As most of you know, I’m currently knee-deep in evaluating expansion products for our brewery (Houston, New Braunfels, San Antonio and San Marcos are the cities we have publicly stated we are interested in).  Those who know me are well aware that I will gladly go graph-for-graph with the nerdiest of nerds to prove I’m as dorky as they come.  I’m an economist and stats geek, and I’m proud of it.

One of the curious stats I thought of while do some market research in an extension of a conversation I had years ago with my friend Erin Glass, Membership Coordinator and Brewery Detective of the Brewers Association.  When I was in the process of starting Freetail, I was chatting with Erin about some statistics and she was surprised to find out San Antonio was a metropolitan area of approximately two million people and she was appalled that it only had one brewpub.  “A city that big should have 10 brewpubs!” she exclaimed. 

So years later, here I am wondering where to put Numero Dos and Erin’s point came back to mind.  Big cities should have brewpubs.  Ex-girlfriends can attest that once I get curious about something, I don’t stop until I have the answer.  So I just spent the last hour compiling the data for this chart (apologies for the fuzziness – I’m an economist not a PhotoShop power user):

Source: 2009 US Census Bureau Population Estimates; City Maps
BPM = Brewpubs per Million People

A couple of acknowledged problems with my source data: Because I used maps to source the number of brewpubs in a geographic area, there are a couple of issues.  (By the way, BeerMapping is an amazing travel resource, and I use it every time I travel). 

  1. Some breweries may have closed since the last update of these maps.  For example, The Covey in Forth Worth and Two Rows in Houston.  I didn’t alter any data, even if I knew the places were closed, because I’m too lazy and that would result in lessened overall accuracy.
  2. Some breweries are counted in multiple metropolitan areas/BeerMapping maps extend to multiple metro areas.  BeerMapping bases their maps on… well, I don’t know what exactly.  Because we are dividing by MSA population that doesn’t match the BeerMapping geographic area, sometimes breweries are double counted.  For example, all of San Jose shows up in the San Francisco area map.  Other examples are that the Louisville map includes Columbus and Cincinnati and the Denver map includes Boulder, but those are not the same Census metro area.
  3. Some cities don’t have pre-made BeerMapping Maps.  In these cases, I used the map that comes up when you type in a location, which incorporates a 25-mile radius.  This contributes to part of problem #2.
  4. There may exist an arbitrary distinction between breweries and brewpubs.  I used whatever BeerMapping lists as a brewpub.  For the most part, I think things are listed pretty accurately.  BJ’s that don’t brew in that location, for example, don’t come up as brewpubs.  Stone Brewing in San Marcos, CA comes up as a brewpub (since they have a restaurant) but Great Divide in Denver (which has a tasting room/bar) comes up as a brewery.

Despite the problems inherent in my calculations, I think this the metrics are pretty good.

I found especially curious that Austin, the beer mecca of Texas, still ranks very low in the BPM ranking.  Residents of Houston, you already knew you’d come in last (especially now that the numerator has fallen to zero). 

I don’t have any normative statements to add to this analysis.  The data speaks for itself.

Freetail Brewing

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