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Original Research from RateBeer Labs
In addition to prompting last week’s apocalyptic theme, Joe T. recently sent along an Excel file chockfull of juicy, juicy data from the RateBeer vault. This was hardly the first occurrence, but each database query lends itself to answering a different set of questions. With this batch, we sifted through data that quantified the number of unique beers added to the database each year, broken down by their given style category. (RateBeer keeps track of 73 beer styles overall.) The data covered years 2000 through late 2012, comprising over 168,000 distinct commercial beers entered by our ever-diligent users.

I analyzed the style data in a variety of different ways (looking at normalization techniques, aggregate sums, etc.) to try and decide upon the best basis for making meaningful year-to-year comparisons. Ultimately, the data lends itself to answering a relatively simple question: If we look from year to year at the overall breakdown of what beer styles are being created (and thus added to the database), which styles are gaining ground overall, and which ones are falling out of favor as time passes? 

To establish a firm baseline, I summed up all the style entries through 2007 (representing a total of 69,586 beers) and then converted the total for each style into a percentage of the total number of beers in the database as of 2007. The leftmost values in the linked chart (click the graph-like graphic) represent these baseline values. As of 2007, 3.4% of all the beers in the database were IPAs, 2.9% were American Pale Ales, etc. (Caveat: that linked chart only includes the fastest-growing styles.)

Those baseline percentages for each style establish what the overall beer spectrum looked like as of 2007. (I also hoped to weed out any early-2000s aberrations by doing so.) For each subsequent year, I turned to looking at how those various style percentages were changing over time. By taking the number of beers entered into each style category in a given year and then converting that into a percentage of the total number of beers entered that year, one can look at how the overall beer spectrum is shifting on a year-to-year basis. Some styles were slowly gaining ground, while others were in sluggish departure. (I also looked at how the aggregated percentages were changing, which just dampened the signals and yielded similar results.) The fastest-growing and -declining beer styles were then calculated by looking at the difference between a style's percentage in 2012 relative to its 2007 baseline. These results are provided in the sidebar. Hops, sours, and saisons are in ascendance, surprise surprise.

Another interesting tidbit is the most popular styles of new beers in 2012, which breaks down as follows: IPA (8.1% of all new beers added in 2012), Golden / Blond Ale (5.7%), American Pale Ale (5.3%), Spice / Herb / Vegetable (4.1%), and Bitter (3.9%). It's important to note that these values tend to be far more indicative of brewers’ interest than market share, as they correspond to numbers of distinct commercial beer examples and do not adjust for the volume of each produced. In this analysis, the highest-volume examples don’t wash out other details, as often occurs in traditional volume- and $-based studies. This seems a better gauge of what's been drawing (or losing) brewers' attention overall. More soon.

Ken Weaver (RB: kmweaver)

Fastest-Growing Styles Results - Links to Main Graph!
(Click above for graph)

  • IPA: +4.7%
  • American Pale Ale: +2.4%
  • Saison: +2.3%
  • Sour / Wild Ale: +2.1%
  • Imperial / Double IPA: +1.9%
  • Black IPA: +1.8%
  • Imperial Stout: +1.8%
  • Pale Lager: -4.9%
  • Bitter: -2.7%
  • Pilsener**: -1.9%
  • German Hefeweizen: -1.4%
  • Premium Bitter / ESB: -1.4%
*(Relative to 2007 baseline; expressed as % of all new beers released annually)
**Bohemian and Classic German Pilseners listed separately; this category catches anything else.


Beer + Physics: Physics.org

Pretentious Beer Glasses: Brookston Beer Bulletin


Suggestions for further RateBeer research?
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