Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Craft Beer is great...but...

I love New Zealand craft beer. Well, all kinds of craft beer, really. But I love keeping partial and total correlation straight even more. And I'm not sure Richard Florida does a great job of that here. He writes at the Atlantic:
Only four states come in the top ten in both both lists (total and per population): Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Wisconsin. [Total number of craft breweries and number of craft breweries per 100,000 population]
With the help of my colleague Charlotta Mellander, I took a quick look at how the concentration of craft breweries per capita correlates with key state demographic and economic characteristics. As usual, I point out that correlation points only to associations between variables and does not imply causation. Other factors may come into play. Still, this analysis points to a number of interesting patterns.
Given how much craft beer costs, you might think income would play a role, with craft breweries more concentrated in more affluent states. But we found no statistical association between craft breweries and income, wages, or per capita economic output.
Education does factor in: Craft brewing is more concentrated in more highly educated states, with a modest correlation to the share of adults that are college grads (0.32).  
And craft brewing is more closely associated with higher levels of happiness and well-being (0.47). 
On the flip side, craft brewing less likely in conservative states, with a modest negative correlation (-0.3) to 2008 John McCain votes (there was no statistically-significant association to Barack Obama votes).
Craft brewing was far less likely in religious states — the correlation between religion and craft breweries was the strongest of any variables (a whopping -0.75).
Curiously, there was a negative connection between craft breweries and two other unhealthy behaviors or "sins" — smoking (-0.28) and even more so with obesity (-0.54). 
Surely the reasonable correlation between education and craft brewing concentration is likely driving the negative correlation between craft brewing and either smoking or obesity. The kinds of places likely to favour craft beer are likely the kinds of places that are just filled with awesome people doing awesome things, and that kind of underlying heterogeneity is likely driving the other results.

How does NZ do? Florida reports states range in craft brewery concentration up to 3.68 per 100,000 people. New Zealand has about 4.4 million people; we have about 66 breweries that would count as craft by production volume measures used in the US.* So we have about 1.5 craft breweries per 100,000 people: that would likely put us in the Top 10 among US states as only 13 have more than 1 craft brewery per 100,000 people.

NZ's beer awards came out last week. Christchurch did very well, with Harrington's picking up the Top Brewery award. I will endeavour to try all the winners I haven't before sampled.

* 6 million barrels or less per year; I would guess that only Lion and DB here have any chance of exceeding that threshold. NZ counts 40,000 litres or less per year as "craft" - 30 breweries meet that standard. 

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