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Beer vs Wine, Again, for Some Reason

So I’ve been loving Vox.com lately. If I had a few hundred hours a week to waste, I would probably waste them reading the stories and associated “cards” on Vox. At least until I got caught up. Most of what I read there is either personally interesting (politics and political science!), some of it is professionally useful (marijuana) and some of it, sometimes, fits here. So I encourage to you to go over to Vox and read the story that originally accompanied these maps I yoinked. I will not recapitulate their points here. Instead, I will point out some things about the first map they didn’t, either because they did not know, did not care, or did not think were more generally interesting for their audience.

Screen_Shot_2014-05-06_at_2.23.29_PM

So, of this map, Vox says “the coasts like wine, beer is popular inland.” Yeah, generally, I guess. Except wine is actually the dominant drink in New England, Florida, northern California, a strange pocket in northwest Arkansas, and on the fringes of the Pacific northwest. Beer shares dominance in over 50% of the coastal regions which Vox implies are wine-dominant areas. I only see on surprising thing here, which I’ll get to in a moment. For two reasons (not necessarily unrelated) wine should be popular precisely where it is popular.

Wine is expensive. For most of its life, beer was canned primarily with some bottles. Then craft came along and bottles dominated that sector and now craft brewers are canning again. But wine is bottled (except in some cases when it is bagged and boxed). Also, grapes are harder to ship than any of the ingredients in beer. These two factors (big heavy glass bottles and expensive-to-ship raw ingredients) have always meant that wine has tended to stay close to home. That is not to say that wine has not enjoyed international markets. We know that the ancient Greeks were trading deep into Europe and wine went with them, the Romans too. But the vast majority of wine is drunk locally, primarily because of logistics, which combine to make an expensive product even more so. Those ancient Greek and Roman wine traders were dealing in true luxury items. So it isn’t at all weird that wine would be most popular in those areas where grapes are grown and then secondarily where people can afford to buy it.

As we know from several repetitions on this site, as people get richer, they move their drinking toward wine. And, as Vox notes, wine seems to be an urban phenomena (where, on average, people have more money). Note that wine outpaces beer in northern Virginia (some of the most expensive counties in the country) and continues north through eastern Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and the southern parts of Connecticut and Vermont. On the west coast wine begins dominance in (roughly) Orange County (the “OC”) and continues north through the wine growing region. Also in Colorado Springs (deep inland, but also very rich). As a matter of fact, check out this map of the most expensive counties. It isn’t very finely detailed but you can see that the red areas more or less correspond to the dark areas on the wine map. The blue dots travel the western edge of that shared wine/beer area along the Mississippi River.

Highest-and-Least-Expensive-Places-to-Live-in-US1

Speaking of that one weird thing, that area along the Mississippi River, what is going on there? From Vox’s headline implication, it could just be that we should treat the Mississippi River area as a “coast,” but it is unclear what that would mean. Sure it has shipping, like the coasts, but analyzing the Mississippi as coastal because of shipping should indicate that the Great Lakes region should have some wine popularity too. It’s one of the poorer regions of the country. Obviously this isn’t a “coastal elite” thing. I credit two things. Shipping helps. Shipping over water is more efficient (read: cheap) than shipping overland, so getting wine to the region isn’t as expensive as say, getting it to Denver and down into “The Springs.” But shipping from where? One would suppose that wine dominance would leave a trail along its logistical path if the mere presence of wine could inspire a change in palates. So where’s the trail leading from Sonoma to the Mississippi or from Albany to New Orleans? It doesn’t exist. I think it has more to do with this.

upinarms-map

Specifically I think we’re seeing an artifact of that region’s early French influence. It’s not just architecture folks. Those things, like a preference for wine, linger. Notice the dark region on the wine map and compare it to the area on the map above called New France (not the one in Canada, the one where New Orleans is). From there straight north to St. Louis, which, if you’ve ever been to it, you know has a French influence (not just in its name, but that’s a pretty good hint). North of that it was all Bohemian, Scotch, and German farmers. Here’s the description of New France from the article linked above:

NEW FRANCE. Occupying the New Orleans area and southeastern Canada, New France blends the folkways of ancien régime northern French peasantry with the traditions and values of the aboriginal people they encountered in northeastern North America. After a long history of imperial oppression, its people have emerged as down-to-earth, egalitarian, and consensus driven, among the most liberal on the continent, with unusually tolerant attitudes toward gays and people of all races and a ready acceptance of government involvement in the economy. The New French influence is manifest in Canada, where multiculturalism and negotiated consensus are treasured.

I had initially planned to discuss all five maps, but I also didn’t expect to spend so much time on this one. Another time, perhaps.

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Posted in The Drinking Class.


My Beer Fanboy Weekend

This weekend, I got a little fanboyish.

On Thursday (started the weekend early) I went to Masters of the Brewniverse, a fundraiser for the United Way. MofB was a hilarious and goofy good time. Several local brewers and their friends or cow-workers got on stage and acted the fool in three “competitions”: fashion, interview, and talent. While they goofed off for our enjoyment, attendees (Yours Truly and his Special Lady Friend and a couple hundred(?) others) got to sample the available beers. My favorite brewery of the night was Black Bottle out of Ft. Collins. My favorite beer was the Chai Stout from Yak and Yeti.

THAT'S ME IN THE CIRCLE!!!

THAT’S ME IN THE CIRCLE!!!

On Friday, the SLF and I had an impromptu VD dinner at a newly opened (chain) pizza establishment. Paxti’s Pizza has the best Chicago deep dish pizza I have had outside Chicago or Indianapolis. The only annoying thing was they kept explaining to me that this or that process or food or ingredient was “kind of Chicago thing to do.” Chicago isn’t darkest Africa. I’ve been. Thanks. At any rate, we left there and picked up a six pack. At the same time I also picked up a bomber of the Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam. Meh. I love the name and the art. I love all the marketing copy on the website. But the beer? Meh. It looked good. It smelled great. And up front, I liked everything about the beer. But the bitter aftertaste was powerful and lingering. It was too much. Either that beer has a specific bitter that got under my skin, or I am officially past my hophead phase.

On Saturday, I worked on my thesis all day long. #sadface

On Sunday the SLF and two other friends took a 40-mile bike ride. We were supposed to end up at My Brothers Bar, but those fools aren’t open on Sundays, so we headed to Hops and Pie–a joint that’s been on my list since my first week in Denver. While there I was able to have a pint of Punk IPA (been on my list of beers to try for about 3 years) and Collaboration not Litigation. CnL has never been on my list, but I’ve been aware of it because its title and its sentiment is exactly the kind of Craft Beer Evangelist-red meat that I normally snark at on this blog. And I had a pint of the Kvasir, the new “historical” ale from Dogfish Head…which was excellent.

In sum, this weekend I:

  • celebrated rockstar brewers by treating them like celebrities at a “beauty” pageant
  • overpaid for a hard-to-find, gimmicky new release I didn’t enjoy that much
  • bought an import from one of the world’s most hype-centric breweries (Brew Dog)
  • rewarded two breweries for a collaboration ale
  • rewarded another brewery for an almost-certainly-inaccurate “recreation” of a historical recipe

I was basically, the perfect brew fanboy. Top that off with my 40-mile trek down the South Platte trail and add in this beard I have, and I’m exactly like 90% of Colorado males. I’M FINALLY FITTING IN!!!!

 

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This Herby Beer Label Brought to you by: Marijuana Legalization

Joe Six Pack does an incomplete round-up of beer names with marijuana references and predicts that more will find their way through the TTB process now that “respectable industry operators” can own up to their love of the dank.

 

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Beer Biodiversity

I’m traveling (first to Austin for Geek Bowl) and then to Puerto Vallarta for….whatever it is one does in Puerto Vallarta). So while I’m away, I have found some things I would like to share but don’t much want to “blog” they way I do.  So here’s a cute video I like. I will only add that, lest this overly peaceful take on how competition works confuse you, that there is competition between ferns. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know what I’m implying.

 

[h/t: Jay Brooks]

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Those Nasty, Nasty Craft Brewers

One of the myths I take great pleasure in calling into question is that craft brewers, unlike their vicious fat cat competitors at MolsonCoors and ABInbev, are universally and at all times milquetoast “nice” guys with a non-stop collaborative spirit. That is not to say that craft brewers are not nice guys. I have never met a mean one. And that’s not to say there isn’t a lot of collaboration in the craft brew world–probably more than in any other business. But craft brewers are still businesspeople; and if you don’t take care of your business, you don’t get to keep selling beer.

And voila! Here is a quick rundown of the beer disputes of 2013.

This, I’m sure, is not all of them. And I don’t mean to imply by this post that this is a thing that somehow started in 2013 (after the bubble burst or after the craft brew world “matured” or what have you). This stuff has been going on for yeeeeeeaaaaaaaaarrrrrrssssss. But it’s worth keeping mind that this is happening a lot and it will continue to happen more and more as more brewers enter the market and search for brewery names and beer labels that have not been used before.

 

 

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My Dry January

I was taken aback when I read this paragraph on Pete Brown’s blog:

I drink too much. I counsel that we should feel free to drink more than we are told. I rubbish the distortion of data that suggests we’re all drinking ourselves to death. But even by my own more relaxed standards, I drink more than is good for me. I am two stone overweight and am on medication for high blood pressure, and this is related to the amount of alcohol I drink. It’s an occupational hazard, and it’s also more than that. Going dry for January is my way of proving to myself that I still control my relationship with booze. When I do it, I lose weight. I sleep better, and have more energy. When I start drinking again, my tolerance is lower and I drink slower and less frequently. And gradually, through the year it creeps up again, until over Christmas my alcohol consumption is excessive by any standards, and January provides a reset.

It was startling enough that I mentioned it to my Special Lady Friend as a bold, laudable move. The type of thing I try to do here, but rarely (if ever) succeed at. To boldly cross the line from beer aficionado and advocate into the realm of the public health researcher that I am that recognizes that alcohol has very real societal and much more real personal effects—mostly bad ones, without entirely stumbling into actual Prohibitionism.

A few days later, I noticed that I was not alone in my admiration. Alan McLeod, another stellar beer writer quoted the same graf on his blog. McLeod pushes Brown’s comments further, admitting, if I read him correctly, to slowly moving toward teetotalling.

The first thing I would like to say about this, is I had never heard of “Dry January.” A quick web search (your results may vary) seems to indicate that this is a British thing. I have been doing it the last few years, although I called it “Sober January” an extension on “Sober September” which I had done the year before my first Dry January. My reasons for it were threefold: the first is the one Brown mentions, to confirm to myself that I was in control of my relationship with booze. I never had any doubts that I was. My drinking is not, except from a purely Puritanical perspective, extreme.  It sometimes gets a little high when I do brewery tours on vacation, but those times are rare. Still, metacognition is a strange beast, and it’s good to follow Reagan’s advice on the US’s position vis-à-vis Evil Empire went it comes to addiction: “Trust, but verify.”

So January has always been a good time to verify. The other two reasons were health- and finance-related. I’ve always been slightly overweight and alcohol is chock full of what nutritionist sometimes call “empty calories.” Cut out beer and I suddenly start to lose weight, no exercise added. And, of course, booze costs money that can be saved or spent elsewhere. After gift-buying/party-going/travel season is over, it’s good to rein in expenses.

But what I have found out this year, halfway through Dry January, is I don’t feel better. I haven’t lost weight. (I have saved money, though.) Some of this, I think is related to the fact that as I’ve gotten older my drinking has naturally decreased from the “More than my friends but less than the truly problematic” level toward a level I think no one at all would raise eyebrows at. There have been less “binge drinking” session, less all-nighters in the bars. There have even been less “1 Beer At Dinner” situations.  This downward trend took a nosedive with my recent move to Denver. There’s no easy way to say this, but hangovers at 5000 feet are the worst. Some people would like to say that it’s my age getting in the way not the altitude. Well, I have a recent trip to the Midwestern lowlands that would beg to dispute their claim. That trip confirmed that I don’t get hungover…at least I don’t get hungover at human altitudes. Up here with the mountain goats, however, I do…I really, really do.

So I didn’t have much better to feel. I work out anyway, I eat healthy anyway. I’m a reasonably healthy person. So not drinking hasn’t made any noticeable dent in the way I feel.

As far as the weight loss, or lack thereof, I can’t account for it. In addition to not drinking, I’ve been a little more careful this month at watching what I eat. I weigh myself everyday—a habit I’ve fallen in and out of ever since doing the Hacker Diet in 2005 (dropping from ~245 lbs to 190 over the course of about six months). Since then I’ve fluctuated between 190 and 220, spending most of my time right around 210. That’s where I was on January 2. I’m at 208 today.

I’m hoping that next year won’t be as financially tight as this year. I suppose my downward trend in drinking will continue. I presume that, barring some significant alteration in my physical activity my weight is essentially set at 210 +/-5. So will there be any reason to do Dry January 2015? I think so.

Because another thing that happens when I’m not drinking beer is I have time to pursue other activities. I get to read about beer with new eyes. I get to reevaluate my relationship with beer not from an “Am I in control” modality, but from one of experiencing what I miss about drinking. I don’t long for “a beer” right now. I want specific things in specific ways. Not drinking is easy. But I miss the engagement with beer. I miss being able to engage with other people about beer. It’s easy to get immersed in the drinking life and forget why or how I got here to begin with. Ernest Hemingway talked about not having the perspective he needed to write his Nick Adams stories set in the American Midwest until he’d emigrated to Europe. I feel the same way about drinking. Distance provides perspective and that’s almost always a good thing.

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Posted in The Drinking Class.


Kona, Bad. Goose Island, Good.

I don’t normally talk about beers I don’t enjoy on this blog. That’s a personal choice and not one I universally endorse. I like reviews of bad products. They help me make informed choices. I just don’t write them. That is until yesterday, when I condemned the entire line of Kona beers. I haven’t tried every one of their beers, but I’ve tried enough to know that I won’t pay for the “opportunity” to try any more. (I’m willing to be persuaded that Kona makes a quality beer if they would like to send it to me).

At any rate, if I’m going to bad mouth a craft(y) beer, I may as well lend my hand at defending Goose Island…a previously no-doubt-a-member of a the craft beer pantheon, but now an oft-slighted ABInbev product.

I’m really just going to link to this review by Jeff Alworth. That guy knows his beer, although I think he’s a little too partisan to PNW IPAs to the point of being dismissive of IPAs that deviate from that particular profile. I think his approach here is sensible and other beer bloggers/writers/fans should follow his lead. I can’t agree or disagree with his review since I haven’t tasted all the beers he mentions here. However, I like that he tries to approach the beer for what the beer is and what it’s supposed to be. I like that he gave the Goose Island brewers a chance to prove their mettle rather than relying on his emotions to judge those beers for him. I’m not going to lie, I’m also glad he found nice things to say about the beers, because I very much like the GI Belgian-style beers I’ve had and I think it’s a shame that arbitrary rules of what beers we’re allowed to like so often cloud our ability to taste what’s in the glass.

One of these days I’ll approach the recent argument made by New Albanian about how the end (good tasting beer) doesn’t necessarily justify the means (macro-ownership, distant breweries, contract brewing?). Because I think his argument is the only good one opposed to the argument implied here. But it still isn’t good enough for me to dismiss Goose Island just because they have the misfortune of being owned by guys in suits who do not also brew beer.

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From “Hawaii” to Kentuckiana

Although we’ve never discussed it in person, one place where the Portable Curmudgeon and I disagree is on the importance of drinking “locally.” First a caveat. My personal sensibilities drive me to drink locally most of the time. I drink locally exclusively whenever I travel…even if that means drinking some Corona product as I will most likely do when I visit Puerto Vallarta at the end of the month. I have even guest blogged the advice “drink locally” for the now-defunct Rob Kaspar beer blog at the Baltimore Sun. I think drinking locally is a wise (and probably good) thing to do. So it isn’t that I disagree. I just don’t prioritize it as high as he does.

So for me, the real reason not to drink Kona products if you happen to see one crop up at your neighborhood bar is not because they are “crafty” or because they aren’t from the southwestern Indiana/Kentucky area, it’s because they just aren’t any goddamned good. Seriously, Kona beers are some of the worst beers I’ve ever had brewed by a professional.

 

 

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Contract Brewing Ain’t as Bad as you Heard

A few years ago a friend wrote to ask for my opinion on contract brewing. I have since lost the actual conversation, every bit, byte, and pixel lost to the netherregions of the etherspace. I remember the gist and my opinion has not changed much since then, as a matter of fact, I’m probably far more off the fence than I was back then. The short version runs like this: Do it. I added a bunch of hemming and hawing about how people get all up in arms about “authenticity” and whatnot, but essentially the art of the craft brewer is two-fold: make good beers and be sensitive to the whims of your homegrown market. I could still hem and haw, but I like to think of it like this:

There are people who make recipes, and there are people who make beers. In very, very small breweries these are often the same people. But even in very modest sized breweries they often are not. Sure, it could be argued that when a brewer is a close friend or even a close associate with the owner and/or lead recipe creator, the brewer might occasionally be able to make his own beer under the brewery’s label, but that’s neither here nor there. The real bottom line is that brewing on large batch systems is a technical skill and a technical art. It’s the ability to manipulate machines to create a consistent product over and over again. It is good that the recipe creators outsource this activity to someone who is good at it so they can spend their time doing what they do best.

Do you really think that the celebrity chef of your choice is the guy who turns on the oven to cook that signature steak? Do you think he still blends those spices and oils in the rubs he uses? Do you think he tosses the salad, stirs the soup, or delicately folds the sugar into the whipped egg whites? Of course he doesn’t! That’s not to take away from those people who do those things. Being a sous-chef is important work in a kitchen. Being the saucier is no joke. Those people are skilled too. Is the eating experience any less good because Wolfgang Puck didn’t actually touch your Pan-Roasted Swordfish? Absolutely not. In fact, it’s probably better. It’s been a long time since Puck had to man the griddle; the line cook over there now has a much better understanding of that cooking surface as well as the overall character of today’s batch of deep sea treasures. His muscle memory is fine-tuned to flip at precisely the right moment to cook both sides in a way that will honor the name of the kitchen to which he is attached.

I do supposed one problem we’re facing here is one of operational definition. All beer brewed at a “contract brewery” is a “contract brewed beer” and this beer can come in the form of the beer that Brugge Brasserie offers in Indianapolis: top-notch, well designed, and sometimes assertive beers worthy of every designation and respect a craft beer deserves, all the way to Big Flats, a crappy lager with a skunky odor contract brewed by the very nice folks at Genessee Brewing Company. (Or at least used to be, I haven’t followed Big Flats since they debuted two years ago.) But let’s be clear, Big Flats sucks because it tastes bad, not because of where it was brewed. Sometimes a “contract brewed beer” is created from start to finish by the contract brewery. These beers are marketing ploys…like the promotional pens your company hands out at trade shows. They aren’t handing them out saying “Hey, look at my pens!” What they’re saying is, “Hey, you need a pen, you can take one of mine….oh and by the way, remember me the next time you need <<Thing We Actually do>>.” That is actually a nicer thing than what Walgreens is doing which is saying “Hey, we know you’re sheepishly walking u and down the aisles looking for the cheapest beer…this is Walgreens. Why should you give your money to ABInbev when we can provide you with a slightly worse product for a significant discount?”

I don’t normally get into mind-reading, but I’ll stick my neck out a little here and say that this kerfuffle from a few weeks back has nothing to do with whether or not “contract brewing will be the death of craft beer,” because it won’t. It’s a point too obvious to make. Contract brewing has been around a long time. Sam Adams used to exclusively contract brew and they’ve done more to advance the industry and culture (such as it is) than most. What it does do is make brewing cheaper, which provides a profit incentive to the breweries that decide to do it. And additional profits allow a company the financial constancy and overall leeway to do things like reinvest in their firm, pay down capital investments, and experiment with their long-tail beers.  And don’t forget Pete’s Wicked Ales or Sam Adams’ current yearly contest where … essentially they pick homebrewers recipe to contract brew each year. Some of those beers are good and who’s going to take those homebrewers to task for not starting up a megabrewery and distributing their beers all over the country themselves? Contract brewing make opportunities for legitimate brewers to start their businesses with lower start-up costs and it makes for a potentially more competitive craft beer marketplace overall. That’ll be a good thing for craft beer drinkers, even as it might turn out very poorly for a set of craft brew makers that either stylistically cannot compete or ideologically choose not to compete in this way.

Trying to decipher a brewer’s “authenticity” is about as possible as trying to determine what a politician “really believes” instead of just looking at how he votes. Walgreens revealed their intentions by turning out an extremely low priced product that I, along with several others, would deem too expensive at half its low, low price. They never had any intention to make a good beer. They wanted to make a beer that would appeal to poor college students that  place some value in the “craft” look. Basically binge drinkers that didn’t want to show up at the frat party with another Natty Ice 30-pack. Hunting for authenticity is a fool’s errand. And attempting to rally craft beer drinkers behind a No Contract Brewing At All Costs campaign is as off-putting and cynical as CAMRA’s “the only real beer is cask beer” lunacy. It’s an artificial line in the sand to promote one’s own choices by tearing down another’s.  You want to end contract brewed beers? Then prove they suck by out brewing them.

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You’re Not Gonna Believe What Your Booze Says About Your Politics: Wine and Spirits Edition

Last year I wrote a post about what your beer says about your politics in response to a survey done by a marketing firm. I shelved it, mostly because I had a lot more to say about the accompanying chart but not enough time to write it. This year, they published the same survey, but this time with wine and spirits instead of beer. I published my draft comments on the beer chart yesterday. Today, I submit to you my thoughts on the wine/spirits post. Some of my comments are very similar (I don’t like the “indexed” Republican/Democrat score). Some are new (lack of geographical or income cross tabs). If you combine the two posts, you get very nearly my entire critique.

booze

I suppose, as someone said in the comments section at the Washington Post blog, GovBeat, this chart showing potential relationships between certain liquor brands and partisan voting was probably done in fun. But seeing as how it combines my two favorite things: politics and booze…with a smattering of two of my semi-favorite topics: marketing and visual presentation of statistics, I can’t pass up the opportunity to comment.

The first thing to note is that whether a drink falls on the right or left side of the Y-axis is an “indexed” score, subtracting “Democrat Score” from the “Republican score.”

I think this is just poor analysis because it removes good information from the resulting chart. Just as (18 minus 12) and (6 minus 0) both equal 6, there could be many ways that both Woodbridge and Beringer end up at +6 (slightly Republican) on this scale. It could be the case, for example that many people both Republicans and Democrats drink Woodbridge, but more Republicans than Democrats; or it could be the case that no Democrats voted Woodbridge but lots of moderate Republicans did.

Which leads me to another point. There’s no information on how the Republican or Democratic scores were computed. Was it a simple self-report (“Are you a Republican or Democrat,” “Are you a registered Republican or registered Democrat?”) Or were the participants asked a series of questions that would place them on one side or the other? Or was it a graduated question (“On a scale of -10 to +10, where -10 is totally Democratic and +10 is Totally Republican, how Republican/Democratic are you?”) Without knowing this, a lot of potential information is removed from the chart…or is it least obfuscated by the multitude of paths through which various scores could be achieved.

There are similar faults on the x-variable, voter turnout. How was “voter turnout” computed, a simple “How often do you vote?” Likert scale? Or a more nuanced series of questions about recent elections and whether or not an individual voted in it or not (e.g., “Did you vote in the 2013 elections?” “Did you vote in the 2013 primaries?” Did you vote in the 2012 elections” “Did you vote in the 2012 primaries?”…”Did you vote in the 2010 midterms?” “Did you participate in any special elections including recalls?” etc.)

The bigger problem is that, although in a scientific sense correlation does not imply causation, in a more general sense, if a human sees a pattern, it does assume a causality. The WaPo blogger, Reid Wilson, makes this natural implication explicit when he says,

The results are fascinating: Analyzing voting habits of those who imbibe, Dube found that 14 of the top 15 brands that indicate someone is most likely to vote are wines.

If you see someone at your New Years party tonight drinking Kendall-Jackson or Robert Mondavi wines, that person is highly likely to vote, and they’re likely to vote Republican. Someone who savors a Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot, one of Washington State’s top producers, or Smoking Loon, they’re likely to cast ballots for Democrats.

Or maybe it was Jennifer Dube of National Research. Wilson says she is the one that analyzed the data, but I cannot find any report. When I click the link that says “Read the full report” I just get the chart.

At any rate, sure “likely” but “how likely?”

Let me muddy the waters. Rich people in blue states tend to vote Democrat. Rich people in red states tend to vote Republican. And rich people tend to drink wine at higher rates than poor people. So if you just saw a picture of someone buying Chateau St. Michelle and you were tasked with predicting their vote, you might also want to know if they live in Oregon or Tennessee.

Of course it could be the case that someone buying Chateau St. Michelle in Tennessee is making an inconoclastic purchase as a means of signaling being separate from their fellow citizens. It might mean that they are the rarest of birds: a rich Tennessean who votes for Democrats.

We just need more data to really determine “What our drinks say about our politics.”

However, here are some things we can determine from this chart, if I understand the methodology at all.

Democrats drink more. There are more bubbles and larger bubbles on the Democratic side…and the range on the Democratic side is bigger (about 85 compared to about 55). I’ll quickly add that this was not true on the beer chart I posted yesterday. The beer chart ran from -10 to +60 and there were more and larger bubbles on the Republican side.

Higher voter turnout corresponds with more drinking…a fact that, if true, I would say can be accounted for by the fact that wealthier people vote more and wealthier people drink more (because they can afford it) and because Mad 20/20 doesn’t show up on the scale. In other words, while a scale that includes Woodbridge and Arbor Mist isn’t what I would call “discerning,” it is still truncated. This analysis is also corraborated by the beer chart from yesterday. The beer chart was normalized so that “low voter turnount” was represented by figures below 100 and “high voter turnout” by figures above. That is also true of this chart; however, while the beer chart ran from 70 to 130 (30 points below 100 and 30 above) this one ranges from 75 to 145 (25 below 100 and 45 above it). If you combine this chart with the beer chart, you get a nice correspondence with two pieces of information we know: that as people become wealthier they (1) drink less beer and more wine and spirits and (2) vote more often. This is just one more indicator that the real story here is that this chart is not  measuring a relationship between booze and voting, but disguising a relationship between income and voting on one side and income and booze on the other.

There’s also, generally more diversity on the left. This corresponds with the “bigger tent” currently housed under the Democratic banner. The left currently houses what would be separate Green, Labor, Socialist, Communist, Christian Democrat, and Socialist Democratic voters in a legitimate multi-party system. The modern Republican party currently houses some diversity as well including Libertarian and Nationalist parties, but not so much as the left. I’m not sure why that would show up in drink preference, but it is an interesting coincidence, if nothing else. This does not show up on the beer chart, except that it looks like there is less clustering on the left, but this could be an artifact of how many and which beers were measured.

There might be a story in the brands. Eyeballing the brands, I think we can see the financial story being told in terms of voter turnout. Tanqueray, Clos Du Bois, Bombay Sapphire, Korbel are all above 120 on a scale from 75-145. At the bottom are Don Julio, Jagermeister, and the Smirnoff brand flavored vodkas. To be sure, there are premium brands near the bottom (Belvedere) and mass market brands near the top (Turning Leaf)…so I could be seeing a story that isn’t really there. Again, I’d like to see more data and then break it apart into different graphs.

Conclusion: This chart tells us almost nothing that we could not determine by looking directly at income data directly. I wouldn’t want to predict a persons’ voting behavior based off their drink choice from the info gleaned from this chart. If I had the actual crosstabs, maybe. If I saw, for example, that a significant majority (+80%, maybe?) of my consumers tended to vote one way then I might be more or less prone to making my political positions known. Or, if I saw that a lot of my brands tended to skew one way, I might be more prone to extending my marketing to the other side, maybe with new products that look more like the Democratically skewed products on the list (diversifying my audience might pay off if we believed that Democratic leadership tended to make Democratic voters more confident or more spendthrift consumers and vice versa). But this same effect could probably be better achieved simply by offering a range of budget–>super premium drink selections.

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Posted in The Drinking Class.




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