The Border Collie Chronicles

Observations from (arguably) the World's Smartest Dogs;
(but, without question, the bestest friends!)
or, Life As We Understand It, as told from dad's shop.

Posted June 8, 2017

Beer (Dad’s Secret) …

By Gall


Or the long title, “Drink Beer for Big Ideas, Coffee to Get Them Done”.[i]

I didn’t know what I was going to write about today.  When this happens, normally I grab a coffee to help get the ideas flowing, but dad didn’t make any coffee today, so … no coffee.  Instead, I did what dad would’ve done, I grabbed a beer.

This got me wondering about coffee and beer and which one would actually help me be more creative and get work done.  Hopefully, what I found out will help you decide when it’s best to have that triple shot of espresso, or a nice cold pivo[ii].

From the scientific perspective, creativity is your ability to think of something original from connections made between pre-existing ideas within your own brain.  These connections are controlled by chemicals called neurotransmitters.  One of these neurotransmitters is adenosine, which alerts your brain when you’re running out of energy and reacts by slowing down the connections made between neurons by binding to adenosine receptors.

So, you see, adenosine is kind of like your brain’s battery status monitor.  Once your energy levels get low, adenosine starts to slow your brain function down.  This is why after a few hours of intense work, you begin to feel tired, like your brain has run out of juice.  The only way to recharge it is to take a break, unless you’ve got your secret weapon handy.

Yep … that secret weapon, for many, is coffee (though dad generally relies on Dr Pepper and Copenhagen!)  But, every coffee drinker is familiar with the feeling after drinking a fresh cup of java … they feel more focused.  This happens because caffeine blocks adenosine receptors, preventing adenosine from binding to its receptors and tricking your brain into thinking you have lots of energy.  (Check out The Oatmeal's comic illustration of what caffeine does when it makes it to your brain.  There is some other pretty good, but maybe controversial stuff, there too!)  Coffee’s effect can happen within just five minutes of drinking it.  When the adenosine receptors are blocked; the chemicals that increase the performance of your neural activity - like glucose, dopamine, and glutamate - are allowed to work overtime.  So while you may feel that coffee is giving you more energy, it’s simply telling your body that your energy reserves are good to go even when they’re long gone.


The peak effect of caffeine on your body happens between 15 minutes and two hours after you consume it.  When caffeine from coffee enters your bloodstream, you become more alert from an increase in the production of adrenaline and cortisol.  The problem is: if this over-stimulation occurs too regularly, your adrenal glands - which absorb adrenaline to help make you feel energized - gradually begin to require more adrenaline to give you the same "pick-me-up" feeling as before.  So, you see, low to moderate coffee drinkers (as little as one 14-ounce cup a day) can cause your body to develop a tolerance to caffeine (and require more of it to get the same stimulation).  Just like the thrill of lighting a bottle rocket and watching it explode all within a few seconds, the good feelings associated with coffee are short-lived, and pretty soon you need another hit to feel good again.


Now we know how coffee works on the body with respect to creativity … how about beer?


As you might have thought about … There Are Lots of Famous Drunk Artists, but No Famous Drunk Accountants!!!

While caffeine pulls a number on your brain to make you feel like you have more energy, alcohol has its own way of influencing your creativity.  After you’ve had a couple beers, drinking makes you less focused as it decreases your working memory, and you begin to care less about what’s happening around you.  

By reducing your ability to pay attention to the world around you, alcohol frees up your brain to think more creatively.  It looks like author Ernest Hemingway was on to something when he said:

When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day

what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky?


You see, simply put, Alcohol Just Produces Better Ideas!  I read about a study on the topic of alcohol and its effects on creativity, and I read where a group of 18 advertising creative directors was brought together and split them into two teams based on their amount of career experience.  One team was allowed to drink as much booze as they wanted while the other team had to stay sober.  The groups were given parameters and instructed to come up with as many ideas as they could in three hours.


The result?  The team of boozers not only produced the most ideas, but also came up with four of the top five best ideas.  While alcohol may not be the drink of choice when you need to be alert and focused on what’s going on around you, it seems that a couple drinks can be helpful when you need to come up with new ideas.




Coffee AND beer (both, in moderation) have shown to be helpful when you’re working on certain types of tasks; however, you shouldn’t drink either when you need to do detail-oriented or analytical projects like your finances.  Either, the increase in adrenaline from caffeine or the inhibition of your working memory from alcohol will make you more prone to make mistakes.


So, Beer For The Idea:  The best time to have a beer (or so) would be when you’re searching for an initial idea.  Because alcohol helps decrease your working memory (making you feel relaxed and less worried about what’s going on around you), you’ll have more brain power dedicated to making deeper connections.  (Dad says to be sure and write stuff down too!  ; )  )


Researchers found that about five seconds before you have a "eureka moment" there is a large increase in alpha waves that activates the anterior superior temporal gyrus.  These alpha waves are associated with relaxation - which explains why you often get ideas while you’re on a walk, in the shower, or pooping.


Alcohol is a substance that relaxes you, so it produces a similar effect on alpha waves and helping us reach creative insights.  Coffee doesn’t necessarily help you access more creative parts of your brain like a few pints of beer can.


And, Coffee For The Execution:  If you’ve already got an idea or an outline of where you want to go with your project, a cup of coffee would do wonders compared to having a beer to execute on your idea.  The general consensus across caffeine studies is that it can increase quality and performance if the task you are doing seems easy and doesn’t require too much abstract thinking.  In other words, after you have an initial idea or a plan laid out, a cup of coffee can help you execute and follow through on your concept faster without compromising quality.


But, Always in Moderation:  If you have to choose between coffee or beer, think about what type of task you are about to do and make sure you don’t over-imbibe.  Too much of either and you’ll lose the benefits of both.






PS – In the interest of full disclosure … dad rarely, if ever, drinks coffee!

Some Favorite Quotes

All right, brain, you don't like me, and I don't like you, but let's just get me through this, and I can get back to killing you with beer.

Matt Groening



Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh



I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.

Sir Winston Churchill



He liked the idea of coffee quite a lot—a warm drink that gave you energy and had been for centuries associated with sophisticates and intellectuals.  But coffee itself tasted to him like caffeinated stomach bile.

John Green



In Dog Beers, I’ve only had one!

One of dad’s T-Shirts, given to him by JC




[i] The premise for this article is from Mikael Cho from .  Mikael Cho is the co-founder of ooomf, a creative marketplace connecting mobile & web projects with vetted, first class developers and designers from around the world.  Mikael writes more posts on psychology, startups, and product marketing over on the ooomf blog.

[ii] See THIS ARTICLE if you need an explanation!

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