What 2013’s Top Beer Searches Really Tell Us … and What They Don’t

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The end of the year is full of retrospectives, “best of” lists and all that good stuff that makes us nostalgic for another year gone by.

So who am I to deny you such cliched excitement? But with a beery twist, of course. This week, we learned most the Googled beer searches of 2013:

If you’re like me you see that list and think “what the hell is Kingfisher?” But then I decided to give in to my nerdy tendencies and jump back into the foray of Google search trends to see if we could get a better idea what this list means. If you need a refresher on my work with Google Trends, check out my series that ran earlier this year.

What I found was really interesting. Turns out, even if Blue Moon is the most searched beer in America, it may not be the beer really capturing our interest…
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A Whole New World? The Geography of RateBeer Rankings

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Today we take a break from Monday’s RateBeer number crunching, but don’t worry, it’s back on Friday.

From part one of this series on our beer-related behavior, RateBeer.com’s rankings showed us how much beer nerds from around the world LOVE imperial stouts. Especially well-made rare ones.

Then again, don’t just take my word for it:

While limited-release imperial stouts will likely always end up high on beer rankings, that trend may be slowly changing. In the last couple years, other styles have been clawing their way toward top spots thanks to an increase of innovative breweries like Vermont’s Hill Farmstead and Florida’s Cigar City.

These tasty brews are important for changing the way we think about beer and what we like, but just as important is the geographical location. When we talk about global beer production – especially that of the top-ranked beers in the world – it’s increasingly becoming something of an “Old World” vs. “New World” situation.
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How (and Where) We Search for Beer – The Complete Series!

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Thanks to everyone who has been reading the blog over the last few weeks, following along as we researched the rise of the term “craft beer” in online search habits.

It’s been interesting (and even fun), from getting in contact with people to looking over old marketing materials. I’ve always enjoyed the research process – pulling everything together in a coherent manner is another story – so I hope that you’ve enjoyed tracking the growth of “craft beer” with me.

In case you haven’t had the chance to read all the related posts on this topic, I’m compiling them below for easy access:

The first of the “How (and Where) We Search for Beer” series, showing how beer-related search terms grew in popularity in relation to geography. This includes “craft beer,” “IPA,” and “lager.”

When people started looking up “craft beer” at great rates, it came at the expense of searching for “microbrew.” Was there ever any doubt which people preferred?

Showcasing an initial reason why online searches for “craft beer” began in the Northeast – 2009 was a boom year for breweries in the region.

Help from those in the beer business and covering beer as well as review of marketing materials show breweries drove the term “craft beer” into public consciousness.

The rise of social media, craft beer and breweries use of online engagement makes for a perfect storm to spread the term “craft beer.”

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

How (and Where) We Search for Beer – “Craft Beer” Goes Viral

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It’s time to bring it home in this week’s series, in which we tried to figure out just how the term “craft beer” became part of national interest. Here are previous posts on the topic for review:

A few weeks ago I found out through Google Trends that the term “craft beer” grew steadily in searches beginning in 2009, which led me to ask: why?

In part one of this week’s series, I determined the growth of breweries around 2009, both in number and sales volume, helped drive curiosity in the term “craft beer,” especially in the Northeast. In part two, insight from professionals in the business and a review of marketing materials indicated that it was breweries themselves who helped drive the term “craft beer” into public consciousness, not the media specifically.

I find that to be very important, especially based off what Anat Baron had to say, noting that brewers were saying “craft beer” when she began working on her documentary Beer Wars in 2005. Specifically, she noted, the media didn’t begin a “love affair” with craft beer until around 2011.

That means in 2009, when Google searches for “craft beer” began to sky rocket, something else was helping to drive interest and getting people online to look up their (naturally) new, favorite drink.
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How (and Where) We Search for Beer – Who Said “Craft Beer?”

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Today we’ll continue our look into the growth of how the term “craft beer” became part of national interest. Here are previous posts on the topic for review of refresher:

This effort is based on research that showed the term “craft beer” grew steadily in searches through Google beginning in 2009. Simply put, I want to know why. In part one of this latest series, I came to the conclusion that the growth of breweries around 2009, both in number and sales volume, helped drive awareness, especially in the Northeast. Additionally, it seems that the growth of curiosity in searching for “craft beer” may be an organic one.

Why is that? Let’s see what we can find…
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How (and Where) We Search for Beer – What Happened in 2009?

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Over the past few weeks I’ve spent some time researching how people are looking up beer. Specifically, I’ve been trying to delve into what has dominated Google searches around the country as well as the terminology of beer searches.

In both posts, one thing clearly stood out – the searches for “craft beer” exploded in 2009, most notably in the Northeast. Searches for “microbrew” declined around the same time, showing people clearly had a preference for how they were identifying non-macro beer.

… and it kept me thinking: Why?

That’s why I’m digging further into the question this week, offering up a few more posts dissecting the early “craft beer” search trend. I want to see if I can narrow things down a bit to find out why 2009 was such a catalyst year. As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions, too.

Before we jump into the first area of exploration, here’s a GIF’d chart showing the increasing searches for “craft beer” on Google between 2008 and today. It’s based on the first six months of each year, with darker states meaning higher search volume. As you can see, the Northeast is a trend setter:

craft beer searches on Make A Gif

Where Did “Craft Beer” Come From?

With that in mind, I wanted to find out what might have driven public perception. The first place I thought of was the breweries themselves. My assumption was if people are increasingly using “craft beer” in their vernacular, an obvious place may simply be the source of their goods.

Based on the above map and where we see searches, my assumption is that if a regional brewery is located in the Northeast and experiencing great success, it would make sense that a large portion of their customers would be locally or regionally and looking for “craft beer.”

I pulled the Brewers Association lists of top-50 overall brewing companies by beer sales volume from 2008 to 2010 and as expected, something stood out – breweries that made big jumps in sales volume came from the Northeast, the epicenter of the “craft beer” search trend on Google. Here are five of the biggest jumps in that three-year span:

Brewery

State

2008 placement

2010 placement

Jump in placement

Magic Hat

VT

18

12

+6

Harpoon

MA

20

16

+4

Brooklyn

NY

31

25

+6

Dogfish Head

DE

33

19

+14

Long Trail

VT

34

21

+13

There were other companies increasing their sales, but none to the extent that these did. Oskar Blues showed up in the top 50 in 2010 and SweetWater went from 40th to 38th in the above time frame, but no one did what these breweries accomplished.

From this perspective, the growth of using the term “craft beer” makes sense, considering these Northeast companies were performing very well and more people were searching for “craft beer” in the Northeast. Additionally, the overall number of breweries – especially craft – got a bump between 2008 and 2009 (click to enlarge):

craft_breweries_graphic 2008 compared 2009From 2008 to 2009, 57 new craft breweries opened, suggesting that awareness of the term “craft beer” might have increased.  I can’t easily find a map showing new breweries that opened in 2009, but I’d guess many came along the East Coast, including the Northeast. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see this great map of ideal places to open a brewery, created by the folks at Sterr Bros Beer:

Ideal-Locations-for-New-Breweries

So what is this all telling me?

I infer – and hopefully you do, too – that it makes sense the searches for “craft beer” stem from the Northeast. Breweries in that region of the country grew very strongly around 2009, which means sales increased, which we should assume also means awareness increased.

Perhaps most important, this sequence of events seems to hint that the growth of interest and searches for “craft beer” was an organic process. People became interested and curious because of what was happening around them. Word or mouth may have helped spur this interest.

… and that’s what I’ll delve into in the next segment.

Related:

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

How (and Where) We Search for Beer – An Issue of Wording

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Thanks to a strong response to my previous post on a visual guide to how Americans have searched for beer, I’ve decided to perform a sort of follow-up to investigate another aspect of the search process – vernacular.

In my original post, I looked at Google search trends for phrases like “IPA,” “lager,” and “craft beer.” The most surprising result was that as a country, we didn’t really start looking up “craft beer” until around 2009, which also coincided with a deluge of new craft breweries and the Cicerone, the official beer training program, as it were.

Specifically, Friend of the Program, Bill, from Pittsburgh Beer Snob, asked:

I think [it’s] probably because not a lot of people knew about the term “craft beer” yet. I wonder what would turn up if we look at how “microbrews” were looked up back then. At least, that was the term for good beer around Pennsylvania before craft really took off here.

Good question. So what exactly is the difference with how people were seeking beer information in those early days of this craft movement?
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How (and Where) We Search for Beer – A Visual Guide

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Note: You can read a follow-up post to this discussion here, where I look into the semantics of “microbrew” vs “craft beer.”

Hidden within this recent story about states that drink the most beer is a great nugget about how people are searching for beer online.

Since it’s a Yahoo production, they offer up the top-10 searched beers through their search engine:

  1. Pabst Blue Ribbon
  2. Fosters
  3. Budweiser
  4. Corona
  5. Heiniekn
  6. Bud Light
  7. Dos Equis
  8. Miller
  9. Sam Adams
  10. Yuengling

This got me to thinking, if these are well-established, easily-known brands, what is it people are looking for? Even more head-scratching – searches for “Pabst Blue Ribbon” were 10-times higher on Yahoo than any other beer brand.

That’s a lot of curious hipsters performing online searches. But what are they searching for? Here are the most common search queries when it comes to the blue ribbon-winning brew via Yahoo:

pabst search results yahoo

OK, so nothing fancy except something to do with a coffin. But what about WHERE people are searching for Pabst? And what about other beer? That’s much more interesting.
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