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:

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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.

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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:


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.


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!)

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(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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Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/31/2017 10:03:36 AM

@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
  • 1/31/2017 9:59:15 AM

@PC I have a friend who hates beer because she said it tastes like sewage 0_0

Re: Beer thirst
  • 1/28/2017 12:45:49 AM

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
  • 1/25/2017 5:50:05 PM

@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
  • 1/23/2017 11:25:06 PM

@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
  • 1/18/2017 8:21:27 AM

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
  • 1/17/2017 9:16:50 AM

@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 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
  • 1/17/2017 4:55:27 AM


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 Style guide
  • 1/16/2017 6:17:34 PM

@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.

Beer Style guide
  • 1/16/2017 3:36:00 PM

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.

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