer you do not just taste the water, the grains and the hops, but your brain adds in your previous memories, surroundings and expectations."

The video that accompanies the Innis & Gunn Original, which can be viewed below and can be dragged around for 360-degree scenes on this page, uses woodland scenes to 'enhance the oaky tones of the beer', according to Dr Jolij. "The dense forestry connects the brain with the oak-aged tones within the beer," he said.

Various filming techniques are used, said Dr Jolij, to 'bring greater refreshment to the viewer'. "The wide water landscapes the drinker sees, combined with the pace of the film, trigger the brain to focus on its refreshment characteristics," he explained.

The Innis & Gunn programme is currently set to only be a temporary programme, but the company's founder does not rule out continuing to experiment with virtual reality. "We could do films in the distillery where we're maturing beer and in the brewery where we're brewing it. There's all sorts of things that we could do, so it's a really interesting avenue for us to explore," Gunn Sharp said. "If it's something that people love, then who knows?"

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