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Which States are Most Biased Towards their Own Beer?

Matt Murphy, June 24, 2013 -   

Previously, I wrote about the tendency people have to give a slightly higher rating to a beer when they are consuming it in the state where it was produced. However, the difference was quite small (.064 points), so I wanted to check if there were certain states where this favoritism was more apparent. Once again, I limited my data set to ratings for US beers with check-in locations also within the US. Since I wanted to look at individual states, I decided to only use states with at least 1000 in-state and out-of-state check-ins, leaving me with 18 states.

These 18 states averaged over 17,000 check-ins per state, with just over 40% of the check-ins coming from within the state. In addition, the difference between in-state and out-of-state ratings was slightly greater (.079 higher in-state) than in the larger sample.

One of the first things that struck me was how great the bias was in a few of the states. Missouri topped the list with a 2.49 rating among out-of-state check-ins, but a generous 3.07 rating from the in-staters, for a difference of 0.58. Two more states (Wisconsin and Texas) also had a difference of over 0.4 between the out-of-state and in-state check-ins. Here are the five states with the biggest differential between their in-state and out-of-state ratings:

State

Avg.

In-State Avg.

Out-Of-State Avg.

Difference

% In-State

Missouri

2.61

3.07

2.49

0.58

21.3%

Texas

3.14

3.20

2.73

0.47

87.4%

Wisconsin

2.83

3.13

2.70

0.43

31.5%

Washington

3.07

3.20

2.85

0.35

62.6%

Illinois

3.01

3.16

2.90

0.26

39.6%

One thing you might notice about these states is that their total average rating is well below average. Also, Missouri and Wisconsin are home to two of the three big corporate beer producers in the United States (Anheuser Busch and Miller), which probably factor into both their low average scores and the low percentage of in-state check-ins. The third big beer company, Coors, is located in Colorado, whose absence from this list is probably due to the state’s 130+ craft breweries (third-most in the country).

The next thing that I noticed was that there are number of states that actually rate their own in-state beer worse than those who are out-of-state, lead by Michigan, Indiana, and New York:

State

Avg.

In-State Avg.

Out-Of-State Avg.

Difference

% In-State

Michigan

3.52

3.31

3.60

-0.29

27.9%

Indiana

3.51

3.40

3.62

-0.22

50.7%

New York

3.21

3.07

3.29

-0.22

34.6%

California

3.39

3.35

3.43

-0.07

48.6%

Minnesota

3.31

3.30

3.33

-0.04

71.2%

Just as the first chart contained states who were below-average, all of the states on this list are known in the craft beer community for having a number of excellent breweries. This really surprised me, because I’m from New York and feel like I probably give NY beers the benefit of the doubt when I’m rating them. Is it possible that the average beer drinker in these states actually bumps their rating down a notch when they know that it’s in-state?

Since the second list contained well-regarded craft beer states while the first list contained states with big macro breweries, I wanted to see if there was a correlation between the average rating and the difference between in-state and out-of-state ratings. Sure enough, there was.

States that had higher average ratings were more likely to have a “negative” bias, while states with the lowest averages were more likely to have a very large difference between in-state and out-of-state ratings. Taken another way, in-state ratings are more likely to be closer to average, regardless of how high or low the out-of-state or total average rating is.

Why might this be the case? One explanation is that in states where local craft beer is readily available, in-state beer probably makes up a significant portion of the average beer drinker’s consumption and therefore check-ins. Therefore, people might adjust their “average” (in the low-3 range) to the in-state beers they regularly drink.

It is also probable that distribution is having a significant effect on these trends. For a state like Missouri, the Budweiser family of beers with huge national distribution and low ratings (2.35 average) make up a disproportionate percentage of out-of-state check-ins (81.3%), while only accounting for a small portion of in-state check-ins (14.2%). On the other hand, in a state like California, some of the great breweries like Lagunitas (3.60 average) and Sierra Nevada (3.31 average) make up for nearly 40% of out-of-state ratings, but just 12% of in-state ratings.

Whether the effects we see are due to favoritism, distribution, or something else entirely, there are definitely some significant trends here that will be worth exploring moving forward.

When he's not writing about beer, Matt works at the NYU Medical Center where he does cancer and stem cell biology research. You can find him on Twitter at @murphym45.

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