Twitter maps show Americans' beer preferences

April 2, 2014

Researchers who mapped tweets revealed how "beer space" on Twitter reflects real-world preferences of brews and beer brands in the United States. For example, tweet preferences for Bud Light were found in the Eastern half of the US, while preferences for Coors Light originate in the Western half, particularly near Colorado and surrounding states. Other beer spaces included Miller Lite preferences in the Midwest and Great Plains, and brands like Corona and Dos Equis in the Southern border regions of the US. These and other findings were mapped by University of Kentucky geographers Matthew Zook and Ate Poorthuis, who discovered the geography of Americans' beer and wine preferences in a chapter in the new edited book "The Geography of Beer," published by Springer.

One million geotagged (that is, tweets with associated locational data) containing the keywords "wine," "," and a range of top selling or well established "cheap" brands of predominately light and pale lagers were included in the analysis. The tweets were sent between June 2012 and May 2013 by US residents (excluding those from Hawaii and Alaska). All were garnered from the DOLLY (Digital OnLine Life and You) Project, a database repository of the University of Kentucky that stores the six billion geotagged tweets that have been sent worldwide since December 2011.

While the dominance of top-selling Bud Light and Coors Light in the "light beer cyberspace" of Twitter is not surprising, geographic preference for Coors Light in the Western US showcased the overall preferences in certain regional and state markets. This regional preference became more prevalent when examining the tweets of beers with smaller market shares, including Busch Light, Yuengling, Grain Belt, and even Sam Adams.

Even preference for beer or wine was geographically evident when mapped. Most wine-related tweets were sent from the wine-growing regions of Washington, Oregon, and northern and central California. Overall, residents of the eastern and western US coastal regions were more partial to wine (or at least were more likely to tweet about it), while people from several Midwestern states and into Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas were more apt to tweet about beer.

"The Twitter maps quite accurately reflect various regions' history and cultural practices surrounding beer production and consumption, and show just how much reality and cyberspace overlap," says Zook.

Poorthuis explains, "Beer, like many other social practices, may be millenniums old but the socio-spatial practices associated with it - checking into a brewery, posting a review, geotagging a photo - continue to evolve and therefore our approaches to data and research must also evolve to capture these geographies."

These insights into how Americans tweet about their favorite beers are featured in The Geography of Beer edited by Mark Patterson and Nancy Hoalst Pullen. The new book provides an authoritative overview on aspects related to the origin, history and flourishing of beer culture. Beer in ancient Europe, the British IPA and other great beer styles, the biophysical geographies of brewing, and the sustainable trends in the craft beer industry are a few of the topics discussed.

Explore further: Keeping beer fresh longer

More information: "The Geography of Beer," 2014, ISBN 978-94-007-7786-6, (Chapter: Zook, M. & Poorthuis, A. Offline Brews and Online Views: Exploring the Geography of Beer Tweets)

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