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Beer salt is a coarse salt that is added to beer, a practice that is popular in Mexico and parts of South and Central America. This addition is generally for flavoring and, while some beer salts are just salt, some are flavored to taste like lime or lemon. Historical anecdotes about the practice of salting beer also suggest that it was intended to prevent cramping and dehydration and provide a quick fix for flavorless beer.
Adding a dash of salt to a beer is a popular practice in Mexico, as is adding a slice of lemon or lime. Some U.S. bartenders routinely serve Mexican beers with a slice of lemon or lime. The addition of beer salt hasn’t become as popular as of 2011, though flavored varieties such as lime salt have been developed and marketed in the U.S.
Adding beer salt to American lagers and other types of beer generally results in an immediate change to the beer’s foam. Some salted beers also give off a strong lemon or lime aroma, even when the salt isn’t flavored. Adding a single slice of lemon or lime to a beer can create a foaming reaction similar to that seen with beer salts. Salting beer, however, seems to be a matter of experimentation, however, because the resulting change in flavor varies greatly from beer to beer.
Beers with sweet undertones may surrender some of that sweetness when the saltiness from a citrus-flavored beer salt is sprinkled on top. Some people have noted, however, that the sweet flavors are still apparent after the initial taste of salt passes. A person wanting to try beer salts is advised to start with just a small amount of salt, because the change in flavor is said to be significant, and experimenting with different types of brews also may be necessary if one is to find a blend of beer and salt that suits his or her tastes.
Specialty beer salt can be found online and in some grocery stores. Coarse sea salt will have a similar effect, but without the citrus flavor. Adding an ingredient such as a slice of citrus fruit also can mimic a change in flavor that is similar to beer salting.
Historical anecdotes have suggested that, by adding salt to beer, drinkers can slow dehydration. Cramping is a side effect of dehydration, and some references suggest that adding salt to beer would allow one to work without cramping up after drinking. The consumption of salt does help the body to retain water, thereby possibly counteracting alcohol's dehydrating effect. Still, adding salt to beer is not recommended as a method of preventing dehydration. Some even suggest that the addition of salt makes the drinker thirsty, making him or her want another beer and boosting the consumption of dehydrating alcohol in the process.