As the evolving beer market sees the rise and rise of the brewery as a venue and not just a factory, hospitality is becoming as important as brewing technique.
But with many breweries and venues essentially industrial spaces, a welcoming space can be undermined by venue acoustics.
Senior project acoustic engineer at AcousTech, Marc Guitart, told BrewsNews that investing in excellent acoustics is a trend that is bound to start off in Australian venues.
“When you have been in acoustically-treated breweries, you can compare the experience against the ones with poor room acoustics, that is when the penny drops”.
A study that looked into the acoustics of a venue containing a micro-brewery, restaurant and music highlighted what are important aspects in a venue’s design.
“Excellent room acoustics heighten the senses, allowing guests to talk without raising their voice and not confuse food and drink flavours,” Guitart said.
“If our brain is busy trying to understand what is said in a conversation, there is less room for it to concentrate and enjoy what we are eating and drinking.”
Another study into the effect sound has on our ability to taste revealed that a venues acoustics can affect the way we perceive the flavours of food and drink.
This is particularly important when it comes to the tasting of beer, as a journal revealed the alteration that can take place to sweetness, bitterness and sourness in different sounding environments.
Design important to acoustics
Guitart says that while he has seen an increase in craft breweries wanting to achieve better internal acoustics, he is yet to see a design that stands out in Australian venues.
Craft breweries are usually located in industrial areas due to planning and zoning requirements, so the venues start off with a skeleton that is far from optimal for acoustics.
A growing trend towards a minimalist look with large open spaces, bare high ceilings and floors and acoustically reflective finishes on the walls further complicates the flow of internal acoustics.
Guitart also said that he has visited a lot of craft breweries that do not understand the benefits of internal acoustics and are only educated on soundproofing to control sound within their venue, even though the two are inter-linked.
“Excellent internal acoustics quiet down the sound pressure levels within the venue and therefore, there is less noise escaping from the venue.”
Apart from a general lack of understanding about internal acoustics Guitart says the perception that there is a lack of economic return for the investment seems to turn venues off, especially when the team behind them do not have prior hospitality experience.
Audio quality important to patrons and staff
Head of clinical services at Ear Science Institute Australia, Lize Coetzee said that internal acoustics are important for overall enjoyment but also the ear health of patrons and staff.
“While a one-time exposure to loud noise can damage your hearing, so can regular exposure of softer sounds,” Coetzee said.
“Music does improve people’s enjoyment but the volume at which music is played and the lack of acoustic treatment negatively affects enjoyment as people are not able to have a conversation or socialise.”
Coetzee said that conversation can be affected to the point people will naturally want to avoid the environment altogether, especially those with hearing loss.
“Acoustically treating a facility is a great way to reduce the reverberation which affects speech intelligibility and music quality. However, even with acoustic treatment if the volume of the music is too high it will still cause damage to the hearing,” Coetzee said.
In terms of breweries looking to better a current design or looking for future recommendation Guitart says to consider acoustic ceilings, having different rooms or spaces, limited hard finishes on the walls, non-parallel walls, enough furniture around to diffract the sound waves and big openable windows.
For venues that have music playing and offer live music, Guitart says sound systems capable of noise control in different areas are the best to allow the music level to change dependent on the room.
For venues that are just starting out and may not have the funds for acoustic treatment or consultation, there are ways you can make changes around your brewery to improve the acoustics.
“You do not always need to spend money on an acoustic engineer to assess your venue with a site visit, acoustic tests, evaluating and reporting the findings and the solutions.”
“[Breweries] can find some exquisite acoustic panels at a very competitive cost.
“There are infinite options available in terms of materials and finishes, to make them visually attractive and integrated within the space, so people should not be worried regarding these aspects, ” Guitart said.