Sentiment of the Week: Prestige in Craft Beer
March 12, 2015
Authenticity and craftsmanship are values that are driving the next generation of consumers. Millennials want the products that they buy and wear to be representative of their identity and personal brand. Consumer loyalty, although still driven by standards of excellence in service and product, is now also influenced by a sense of connoisseurship—belonging to a group with superior aesthetic tastes. The move toward organic groceries, farm-to-table restaurants, locally manufactured products, and particularly the popularization of craft beer represent the movement toward connoisseurship.
According to the Brewers Association, while the overall beer market shrank by 1.9% in 2013, craft beers sales increased by 17% in the same year-over-year period. This is just another year in the long string of double-digit sales increases for craft brewers in the US. Large national breweries have certainly taken notice, and none have responded more combatively than Budweiser. During this year’s Superbowl, the brewing giant unveiled their “Brewed the Hard Way” campaign espousing the value of their “macrobeer.” The long-term viability of this strategy is to be determined, but according to our metrics, the ad was met with the most negative feedback of any ad during the Superbowl (even the dead kid ad by Allstate.)
Clarabridge is hosting a panel at SXSW this week in Austin, a city that has few rivals when it comes to local food, music, and business and it happens to be part of the second largest craft beer state in the country. I analyzed ratings and reviews from Beer Advocate, and I focused on 5 breweries from Austin and their most popular beers, along with 3 other breweries in Texas and gleaned some interesting insights.
Overall, even Spoetzl Brewery, maker of the commonly distributed Shiner brand of beers has a relatively high Beer Advocate (BA) score. The group as a whole has a beer advocate average of an 85, with Spoetzl and Saint Arnold having by far the most beers reviewed. For comparisons sake, Budweiser has a BA score of 57. Live Oak and 512, highly regional brewers, local to Austin, have the highest sentiment and BA scores.
Porters and stouts, the least common type of beer in the Texas breweries, has the highest BA score. The highest sentiment score belongs to wheat beer, which is also the second least reviewed type of beer. This high performance is strongly influenced by Live Oak’s Hefeweizen and Weizenbock, which had the two highest sentiment scores of two beers measured in the data set. Notably, the Hefeweizen had by far the highest taste score as well with a 4.48 out of 5 average taste.
Most macrolagers like Budweiser, Coors, and Miller score poorly on Beer Advocate; however craft lagers from Austin fared well. IPAs, a craft beer staple, were the most commonly reviewed type of beer. Live Oak brewery is the highest performing brewery in the data set, with 3 of the top 5 beers belonging to the brewery. Shiner, the most voluminous regional brewery possessed 4 of the 5 worst reviewed beers of the data set. However, even these beers were higher in BA score than Budweiser, Coors, and Millers flagship products.
IPAs and Pale Ales were the most common type of beer in our data set. Categorizing the review comments for tasting notes and smells, I compared the volume of feedback for IPAs that scored a beer advocate score of 90 as well as those that fell below. The high performing beers (St Arnold’s Endeavour IPA, Austin Beeworks Heavy Machinery, and 512’s IPA) possessed substantial differences in mentions for several key areas. The biggest influencer to score was alcohol percentage, alcohol was mentioned 171% more with the high performing IPA’s and corresponded with an average improvement of 8 points in review score. Following this theme was the smell of pine, increased drinkability, citrus, and the general mouth feel (amount of carbonation and other characteristics).
Overall it’s clear that scent and amount of alcohol are clear influencers to review score.
Using Clarabridge’s sentiment score, we can determine where positive sentiment most improves overall review rating. For any positive comment belonging to any category (taste, smell, mouthfeel, etc) the score improves .6 points, not surprising given the positive sentiment bias to the data set. In comparison any negative comment belonging to any category drops the review rating 2 points.
Maybe unsurprising, given that IPA scores were highly influenced by alcohol percentage, the biggest positive influencer of review score is alcohol. A positive comment on the alcohol percentage boosts the average rating score by 4.4 points, while a negative comment (low percentage or too blatant of a boozy taste) drops the score by 3.2 points. Smoothness of taste was the second biggest review score influencer. Balanced taste possessed the overall biggest swing of review rating, negative balance in taste resulted in a 6 point drop in overall score, while a positive sentiment resulted in a nearly 3.5 increase in review rating. Smoothness in mouthfeel, highly correlated to balanced taste had a similar negative impact. Notably, hops had a low positive impact with only a 1.2 score increase for a positive comment.
Macrobeers like Budweiser aren’t wrong. People want to drink smooth, balanced and drinkable beers, regardless of their preferred type of beer. The primary difference maker for these microbreweries is their higher alcohol content, and diversity and richness of smells offered by their more complex formulas. If Budweiser introduced high ABV beers in the 6,7 of even 9% range it could make for increased competition for microbreweries.
Check out this scorecard we created for SXSW, and to see how Clarabridge insights can help you understand how your business stacks up, request a demo.
Dheepan Ramanan is a data scientist at Clarabridge. Follow him on Twitter @DheepanRamanan.