How (and Where) We Search for Beer – What Happened in 2009?

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Over the past few weeks I’ve spent some time researching how people are looking up beer. Specifically, I’ve been trying to delve into what has dominated Google searches around the country as well as the terminology of beer searches.

In both posts, one thing clearly stood out – the searches for “craft beer” exploded in 2009, most notably in the Northeast. Searches for “microbrew” declined around the same time, showing people clearly had a preference for how they were identifying non-macro beer.

… and it kept me thinking: Why?

That’s why I’m digging further into the question this week, offering up a few more posts dissecting the early “craft beer” search trend. I want to see if I can narrow things down a bit to find out why 2009 was such a catalyst year. As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions, too.

Before we jump into the first area of exploration, here’s a GIF’d chart showing the increasing searches for “craft beer” on Google between 2008 and today. It’s based on the first six months of each year, with darker states meaning higher search volume. As you can see, the Northeast is a trend setter:

craft beer searches on Make A Gif

Where Did “Craft Beer” Come From?

With that in mind, I wanted to find out what might have driven public perception. The first place I thought of was the breweries themselves. My assumption was if people are increasingly using “craft beer” in their vernacular, an obvious place may simply be the source of their goods.

Based on the above map and where we see searches, my assumption is that if a regional brewery is located in the Northeast and experiencing great success, it would make sense that a large portion of their customers would be locally or regionally and looking for “craft beer.”

I pulled the Brewers Association lists of top-50 overall brewing companies by beer sales volume from 2008 to 2010 and as expected, something stood out – breweries that made big jumps in sales volume came from the Northeast, the epicenter of the “craft beer” search trend on Google. Here are five of the biggest jumps in that three-year span:



2008 placement

2010 placement

Jump in placement

Magic Hat















Dogfish Head





Long Trail





There were other companies increasing their sales, but none to the extent that these did. Oskar Blues showed up in the top 50 in 2010 and SweetWater went from 40th to 38th in the above time frame, but no one did what these breweries accomplished.

From this perspective, the growth of using the term “craft beer” makes sense, considering these Northeast companies were performing very well and more people were searching for “craft beer” in the Northeast. Additionally, the overall number of breweries – especially craft – got a bump between 2008 and 2009 (click to enlarge):

craft_breweries_graphic 2008 compared 2009From 2008 to 2009, 57 new craft breweries opened, suggesting that awareness of the term “craft beer” might have increased.  I can’t easily find a map showing new breweries that opened in 2009, but I’d guess many came along the East Coast, including the Northeast. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see this great map of ideal places to open a brewery, created by the folks at Sterr Bros Beer:


So what is this all telling me?

I infer – and hopefully you do, too – that it makes sense the searches for “craft beer” stem from the Northeast. Breweries in that region of the country grew very strongly around 2009, which means sales increased, which we should assume also means awareness increased.

Perhaps most important, this sequence of events seems to hint that the growth of interest and searches for “craft beer” was an organic process. People became interested and curious because of what was happening around them. Word or mouth may have helped spur this interest.

… and that’s what I’ll delve into in the next segment.


+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac


20 thoughts on “How (and Where) We Search for Beer – What Happened in 2009?

  1. By far the biggest search terms people used to find my site this summer were variations related to Sierra Nevada and Beer Camp. Craft beer did come up #2 after those.

    1. Hmm. A good point to make. There are all sorts of strange search terms that bring people to my pages (“flava flav beer” is consistently popular, thanks to this post) but variation of “craft beer” is often hanging around.

      1. damn i need to make that ICP beer collab joke post then 🙂 Web searches are not my highest draw but if you lump all of the Sierra variants together that was my bulk – craft was next at double anything else below it.

  2. Another great post. I’m really enjoying this series. I went to Google and pulled up the data you’ve been presenting and did notice a few interesting things about it. But I’ll hold off until your next post because I don’t want to jump ahead of the presentation.

    1. I really look forward to seeing what you’re coming up with as well!

    1. Thanks! Hope you enjoy a couple more portions coming your way.

  3. I agree than 2008/2009 were pivotal years for craft beer, but 57 new breweries is less than a 4% increase. Hardly significant when you look at the big picture. I think we’re still in search of explanation.

    1. Very true, but it also depends on where they opened and the demographics/communities they served. More importantly, in context of general awareness, if they’re opening in previously underrepresented areas, that has the potential to drum up curiosity and interest, let alone sales for people who might not have had easy access to locally-sourced craft beer prior.

      But on a national level, you’re absolutely right.

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