Now we want you to join in the fun of exploring this liquid landscape. To celebrate the rollout of a new online graduate program in digital mapping (New Maps Plus at the University of Kentucky) we offer up this interactive visualization of America's beer-related tweeting.
(click the image above to go to the interactive map)
Choose a type or brand of beer and see where people tweet about it or compare the attention to two different kinds of beer. Special thanks to Rich Donohue who built this slick interactive user interface with the Leaflet library. If you're curious about how this map was built and designed (or are interested in doing something like this yourself) check out the New Maps Plus program.
More saturated (darker) colors indicate a higher probability of tweets containing a textual reference to the selected beer type. You can visually explore a variety of beers by selecting a new beer from the drop-down menu at the top right. By default, a given beer is normalized by a random sample of the overall Twitter population, though you can also compare two different beers by selecting another beer from the second drop-down menu. Hexagons without a significant number of observations/tweets do not show up. That's why some beers have more coverage than others.
Feel free to start playing right away, but in order to whet your appetite, here are some examples what you'll find. Starting with arguably the most locally-specific beer on our list, one can clearly see how Grain Belt beer is thoroughly grounded in the culture of the upper midwest, especially in Minnesota, and to a lesser degree Iowa and Wisconsin. It's interesting to note, however, that despite this very particular concentration, Grain Belt barely cracks the top 10 list for absolute beer references throughout the area. This obviously raises the important issue of recognizing that (nearly) all Grain Belt drinkers are Minnesotans, but not all Minnesotans are Grain Belt drinkers! We must admit we've not had the pleasure of trying Grain Belt ourselves, and we're not quite sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
Although the Boston Brewing Company will be quick to tell you that it is still a craft brewery, Sam Adams is remarkably more diffuse throughout the US. However, one can also see that Sam Adams' home is very clearly in Massachusetts and extending into Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, though the beer remains less talked about in these locations than a number of other non-local varieties.
Tweeting about Yuengling, however, represents a few interesting deviations from the patterns seen with Grain Belt and Sam Adams. For one, Yuengling has a much more prominent role within the Pennsylvania area, asserting itself as a top-5 beer-of-choice throughout the state, and even coming in as the #1 beer referenced in the area around Bethlehem, PA, not far from the Yuengling brewery in Pottsville. Second, while Yuengling is similar to Sam Adams in its wider distribution throughout the US, the number of references to the beer drop off significantly to the west of the Alleghenies, and are practically non-existent to the west of the Mississippi River. Finally it's interesting to note that Yuengling also represents the unique case of a regionally-specific beer that is actually multi-polar, as the beer is also prominent in Florida due to its secondary brewery being located in Tampa.
A reverse of this spatial distribution can be seen in the case of Shiner Bock, whose references are dominant in much of Texas, especially around the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner. Though concentrations extend beyond the Lone Star state into Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas, don't even try to get midwestern or New England states on board with this Texas brew.
There's nothing like the simulated authenticity of drinking a cerveza when trying to cool down on a hot day. But, as a comparison of Corona and Dos Equis shows, which Mexican beer you choose is likely (at least a bit of) a function of where you are. While Corona tends to be more concentrated in California, Florida and parts of the northeast, Dos Equis tends to be concentrated in the middle part of the country, especially centered on Texas.
Corona vs. Dos Equis
Last but not least, we thought it important to take a closer look at the geography of the country's two most popular beers, Bud Light and Coors Light. And while Bud Light sales were well over double those of Coors Light in 2014, tweeting activity around these two popular watery substances (sorry, we're solidly in the craft beer camp) reveals some interesting caveats to this seemingly one-sided competition. Indeed, just to the west of the Mississippi River appears a fairly clear dividing line at which the bevy of Bud Light in the eastern United States gives way to a western preference for Coors Light.
Bud Light vs. Coors Light
And while the eastern seaboard between New Jersey and Rhode Island seems to be the one eastern outpost of Coors Light, Bud Light actually remains the most popular beer being tweeted about in these areas. But because the statistical comparison looks not at absolute numbers, but the prevalence compared to the expectation at the national-level, the seeming competition here is a bit deceiving. Indeed, references to "Coors Light" itself are incredibly sparse throughout the US, and the term rarely cracks the top 10 for any given locale, although the more generalized "Coors" in these areas makes clear the regional preference.
Whew! That was a lot of work. We're off to kick-back and enjoy a cold one. Have fun with the map and be sure to tell us which beers we didn't include...We suspect there will be many future iterations!
If you want to learn how to make maps like this, check out the new online graduate certificate and master's degree in digital mapping from New Maps Plus! The first batch of classes start October 4!