Analyzing Data Contextually to Find A More Delicious Beer!

by Robert Madison on December 12, 2012

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Companies today are gathering social media and web data, but what are they really doing with it? We recommend that clients correlate their offline business data with the critical information we help them collect online to get valuable insight, but sometimes it’s still hard for businesses to picture how that works.

How to discover the connections hidden in your data: Exhibit #12.12.12

Aiming one part of Spiral16’s data analysis methodology at numbers rather than words, we can offer a solution for beer lovers everywhere. This example compares two sets of offline data sets with a clear goal in mind, and the end result is you get to enjoy a delicious glass of beer. What could be better than that?

In case you haven’t heard, the (alleged) “best beer in the world,” the much-sought-after Westvleteren 12, hits shelves in the U.S. today (12/12/12) for the first – and possibly – only time in history. Supplies are limited, demand is high, and thus the price, in accordance with basic economics, is going to be quite high, as beers go. Word on the street is that a six pack will run you around $85.

All of which is to say: You probably won’t get your hands on any.

But don’t bemoan, my Belgian brewing buffs, Spiral16 has a solution, straight from our pals at Boulevard Brewing Company! The basic idea is this: We’re going to take what we know about Boulevard’s beers and combine that data with what we know about Westvleteren 12 to see which Boulevard beer is most similar to Westvleteren 12.

But first things first! Stop what you’re doing and go get yourself a bottle of Boulevard’s The Sixth Glass. When you return, check out the table below:

Beer Color Bitterness Original Gravity ABV
Amber Ale 37.8 24 12.4 5.10%
Bob’s ’47 Oktoberfest 29.5 27 13.5 5.80%
Boss Tom’s Golden Bock 12.4 22 13.9 6.10%
Bully! Porter 131 49 14.5 5.40%
Chocolate Ale 41 24 20 9.10%
Dark Truth Stout 225 60 21 9.70%
Double-Wide I.P.A. 44.3 71 18.2 8.50%
Dry Stout 128 28 11 4.90%
Irish Ale 51.5 30 13.5 5.80%
Long Strange Tripel 16.4 23 19.1 9.00%
Nutcracker Ale 61.8 38 16 5.80%
Pale Ale 23 30 12.2 5.40%
Pilsner 9.5 16 10.3 4.80%
Single-Wide I.P.A. 16.2 57 13.7 5.70%
Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale 12 38 17.3 8.00%
The Sixth Glass 73.2 22 21.5 10.50%
Unfiltered Wheat Beer 7.3 14 11.3 4.40%
ZON Belgian-style Witbier 6.8 15 10.8 4.40%
Westvleteren 12 79 38 21.5 10.20%


The top 18 beers (Amber Ale through ZON) are all from Boulevard. I’ve included the Westvleteren 12 at the very bottom of the list to show you how its characteristics compare with those of Boulevard’s bevy of brews.

Next, we run these data points through the same “context engine” we use at Spiral16 to determine which words are most similar to which other words. Doing so, and plotting the results in a contextual dendrogram, allows us to visualize which Boulevard brews are most similar to one another, as well as which one is most similar to Westvleteren 12.


As you can see, our methodology places Westvleteren closest to The Sixth Glass. You can also see that the stouts (far right side of the graph) are all grouped together, along with the Bully Porter. It’s also appropriate that their Dark Truth Stout is in a mini-category all to itself! It’s an amazing stout, but that’s a separate discussion.

Obviously, using data in this way can be tremendously helpful. How would you have any way of knowing what a Westvleteren 12 might taste like without (a) trying one, or (b) using data to categorize it. Looking at the table, while helpful, wouldn’t be enough. Even for this small data set, there are just too many data points to actually see how they’re connected.

Why This Matters To Brands

Using this methodology, Spiral16 can also analyze the language that people use online about your brand (and your competitors) and provide context to the language, not just the words. We can also filter and compare it for different site types (blogs, social, forums, etc.) and see how that context changes on different websites and with different crowds.

So chin up, Wilbur! You won’t get your hands on a Westvleteren 12, but you can get your hands on a six pack of Boulevard’s The Sixth Glass, and you won’t have to pay $85 for it either!

This has been a public service announcement from Spiral16.

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