The Language of Beer: Going Hyperlocal

map pinFirst we looked at the changing vernacular or beer, then analyzed what “cheap beer” meant to people.

Today, however, we go from a national look to a local one.

The best part about the recent Yelp Trends posts is the ability to hone into specific locales to gauge the potential for bias or interest within a specific metro area. So while we originally looked at broader topics that relate to craft beer, I love the fact we can also go micro and investigate unique aspects of beer that are local.

And there are a lot.

Before we go uber-local, I wanted to see if we could get an idea for interest in IPAs, the seminal beer of the American craft beer movement. For each city, I compared “IPA” to the prevalence of “craft beer” in Yelp reviews, which we know performs better than “microbrew.”

Starting on the East Coast, this comparison seems to run an expected – although quirky – course.

Here’s New York:

New York - craft beer vs IPAAnd here’s Chicago:

Chicaco - craft beer vs IPAIn both cases, “craft beer” easily outpaces references of “IPA,” but you’ll notice a jump in “IPA” around 2010. That’s fitting for more eastern cities, as the India pale ale wasn’t synonymous with those beer cultures like it was out West.

However, 2010 was the year when six of the top eight new craft beer brands were IPAs (among 264 total IPA brands available that year), including national rollouts of Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo, New Belgium’s Ranger IPA and Samuel Adams Latitude 48. Overall, Torpedo saw a sales growth of 141 percent in 2010.

The real fun starts when we move to the West Coast, where I assumed the battle between Yelp reviewers’ use of “craft beer” and “IPA” would be much tighter.

It was in San Diego, home of top IPA producers like Ballast Point and Stone. However, “craft beer” narrowly edges out “IPA”:

San Diego - craft beer vs IPABut as you might expect, “IPA” does reign supreme in some locations. It easily surpasses “craft beer” in San Francisco:

San Francisco - craft beer vs IPA… but utterly dominates in Seattle:

Seattle - craft beer vs IPALooks like our Pacific Northwest beer enthusiasts have a one-track mind.

Local Flavor

Even though IPAs may be what some West Coasters focus on, there is plenty of beer culture to go around. Let’s take a look at Yelp review comparisons for more “hyperlocal” flavor.

Let’s start in my own backyard in North Carolina. You may have heard of a NoDa Brewing Company, based out of Charlotte. Their IPA, Hop, Drop and Roll, recently won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup, beating out 223 other IPAs. In the wake of that award, local demand went through the roof:

“When we opened at noon the next day, there were about 25 people waiting outside,” Suzie says. “There was no party scheduled, they just wanted to come drink it from the taps and buy cans to take home. And at the time, that day marked our second-biggest sales day in the taproom.”

With a fitting bounce in mid-2014, here is the Yelp review popularity of “hop drop” (I can’t add a comma to the Yelp Trend search):

Charlotte - hop drop
Click to enlarge

Up the road in I-95, Baltimore has something of a battle between two top-notch Maryland breweries in Heavy Seas and Flying Dog:

Baltimore - heavy seas vs flying dog
Click to enlarge

Odd enough, results for both those breweries have declined over the past two years as the phrase “craft beer” as increased in the city’s reviews. Perhaps because people’s interests and choices have expanded?

Baltimore - heavy seas vs flying dog vs craft beerThere’s an even stranger fight going on in Denver, where, of all places, craft beer is having a tough time with macro beer. Sort of:

Denver - coors vs craft beerI should note all these Yelp Trends results are specific to “restaurants/nightlife,” so while “Coors” may be a common word in the area, I’m assuming this most accurately represents Coors the beer. Kind of blows me away that people would be referencing “Coors” as often as “craft beer” in 2014.

Similarly, Milwaukee’s appreciation for Pabst Blue Ribbon holds strong:

Milwaukee - craft beer vs pbrIn San Diego, what beer might be the favorite of locals? Well, Stone IPA beats out its sister beer, Arrogant Bastard:

San Diego - stone ipa vs arrogant bastardBut when Stone IPA goes head-to-head with nationally beloved Sculpin from Ballast Point, we get see which beer is really on top. For posterity, here’s Sculpin with and without “IPA” attached to it, lest people are also enthusiastic about the fish:

San Diego - sculpin vs stone San Diego - sculpin vs stone 2This was all just for fun, but clearly shows how passionate and unique our local interests and biases can be in such a national (and worldwide) industry. We all have our own experiences and expectations and I never would have thought some of these searches turned out the way they did.

Which leads me to think about this: what are the myths or assumptions (and truths!) about your local beer scene people should know about?

 Related ‘Language of Beer’ series posts:

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

(header image via Chris Blakeley)


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