What Is: The End? A Final Look at Beer Advocate “Best Beer” Data

jeopardy_beer_potpourriMuch like the full-bodied, layered menagerie of our favorite high-alcohol beers, there’s more to the Beer Advocate rating data than what we’ve seen so far.

Last week, we looked at a wide variety of takeaways from my deep dive into the “best beers” each state offers, according to Beer Advocate users, but there were two hodgepodge cases of analysis that didn’t easily fit in. Still, if the work is there, it’s worth sharing.

Let’s grab a pint and enjoy these last couple sips of information and I’ll leave it up to you as to whether there’s something I might have missed.

Best Beer and Income

I honestly had no idea if this was a connection that would exist. Essentially, I took (deep breath) the proprietary weighted rank (WR) system used by Beer Advocate and the average ABV of each state’s top-10 beers and matched them with the 2013 median household income, per the U.S. Census.

I’ve got the full list and extra data in this PDF, but to keep things in line with previous posts, here’s a top-25 and bottom-26 breakdown, with each list’s averages at the bottom. I’ve sorted them by WR, to take into consideration that the best possible beers should cost more and may show a correlation with households bringing in more income.


State WR Avg ABV 2013 Median Household
California 4.563 11.18 57,528
Vermont 4.532 8.1 54,842
Florida 4.414 8.73 47,886
Iowa 4.404 8.49 54,855
Michigan 4.387 9.37 48,801
Illinois 4.362 9.94 57,196
Indiana 4.343 10.056 50,553
Ohio 4.327 8.399 46,398
Oregon 4.324 9.74 56,307
Texas 4.301 7.25 53,027
Connecticut 4.29 7.74 67,781
Colorado 4.289 9.483 63,371
Wisconsin 4.282 7.24 55,258
Massachusetts 4.28 10.1 62,963
Alaska 4.276 11.08 61,137
North Carolina 4.268 8.583 41,208
Minnesota 4.262 7.659 60,907
Missouri 4.236 9.65 50,311
Washington 4.201 7.91 60,106
Oklahoma 4.193 9.95 43,777
Maine 4.192 8.03 50,121
New Jersey 4.189 9.14 61,782
Virginia 4.178 9.39 67,620
New York 4.159 9.22 53,843
Pennsylvania 4.138 8.765 53,952
South Carolina 4.138 7.54 43,749
 Average: 4.289538462 8.951346154 54,818


State WR Avg ABV 2013 Median Household
Delaware 4.121 11.174 52,219
Maryland 4.073 8.035 65,262
New Mexico 4.054 7.35 42,127
Wyoming 4.039 6.89 55,700
New Hampshire 4.036 8.724 71,322
Utah 3.989 10.081 62,967
Alabama 3.985 8.291 41,381
Georgia 3.975 8.16 47,439
Arizona 3.934 7.07 50,602
Kentucky 3.93 9.06 42,158
Kansas 3.906 6.3 51,485
Montana 3.891 7.03 44,132
Idaho 3.852 8.67 51,767
Nebraska 3.832 7.525 53,774
DC 3.828 6.17 60,675
Tennessee 3.782 6.12 42,499
Nevada 3.712 7.75 45,369
West Virginia 3.655 5.579 40,241
Hawaii 3.653 5.56 61,408
Louisiana 3.629 6.57 39,622
North Dakota 3.62 5.5 52,888
Rhode Island 3.615 5.48 57,812
Mississippi 3.573 5.76 40,850
South Dakota 3.529 5.21 54,453
Arkansas 3.5204 6.066 39,919
 Average: 3.829336 7.205 50,723

… and for easy comparison, here are the averages side-by-side:

WR Avg ABV 2013 Median Household
Top-25 4.29 8.95 54,818
Bottom-26 3.83 7.2 50,723

There are very clear differences here in each category, but as to what they mean, I’m not so sure.

From our look at ABV and ratings and each state’s best beer, these lists reinforce where the “bad” best beer comes from. The bottom of the bottom-26 features states that aren’t necessarily known for their brewing prowess, but I don’t know if we can place a direct connection to “poor” quality beer and lower incomes.

I tried to make some connections with these maps that highlight the geography of beer preference via social media, but aside from highlighting states like Bud, Miller and Coors (which is everywhere) I couldn’t figure it out.

It’s perfectly fine if there is no connection at all, but there may be something tangential in there somewhere.

Color/Style of Beer and Temperature

A brief look at climate showed that there isn’t any direct connection we should worry about, but I left out one section that reinforces that idea.

A handy SRM graphic.
A handy SRM graphic.

We know that the average Standard Reference Method, or SRM, for all our 507 best beers is 18, which roughly puts the “average” best beer’s color somewhere around what an amber beer would look like, thanks in part to 82 imperial stouts included in the list. The higher the number, the darker the beer, which made me think that colder states would have higher average SRM because if you’re cold all the time you’d love some stouts and porters, right?

Sort of.

From my full list of states and DC, I picked all states with an average SRM at 20 or above. That gave me 20 states which had an average SRM of 22, four points above our national average.

Then, I halved that again to end up with the 10 coldest states from that list. Their average SRM? 22.

So, with the idea of “cold-weather” beers seemingly shot, to suggest it again:

I feel this simply points out what we already know about American beer fans, however: we like variety and brewers will create whatever they like, wherever they like.

Have I Learned Anything?

This is the most important question, as the hours I’ve spent analyzing and writing about all this data must be fore something, right?

While some of the findings from this work may amount to reinforcing perceived norms (people love high-ABV beers, etc.) I firmly believe the numbers we’ve looked over have been necessary if we want to prove these points. Anecdotes only take us so far.

But don’t think of this as “the end” of this kind of work, as some of my previous research into beer ratings have shown that our tastes may slowly be shifting. These rankings change daily and offer an opportunity for more discussion and analysis. I welcome your continued comments and questions with the hope it might drive that forward.

Most of all, I have this very important takeaway: never seek out beer from the Dakotas.

In the meantime, here’s the full list of posts from this Beer Advocate series, which represents the greatest amount of work I’ve done on any special report. Thanks so much for following along:

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


5 thoughts on “What Is: The End? A Final Look at Beer Advocate “Best Beer” Data

  1. If you venture down this data analysis road again I’d love to see these numbers compared with population density and educational levels. None of the lower 26 states strike be as being the most populated or well educated so I am curious what relation, if any, that may have. After all California is known for being overcrowded, yet with available land, and the home of silicon valley. While New York has a mass of smart, highly educated, and relatively wealthy people crammed into a 22 square mile island leaving no room for breweries to grow.

    1. One of the issues I struggled with regarding the income data was there’s really no hard-and-fast connection, especially when you consider raters using BA can easily be people from other states or countries visiting, trading, etc. I think there’s some way to twist numbers to get some kind of glimmer, but I honestly have no idea what.

      I’d guess that something like education would be even trickier. Population density could be interesting, but horribly varied by state. Texas, for example, is exploding both in population and brewery growth in its major cities. In New York, a ton of breweries are opening up in Upstate’s wine country because land is inexpensive (in context) and greater access to agriculture (and tax incentives that come with it).

      All great stuff to think about, and fun, too.

  2. To paint with wide strokes, a possible explanation for the bottom 26 being correlated with lower incomes is that folks in lower income states, as a trend, typically stick with cheaper beer, thus creating less of a demand for more expensive craft beer, fewer breweries in turn, and (to complete the loop) (a) less friendly competition amongst breweries to continue perfecting their recipes and/or (b) less brewing resources to help advance knowledge/skills of even the keenest brewers in those states.

    Tying in with your analysis, I’ve been collecting data on retail beer consumption by state house district (in Georgia) and religion. My hypothesis was that districts with a high proportion of Southern Baptists would exhibit lower alcohol consumption on average than, say, a district with higher rates of Catholicism or lower overall rate of religion-adherence. So far, though, I’ve seen no real notable negative correlation.

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