Beer

Beer. Like lots of other people, I really like it.

This wasn’t always the case. In college, every party I went to had one beer option: the Chicago standard cheap terrible beer, Old Style. I have never and hope to never taste urine, but I can only imagine that Old Style bears a similar flavor profile to it. It is weak, bland, and kind of metallic. So I drank Smirnoff Twisted instead, because it tasted like soda.

Eventually, my college boyfriend introduced me to both Stella Artois and Boddington’s as alternatives. I liked Stella because it at least had some flavor, and it was fairly easy to drink. And I loved Boddington’s because it smelled and tasted (to me) like fresh-cut grass. It was the perfect spring and summer beer.

By late 2008, craft beer was becoming a really big deal, and I was lucky enough to live in a city with a huge craft beer scene. Boddington’s wasn’t great for fall and summer, so I started to try pumpkin beers, stouts, and porters, all of which I loved. I found tons of bars with amazing beer selections and tried as many different beers as I could.

At this point, I would say I’m a beer enthusiast, but not an expert. I’ve never bothered to learn much about the process of making beer. I never waited in long lines for Bourbon County or other limited edition bottles. But I do make it a point to try lots of different types of beer from lots of different breweries, especially when I travel. So since November 2011, I’ve tracked almost every beer I drink using Untappd. I say “almost” because:

  1. Sometimes I end up drinking a beer in a place with bad cell reception and forgot to track it later, and, more likely,
  2. Sometimes I drink so many beers that I.. shall we say.. lose my ability to remember to check in to them.

This week, I finally become an Untappd supporter, which allowed me to do an export of every check-in I’ve ever made on Untappd. That’s 1,498 check-ins, 810 of which were unique beers. So about half of the beer that I drink is new to me, and half is repeats.

Untappd supporters get some cool stats and charts, too. For example:

beer

That spike in February 2016 was the Pittsburgh Beerfest, by the way. And I should probably be concerned about my health if I’m having an average of two beers per day.

But the Untappd stats only scratch the surface. I now have a ton of data about the beer that I drink. So, being a data nerd, I started thinking about how I could use said data. Do I have beer “blind spots” – styles of beer that I haven’t had much of? Are there certain breweries that I drink a lot of beer from, maybe without realizing?

The cool thing about Untappd’s stats is that they break down into two types: unique check-ins vs. total check-ins. Unique check-ins count a beer once, whereas total check-ins count repeats. This allows for an interesting perspective for considering how often I drink a beer, style, etc. vs how many different beer, styles, etc. I’ve tried.

Styles

I love IPAs. I love anything that tastes bitter and makes my tongue hurt. (According to this study, I may be a psychopath.) So I was expecting IPAs to be high on my list in terms of the number of beers that I’ve had of particular styles. But the full breakdown was kind of surprising, especially when you compare unique beers vs. all check-ins:

TypeUnique Check-InsAll Check-Ins
IPA - American89146
Pale Ale - American45107
IPA - Imperial / Double3444
Fruit Beer3278
Saison / Farmhouse Ale2941
Pumpkin / Yam Beer2853
Cider2232
Stout - American Imperial / Double2125
Red Ale - American Amber / Red1827
Witbier1828
Pale Wheat Ale - American1742
Porter - American1735
Marzen1641
Stout - American1521
IPA - Session / India Session Ale1434
Porter - Other1314
Brown Ale - American1317
Sour Ale1315
Stout - Milk / Sweet1234
Herbed / Spiced Beer1228
Blonde Ale1115
Belgian Tripel1011
Rye Beer / Rye IPA1011
Lager - Pale1011
Pilsner - Other1017
IPA - Black / Cascadian Dark Ale919
Pale Ale - Belgian916
Lager - North American Adjunct830
American Wild Ale88
Extra Special / Strong Bitter816
Gose717
Stout - Russian Imperial77
IPA - Belgian77
Stout - Other66
Berliner Weisse610
Stout - Oatmeal612
Porter - Imperial / Double66
Winter Ale617
Hefeweizen66
Cream Ale612
Lager - Helles66
Strong Ale - American56
Radler544
Belgian Strong Dark Ale55
Red Ale - Imperial / Double56
Pilsner - Czech58
Brown Ale - English44
English Mild Ale44
Pilsner - German47
Schwarzbier418
California Common420
K̦lsch49
Winter Warmer45
Golden Ale46
Belgian Quad44
Flanders Red Ale410
Smoked Beer45
Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy33
Barleywine - American33
Bock34
Lager - American Light35
Stout - Irish Dry34
Lager - American Amber / Red371
Dunkelweizen33
Weizenbock34
Blonde Ale - Belgian Blonde / Golden33
IPA - English39
Altbier34
Root Beer23
Doppelbock22
Red Ale - Irish22
Patersbier22
Chili Beer22
Lager - Dortmunder / Export22
Stout - Oyster22
Scottish Ale22
IPA - Imperial / Double Black22
Belgian Strong Pale Ale22
Porter - English22
IPA - White23
Brown Ale - Imperial / Double22
Maibock/Helles Bock28
Lager - Dunkel Munich23
Festbier22
Bi̬re de Garde22
Lager - Black23
English Bitter22
Gueuze22
Ginger Beer22
Stout - Foreign / Export11
IPA - International11
Pale Ale - New Zealand11
Kellerbier / Zwickelbier14
Mead11
Scottish Export Ale11
Pilsner - Imperial / Double11
Harvest Ale11
Wheat Wine11
Dark Ale11
Lager - Vienna / Amber15
Old Ale11
Lager - Euro Dark11
Porter - Baltic14
IPA - Triple11
Gratzer / Grodziskie11
Kristallweizen11
Lambic11
Pale Ale - English18
Lager - Euro16
Belgian Dubbel11
Lager - Winter13
Brown Ale - Belgian11
Strong Ale - English11
Perry11
Rauchbier11

Unsurprisingly, the top two types of beers that I both try and drink regularly are pale ales. But I apparently also try and regularly drink fruit beers a lot, which I would not have guessed. That said, if I’m at a bar with a good beer selection and I see a fruit beer I’ve never had before, I’ll often try it. Fruit beers are interesting to me because they can vary so widely – I’ve had some that taste sickeningly sweet and others that are totally true to the fruit they’re supposed to represent (New Glarus makes amazing fruit beers, for example). This also true for ciders, which I think is partially due to the fact that ciders tend to be either very widely distributed (think Redd’s) or made by very small meaderies/cideries (like Arsenal here in Pittsburgh), so I like to try different fruit beers because of these differences.

I also try a lot of saisons, but don’t drink them regularly. They’re another type of beer that I’ll try when I’m out, but won’t buy for home. It also makes a lot of sense that I try a lot of American Imperial/Double Stouts, but because of the high alcohol content, I don’t drink them often.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are my friends Radlers and American Amber Lagers. When I lived in Chicago, I would make it a point to drink a lot of Yuengling when I came home to visit, since I couldn’t get it in Chicago. Now that I live in Pittsburgh again, I still drink it often – to me, it’s  a very good very cheap beer. And I’ve had a ton of Stiegl Radlers over the last two summers, since they’re very low alcohol and very refreshing. That said, I don’t stray from those two particular beers, so my “try rate” for those types are low while my consumption is high.

Breweries

So what about different breweries? Do I tend to stick to one or a handful of beers from a brewery, or try lots of different stuff?

BreweryUnique Check-InsAll Check-Ins
Revolution Brewing Company3173
New Glarus Brewing Company2469
Yuengling Brewery369
Goose Island Beer Co.2567
Schlafly - The Saint Louis Brewery1138
Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg338
Lagunitas Brewing Company1038
Metropolitan Brewing834
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery1232
5 Rabbit Cerveceria1231
Left Hand Brewing Company730
3 Floyds Brewing Company1029
Anchor Brewing Company827
21st Amendment Brewery727
Green Flash Brewing Company1123
Deschutes Brewery1222
Bell's Brewery922
Pipeworks Brewing Company1922
Troegs Independent Brewing1021
Temperance Beer Company819
Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)1418
Begyle Brewing1217
Off Color Brewing716
Breckenridge Brewery316
Stone Brewing1113
Russian River Brewing Company1113
Miller Brewing Company113
Half Acre Beer Company912
Founders Brewing Co.711
Great Lakes Brewing Company811
DESTIHL Brewery411
Wild Heaven Craft Beers610
Sixpoint Brewery310
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company510
New Belgium Brewing Company1010
Two Brothers Brewing Company810
Central Waters Brewing Company79
Rivertowne Brewing (Pennsylvania)59
Pabst Brewing Company29
Southern Tier Brewing Company79
Fat Head's Brewery28
Surly Brewing Company68
Hitchhiker Brewing Company68
Furthermore Brewing48
Vander Mill48
New Holland Brewing Company78
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits37
Grist House Craft Brewery77
Otter Creek Brewing27
Firestone Walker Brewing Company67
Ale Syndicate47
Hinterland Brewery27
Moody Tongue47
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.67
4 Hands Brewing Co.57
Virtue Cider46
Stella Artois16

* Does not include any brewery checked into five times or fewer.

The data shows a similar trend to what I saw with styles. For certain breweries (generally macro breweries), my “try rate” is very low. For example, 96% of my check-ins to Yuengling beers are for their Traditional Lager. For craft breweries,  my “try rate” tends to be much higher. I’ve repeated beers less than 20% of the time from Pipeworks, Stone, Russian River, and Firestone Walker, for example.

The breweries that I’ve tried the most different beers from are an interesting mix:

  • Revolution – used to live down the street from their brewpub, so I tried lots of different stuff
  • Goose Island – because I lived in Chicago and they are everywhere
  • New Glarus – Wisconsin’s finest, and I begged anyone who went to Wisconsin to bring some back for me
  • Pipeworks – they produce tons of large formats in interesting flavors
  • Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) – say what you will about Sam Adams, but I think their seasonal and variety pack beers are pretty decent, and great to bring to a party in a pinch

This list will be interesting to look back on as I live in Pittsburgh longer, since it’s very Chicago- and midwest-heavy right now.

Most Consumed Beers

I’m not calling these “favorites” because there are a lot of beers that I love but don’t or can’t drink often, either because they’re hard to find or are no longer produced. These would be more aptly called my “go to” beers:

Beer NameUnique Check-Ins
Yuengling Brewery Traditional Lager67
Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg Stiegl Radler Grapefruit36
Goose Island Beer Co. Green Line Pale Ale24
Anchor Brewing Company Anchor Steam Beer13
Miller Brewing Company Miller Genuine Draft13
Left Hand Brewing Company Milk Stout Nitro13
Lagunitas Brewing Company A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale12
Revolution Brewing Company Anti-Hero IPA11
Metropolitan Brewing Magnetron11
Revolution Brewing Company Eugene10
21st Amendment Brewery Hell or High Watermelon10
Lagunitas Brewing Company IPA10
Revolution Brewing Company Rosa Hibiscus Ale9
New Glarus Brewing Company Raspberry Tart8
Pabst Brewing Company Schlitz8
Schlafly - The Saint Louis Brewery Pale Ale8
New Glarus Brewing Company Moon Man8
5 Rabbit Cerveceria Vida y Muerte Muertzenbier8
Schlafly - The Saint Louis Brewery Christmas Ale7
Breckenridge Brewery Vanilla Porter7
Left Hand Brewing Company Milk Stout7
Schlafly - The Saint Louis Brewery Pumpkin Ale7
5 Rabbit Cerveceria 5 Lizard Latin-Style Witbier7
3 Floyds Brewing Company Yum Yum7
Green Flash Brewing Company Palate Wrecker7
3 Floyds Brewing Company Zombie Dust7
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Punkin Ale7
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Sixty-One7
21st Amendment Brewery Sneak Attack6
Hinterland Brewery Hinterland Cherry Wheat6
Otter Creek Brewing Over Easy6
Deschutes Brewery Pinedrops IPA6
Stella Artois Stella Artois6
Temperance Beer Company Smittytown ESB6
Metropolitan Brewing Krankshaft6
21st Amendment Brewery Down To Earth6
Lagunitas Brewing Company Night Time Ale6
Revolution Brewing Company Oktoberfest5
New Glarus Brewing Company Strawberry Rhubarb5
Troegs Independent Brewing HopBack Amber Ale5
Breckenridge Brewery Oatmeal Stout5
Off Color Brewing Tooth And Claw5
Fat Head's Brewery Head Hunter IPA5
Schlafly - The Saint Louis Brewery Tasmanian IPA (TIPA)5
Founders Brewing Co. All Day IPA5
New Glarus Brewing Company Spotted Cow5
Furthermore Brewing Fallen Apple5
New Glarus Brewing Company Wisconsin Belgian Red5
5 Rabbit Cerveceria Paletas Guava5
Revolution Brewing Company Fistmas Ale5
3 Floyds Brewing Company Alpha King5
Rivertowne Brewing (Pennsylvania) Hala Kahiki Pineapple Ale5
Metropolitan Brewing Dynamo Copper Lager5
Sixpoint Brewery Jammer 2015 (retired)5
Anchor Brewing Company Brotherhood Steam Beer5
New Glarus Brewing Company Cabin Fever Honey Bock5
New Glarus Brewing Company Apple Ale (Thumbprint)5

* Does not include any beer checked into five times or fewer.

The next time I hear someone rant about craft beer snobs, I’m going to point them to this list. I obviously drink a lot of craft beer, but Yuengling and MGD are in my top 10 most-consumed list, so…

The thing is, I think if you did this kind of analysis on most craft beer drinkers’ consumption, you would find something similar. Craft beer is much more widespread than it used to be,  but if you go out a lot, you’re going to go to a large number of places that don’t have awesome craft options. Yuengling and MGD are often the cheapest options at a baseball game. In Chicago, Green Line and Anchor Steam were often the only “craft” options at dive bars.

Because such a high percentage of my check-ins are to beers that I’ve never had before, though, this data isn’t terribly exciting.

Lessons Learned

So what I can take away from this analysis, other than the fact that I am a giant nerd?

  1. I haven’t tried a ton of lighter beers like lagers, weizenbocks, hefeweizens, and pilsners. Not surprising to me at all, since I avoid those mightily if I have other options. But I’d like to learn more about those styles so I can appreciate them and try them more often.
  2. I love the fact that I try lots of different beers, but I also kind of wish I had more standbys that I always keep in my fridge. I’m not sure my very easily distracted palate would go for that, though.
  3. I’m counting down the days until my liver fails.

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