Beer: Finding Your Favorite That You Didn't Know About!


Data analysis can be used for many things . . . how about finding other beers you might like, so you don't keep drinking the same old brand every time? Hang on tight -- I think we're about to make a beer run!

I recently read an interesting article on the Flowingdata website, where they graphically charted 100 beer styles. For each style, they drew a rectangle with the width representing the amount of alcohol by volume, and the height representing the bitterness (hoppiness). They colored the rectangle to try to represent the average color of the beer, and grouped the graphs by family. As you mouse over each of their graphs, it gives you a description of that style, and lists several different brands of beer from that style. Here's a screen-capture of the graphs for the family of beers in the Pilsner style, for example:

I found their graphs very interesting, but I also noticed a few things I would have done differently, using SAS graphs. Let me walk you through my changes and enhancements, and see if you like them!

One thing that I found baffling was that they showed an overlay of all the beer style rectangles at the top of the Flowingdata article, but it was purely for artistic purposes. It had no axes or grid lines, and there was no way to tell which rectangle represented which style.

In my version, I used overlay graphs for their analytic power (rather than artistic power). I created an overlay graph for each style family, so you could see how consistent (or inconsistent) the beers from that family are. For example, here's my overlay graph, followed by the individual style graphs, for the Pilsner style family:

pilsner_sas

In the Flowingdata article, they omit the text and numeric labels along the axes of the individual style graphs, and just show the labels on a single graph at the top of the article. I found that I had to keep scrolling back up to the top to see what the axis values were, and then scrolling back down to the style graph I had been looking at (and hoping that I had correctly remembered the values). By comparison, in my version I fully labeled every graph - this makes them a little more cluttered, but a lot more usable.

The graphs were very small in the Flowingdata article, and therefore the data rectangles were sometimes just a visual 'speck' with more of the black border color than internal yellow/amber beer color. I made my graphs about twice as big, to allow you to see the data better. And on the topic of color -- I decided to make all my polygons the same color, to make them easier to compare. (I'm not sure that an average color for a particular beer style is very valuable to graph, and I wonder if the colors in the original graphs are actually representative of the beer colors?) Also, the lighter and darker rectangles in the Flowingdata graphs could distort the visual perception of their sizes.

In their article, there was no way to navigate through the style families. You had to scroll up/down, and read all the family names, to find the family you were interested in (and the difficulty was compounded, because the names were not in alphabetical order). In my version, I create a list of all the style families, and let you click the style name to jump directly to those graphs.

style_list

When you hover your mouse over my graphs, you see the description of that style and list of several different brands of beer that are that style (similar to the Flowingdata graphs) . . . but you can also click my graphs to launch a Google search for that beer style. The Google search returns some really nice information, and also pictures of the beer (I think the pictures provide much more accurate colors than the colors used in the Flowingdata polygons, if you want to really know what the beer looks like). And for a finishing touch, I add a footnote at the bottom of my graph, giving credit to the data source, and a link to the actual spreadsheet containing the data.

And now, with all this data, how might you use it to find new/different beers, similar to the ones you like? I invite you to tell me in the comments section!

And what would my blog posts be without some randomly-related pictures from of my friends?!? This time, pictures of beer! . . . or should that be 'pitchers' of beer!?! LOL (Thanks Beth, Paul, and Jason!)

(Editor's Note: to see the original friend beer images as separate images, please visit the original SAS Learning Post blog.)

This content was reposted from the SAS Learning Post. Go there to view the original.

Robert Allison, The Graph Guy!, SAS

Robert Allison has worked at SAS for more than 20 years and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in computer science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from North Carolina State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book calledSAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics.

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Beer thirst
  • 1/11/2017 8:55:13 AM
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..

Robert's blog post got my attention not just because it was about beer, but particularly used Pilsner as an example. Pilsners and lagers are my favorites types of beer.

I liked Robert's visualization redo, and the chart of beer categories with hyperlinks, although I can't say that I would need to have these to hand when I'm ordering up a pint in a pub or restaurant. But they're interesting to study ...

I kind of liked the amber color of the tiny graph boxes in the original graph. My only suggestion would be to use amber instead of red in the improved versions.

Anyway, this whole discussion makes me sorta thirsty ...

..

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/11/2017 1:01:14 PM
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I'm still fairly mystified by the types. The first time I bought beer was in the fall, and that was for a brisket recipe. My family then decided that they don't like Heineken and tht it doesn't provide enough body for the meat. Since then, I've experimented a bit with different beers available for sale in single bottles usually for $1.50 at Trader Joe's. Some are described with some accuracy, but others just have these names that don't signify anything to those of us who are not familiar with these brews. 

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/12/2017 8:11:10 AM
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@Ariella, that was along the lines of my point that styles of beer are good for those who know what they are drinking but for those that don't care to learn about methods for making beer tying brand names into the charts makes a lot of sense. Putting some brand names with the data would widen the audience greatly.

Now shifting into one of my loves (BBQ) use a darker beer for your brisket something like Shiner Bock which is getting more available outside Texas and is good for drinking after you've made your mop.  Also if you want more flavor use a thicker mop/baste and if you're BBQing or smoking wait until you're nearing the end of cooking before mopping.

 

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/12/2017 10:19:41 AM
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Or a nice thick Porter! I could even see using a stout like Guinness for BBQ as well.

Now I'm hungry and thirsty!

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/12/2017 1:01:12 PM
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Now this is just a tad creepy. After posting about beer over here, my FB feed includes ads for beer at Peapod. I'm quite certain I didn't mention beer on FB to trigger the algorithm on its end, nor did I do a search on the topic in recent memory. So it must be reaching out to other outlets I'm on like this one.

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/12/2017 1:07:23 PM
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@Ariella -

I know how you feel. Recently I was traveling in another state when our washer broke. Another member of the household was researching several brands of washers and we spoke about the best options.

As soon as I hung up, I was getting ads for washing machines on my phone. 

I know it's not the case, but it was as if someone was listening to my phone call. Creepy.

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/16/2017 7:57:08 AM
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@PC, I've run into this too but I think it was Amazon on the home PC talking to every other web service.  I was on the phone with one of my kids picking out Christmas presents for one of their friends and as soon as I hung up and logged into my email I was getting ads for the products we were just talking about.  The marketing hooks are set into us very deep.

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/12/2017 12:02:43 PM
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@SaneIT this is such a great site because we learn not just about data analytics but a whole reange of subjects -- even beer and cooking! I've picked up on the benefits of darker brews for the brisket. Now I'll have to try to getting the timing right next time around.

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/12/2017 9:12:38 AM
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..

Ariella writes "I'm still fairly mystified by the types."

For those who don't know what beer they might like (or need), I suspect that one of these days somebody will come up with an app to deal with the complexity. This would integrate data about your behavior and tastes, your health and medical data, your recent purchases, the season, time of day, and location ... and from all this data, and probably more, it would render a recommendation on the brew for you.

Then all you'd have to do is find out where to get it. Maybe the app could recommend that also ...

..

 

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/12/2017 12:05:19 PM
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@Lyndon_Henry are there any health benefits to beer at all? I know wine can claim that, particularly the red variety, but I have the impression beer is really the worst kind of empty calories - carbs. I am quite amazed at the portrayals on British TV in which people tend to down two pints and sometimes even more at a sitting. In my house a 12 oz bottle can make up 4 servings easily.

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/12/2017 12:59:14 PM
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@Ariella - 

I'm with you, there isn't anything healthy about drinking beer. We have beer fans and non-beer fans in our house. One of the comments from the non-beer drinkers was "ugh, that tastes like shampoo".

So how do you know what shampoo tastes like?

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/12/2017 1:11:16 PM
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@PC it's possibly to accidentally swallow some shampoo if you have your mouth open while rinsing your hair. That would be my guess. I wouldn't characterize it as shampoo-like, exactly. But maybe that person actually had used a shampoo with beer in it. There used to be a brand that advertized that because beer was said to be good for hair.See /www.duffysbrew.com/blog/the-weird-life-death-of-body-on-tap-beer-shampoo-4bea2d/

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/31/2017 9:59:15 AM
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@PC I have a friend who hates beer because she said it tastes like sewage 0_0

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/17/2017 4:55:27 AM
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..

Ariella asks:


... are there any health benefits to beer at all? I know wine can claim that, particularly the red variety, but I have the impression beer is really the worst kind of empty calories - carbs.


 

As a beverage created by human ingenuity, beer may predate wine. I think it was a way to preserve and fortify (yum) the nutritional and caloric benefits of wheat and other grains.

Beer, it seems, can provide significant health benefits. Here's a sampling of reports from the Internet:

Health Benefits of Beer | Organic Facts


The health benefits of beer include anticancer properties, a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, increased bone density, the prevention of dementia and coronary disease, aid to the digestive system, and anti-aging properties, as well as treating diabetes, gallstones, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and hypertension.


 

10 Reasons to Have a Beer Right Now

This article cites cardiovascular benefits, lowering blood pressure, improving creativity (yeah!), preventing diabetes, eye health benefits, and more.

10 Amazing Health Benefits Of Beer


1. It can help reduce risk of heart disease ... 2. It can help protect against Alzheimer's disease ... 3. It can help lower risk of diabetes ... 4. It can help prevent kidney stones ... 5. It can help minimize risk of cancer ... 6. It can help reduce cholesterol levels ... 7. It can help manage blood pressure ... 8. It can help strengthen bones ... 9. It can help treat dandruff ... 10. It can help cut down risk of strokes


 

I thought the dandruff benefits were particularly interesting. Cheers!

 

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/17/2017 9:16:50 AM
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@Lyndon_Henry It works on dandruff if you ingest it or it you use it on your hair? As I said, beer has been said to be good for hair. Now aside from that one, many of those health benefits have been ascribed to other things, like coffee, green tea, black tea, chocolate, etc. The problem of choosing beer for those is that it is very high in calories and the worst kind in today's wisdom of avoiding carbs.  

I'm also now reading the book Less Medicine, More Health. The author, a doctor, admits to drinking beer but doesn't claim any health benefits for it. He believes everything in moderation --except smoking -- is OK. He also says there are studies that find moderate drinkers tend to be healthier than both heavy drinkers and teetotalers. Maybe the relaxation of the slight buzz lowers stress, and that may account for the lowered blood pressure, too.

 

I now loked up a discussion of how much beer is unhealth on Beeradvocate.com and found that some suggest one a day is OK, but 3+ is too much. Then there was this one: "if you're drinking enough to put on weight, then you're already at the unhealthy level. that being said, cutting out actual nutritious food to save more beer calories for later is also unhealthy."

That reminded me of the line ascribed to Inspector Morse in Colin Dexter's theory. He refers to his pints of beer as taking his "calories in liquid form."  Indeed, the author set up his detective to deteriorate in health over the course of the 13 books.

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/18/2017 8:21:27 AM
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Interesting how many variations there are on the healthiness of beer. Now, if there could actually be a consensus on scientific studies, it would be cool to have a chart of not only the various beers by content and style but healthiness as well, assuming one beer might contain the right percentage of stuff to make it healthier?

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/31/2017 10:03:36 AM
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@kq4ym Interesting idea. I'd love to see that study across different types of popular alcoholic drinks as well. Maybe, wine, gin, brandy, beer, and rhum.

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/23/2017 11:25:06 PM
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@Ariella, health advocates will argue that scientific studies that show benefits to moderate levels of drinking, even famed red wine, are underwritten by Big Alcohol ... just like any research that proves the value of dairy is paid for by Big Dairy. I enjoy a pint or two as much as anybody, but even that second pint could be carrying an added load of ill health effects.

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/25/2017 5:50:05 PM
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@broadway You  have a most suspicious mind, don't you? Dairy is bad for some people, but it does offer a good source of vitamin D (which just about everyone seems to be deficient in these days based on blood screenings) as well as calcium. One of my daughters gets somewhat neurotic about dosing herself with it through yogurts or cups of milk each day. I'm just taking vitamin D in pill form now. Maybe beer should also have vitamin D added to it, then people can say that a pint a day supplies their daily recommended dose. I wouldn't be able to drink a pint of it, though. As I said, in my family a 12 oz bottle is 3-4 servings.

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/28/2017 12:45:49 AM
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Ariella, there are such things as cream ales and milk stouts, but alas, they do not have vitamin D in them. It is an interesting idea and I wonder if D and alcohol can exist together. If the alcohol would break down the D. But I homebrew ... I'll have to try for you!

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/16/2017 7:53:11 AM
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@Lyndon_Henry that app is a microbrewery and a friendly waiter but I guess we don't do things the analog way any more.  I could see a little table top kiosk that recommended beers based on your meal and general beer preferences.  Personally I've thrown around the idea of catering or doing a food truck and pairing meals on the menu with a handful of different beers that compliment them, kind of like value meals at fast food places but I help you pick your beverage. 

Making data more usable
  • 1/11/2017 9:02:33 AM
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I enjoy your posts and the ability to take data one step further, on this one though I might have done something like listed some of the most popular beers in each category in the title or on the larger view of the chart I would have pulled data from https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/style/38 for example and listed it along side of the graph.  That way someone could say "I like X brand of beer" without trying to decipher if it's a Pale Lager or a Pilsner for example.  Most casual beer drinkers probably won't know what style they like but they'll be able to tell you what brands they like. 

Chacun a son gout
  • 1/12/2017 10:16:07 AM
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Thanks for the brewed, malt beverage breakdown, Robert -- highly instructive! I now know I'm wasting my time trying to find an IPA that's less bitter/more palatable and will instead stick with Czech pilsners and Mexican lagers.

Beer Style guide
  • 1/16/2017 3:36:00 PM
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There is actually a book called the beer style guide. This is what judges use to rate a beer vs the ideal for the style. I think comparision data on a beer vs the " ideal" would be really useful.

Re: Beer Style guide
  • 1/16/2017 6:17:34 PM
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@tomsg I was wondering, with the increasing popularity of beer, particularly craft beer among the hip set, are there any guides for pairing the brews with dishes like wines? You could have the general guidelines like white wine for fish translated into beer terms but also go beyond that with recommendations for which beers go well with burgers, pizza, sushi, etc.

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