I’ve returned, refreshed and enthusiastic, from my trip to California, where I drank a fair amount of wine and not much beer (though I did find my way to a couple pints of Sierra Nevada) while attending the annual meeting of the American Association of Wine Economists, where Robin and I presented the results of our Heineken-Stella-Czechvar taste test study.
All in all, it was a fun trip. I saw a lot of interesting presentations on a wide variety of subjects about the wine world (with “economics” being used in a variety of senses, from the most traditional, microeconomics-based analyses of the impacts of tariffs on wine sales to more Freakonomics-type studies of issues like counterfeiting in European Ebay markets). And I have a lot of ideas for future lines of inquiry.
Some of those lines are in the same mold as our presentation. Like how similar are light beers to water? That is, what do I have to do to the beer (or to the water) to make it indistinguishable in a triangle test? Or how true is the conventional wisdom about American Guinness being totally different (and inferior) to Guinness in Ireland?
Other questions that I have are broader. One idea I have been pondering came to me in an unexpected day in San Francisco after I was bumped from my flight home. I was in a pub with a decent number of taps and a selection that seemed somehow quintessentially Bay Area to me—there were decent choices, but nothing particularly interesting or unusual. This particular venue offered Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Anchor Steam, Fat Tire, New Belgium Ranger IPA, Pyramid Haywire Hefeweizen, Guinness, Stella Artois, Newcastle Brown, Heineken, Budweiser, Coors Light, and MGD Light. Of that baker’s dozen of beers, MGD Light is the most unusual sighting in that list (for a list of this type and depth; I’m sure there are more MGD Light taps around the country than Big Daddy taps. I just don’t see them at the places I frequent).
How do different cities fare in terms of tap depth and diversity? How would you measure such a thing? How do you compensate for the impact of size and the arbitrariness of city boundaries (like the fact that Queens is part of New York City, but Oakland is not part of San Francisco)? I don’t have answers to these questions yet, but I’m intrigued by the challenge of coming up with a metric for draft beer tap diversity and exploring how different cities score.
In the near-term I’ll be pondering that question over beers in a number of locations around the city, as Portland celebrates Oregon Craft Beer Month. Next week is Sour Beer Week at Belmont Station, and I expect that I’ll enjoy several stops there.
Ideas or thoughts on how to quantify (particularly through some kind of limited sampling approach) tap diversity are enthusiastically welcome. Comment here or drop me an email and we’ll chat.