2016: By the numbers

Peaks and troughs
A suitably-erratic depiction of the year

After an introspective and intentionally unstudied look back on 2016, I thought it might be nice to balance things out with some data. I use Untappd to log my beer-drinking, as another aid against my shoddy memory ― though there’s always the problem of needing to remember to use your memory-aid1 ― and being a paid-up supporter lets me dump out the year’s check-ins,2 and tinker with a spreadsheet and see what patterns emerge.

I don’t log everything3 so we’ve got admittedly spotty data, but a) that’s true of everything, if you’re paying enough attention, and b) I think it’ll mostly come out in the wash: failures wouldn’t usually be systemically biased against any particular kind of beer. With numerous and sizable asterisks, then, and thanks to the fittingly-crappy Beer Diary Art Department ― my 2016 looked like this:

My 2016, in on-brand infographic style
Mmmm, pie

Four hundred and fifteen check-ins; a nudge over one a day. Which seems fairly reasonable, I suppose. There’s a hundred and fifty-three unique things in there, suggesting I’m not overly afflicted by the need for the new. From my notes, about 36% of my beer-drinking year came at no cost to me — but that’s overwhelmingly staffies; companies have mostly stopped offering me samples, since I haven’t taken any in yonks. And speaking of staffies, you were fractionally more likely to find me drinking at work than at home,4 in 2016. Which might be weird for most people, but probably makes sense for a bartender who was a regular long before he was on the payroll. Interestingly — especially since “drinking local” was recently re-raised as a discussion5 — over 80% of what I drank last year was made in New Zealand.

Garage Project 'Ziggy's Carrot Cake' at 91 Aro's birthday (16 October 2016)
When it’s time to party we will party… hat

I wasn’t surprised that Garage Project6 topped my list of breweries, but the magnitude of their win was bigger than I’d have guessed: one out of every five beers I drank was theirs. That’s as much as the next four placeholders combined.7 Nine producers account for half my beers and about ninety others make up the other half, which seems a pretty staggering drop-off. Digging a little deeper, 8 Wired and Hallertau were helped a little into their places by contributing disproportionately-many staffies, whereas I bought larger fractions of Garage, Kererū, and ParrotDog beers with my own money. Modern Times appear as the only significantly-placed American brewery, and that similarly surprises me not at all; I’m a big fan of what they do and how they do it. My Australian drinking, on the other hand, is likely a combination of too diffuse and too-often-unlogged (holidays and all that) to show up strongly in the data.

Style-wise, I’m pretty clearly outside current trends. In beer as in other things, haha. Untappd’s categories were a little too granular to be much use, so I went through and did my own taxonomy8 with chunks like “hoppy” and “dark” and “fermenty” (to cover things funky and sour). I’m well aware that plenty of beers belong have combinations of the characters I chose, but I tried to capture the one that most draws me to each — and I had “oddball” as a catch-all category for anything properly loopy. Broadly “hoppy” beers are still my winning category, but only narrowly; sour / tart / funky beers are hotter on their heels than I assumed. And a massive chunk of my drinking time is spent on those supposedly-unloved plain old pale lagers and brown ales. If you compare those proportions to, say, the Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers — just to pick a recent and data-rich example9 — that’s way out of whack: I’ve got only half as many “hoppy” beers in my year and fives times as many “sour” ones.

Perhaps none of this means much to you, directly. But fair enough that you know my habits, to better contextualise my ramblings. And I highly recommend undertaking some version of the same exercise, if you’re even vaguely inclined; your favourites may not be quite what you think they are, and you might acquire a better sense of where you fall in the market — and thereby just how badly so very many companies are at figuring out how to talk to you.

Kererū Karengose at the beach (25 January 2016)
My beer of the summer, last summer. (This year, there is no summer.)

  1. Similar to the boot-strapping problem I face some mornings, when ― in order to put coffee in my system ― I need to operate a semi-complicated coffee machine without any coffee in my system.
  2. Though that’s not the only reason I subscribe. I also like their ad-free no-mucking-around model enough to endorse it with my money. I was complaining about how none of my other social networks are so civilised, recently. Come to think of it, the only change I’d make to Untappd would be to make ‘connections’ asymmetric, like they are on Twitter, so you can follow someone without them needing to follow you back.
  3. I’ve got a pretty idiosyncratic (but stable) sense of what “counts” as warranting a check-in (tasters don’t, shared bottles sometimes do) and sometimes I plain forget: I can see blank spots in the graph above that definitely don’t represent days of actual abstention. Plus holidays, homebrews, my phone’s battery running out, me being distracted, it being too rude to fuss with my phone, etc., etc..
  4. Frustratingly, location records in Untappd’s data-dumps come in latitude-and-longitude form, rather than a field full of “Golding’s” (where I’m the silver medallist) or “Roseneath” (my home suburb, where I am smashingly in first place) or anything useful.
  5. Luke also talked about increasingly opting for local in the most-recent episode of his podcast. (And also gave me a nudge to consider rebooting mine…)
  6. My former employers, as its always worth pointing out.
  7. Here’s a situation where my checking-in lapses do, I think, disadvantage someone: if I’d logged all my Niue beers, and the case I bought as Christmas supplies, then Lion (by way of Steinlager) would easily be in my Top 5 Breweries.
  8. Because I am a Big Nerd, but also because a similar exercise was once literally my job, in trying to help make sense of production planning at Garage Project.
  9. Even though it’s an admittedly-imperfect analogy; a best-of versus an all-of. But still. I don’t have good raw sales data broken down by any useful taxonomy. If you do, please share. Meanwhile, the New Zealand results for our inaugural H100 should be out soon and will furnish me more calculating time. Huzzah.

Have at it: