Locu Digs Deep into PBR Data: Hipsters Unphased

by Arsen Mamikonyan, Taylor Lahey, and Adam Marcus


Hipsters and PBR, two peas in a pod.  That’s what everyone says, anyway, but is it true?  At Locu, we’ve done a bit of research about these things.

While more than 15,000 merchants have signed up for Locu since we launched over the holidays, we’ve indexed nearly one million venues since Locu started. We do this by crawling thousands of merchant websites a day through a technology pipeline that we’ve previously described.  As we near a million menus, we’ve learned our fair share of menu-related factoids.  Our aggregate price list data allows us to answer lots of important questions for merchants, but also a few fun ones along the way.

In this post, we’ll see what our data can tell us about the fascinating world of PBR.  Keep an eye on the Locu Blog for an upcoming series of deeper data analyses. 

Taking a tour of some Hipster Meccas

To get a sense of whether there is a link between PBR and our skinny-jeaned friends, let’s take a trip to the home of the hipsters: Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  (And yes, we know that the gentrification has moved on, but as we’ll see, the pioneering hipsters left a lot of PBR infrastructure behind for their fellow explorers.)

Take a look at this heatmap of venues that serve Bud Light (top) and Pabst Blue Ribbon (bottom).  Areas that are red have the highest number of venues that serve a particular drink, whereas green and yellow areas are only lightly populated by these beer-serving establishments:


Bud light is the more prevalent drink, appearing throughout areas where people live and tourist flock.  PBR has a sparser distribution, with less venues overall serving the drink.  Still, it shines bright in one place in particular: Williamsburg.  While one point does not make a trend, it certainly seems that bars in this hipster home know their audience!

Does this inkling of a trend find itself in other places where hipsters roam?  Let’s head over to the San Francisco’s Mission District to see:

imageBud Light again is more prevalent than PBR overall.  But the Mission lights up for PBR, in what is starting to look like wonderful news for hipsters that like consistency.  So far, so good: PBR is the less prevalent beer, and yet in two hipster hoods, we see its popularity at bars increase. 

The San Francisco heatmaps show that PBR distribution is not quite so simple, however.  Take a look at the relatively touristy area near Embarcadero in the top right.  It’s brighter for PBR than it is for Bud Light, which is the opposite of what we’d expect.  It turns out that a few liquor/wine stores in that area also sell PBR, but not Bud Light.  This suggests either a mistake in understanding their clientele, or an insightful move to export hipster culture.

Slam Dunk?

It turns out that in the world of data, nothing is clear-cut.  While the two most obvious pictures of hipsterdom seem to check out with the PBR hypothesis, going to other cities brings us other results.  Take the Boston area, for example:image

Bud Light stays true to form: it appears in more locations across Boston.  What doesn’t follow our expectations, however, is where we find more PBR.  Places like Allston and Inman Square, where you find lots of fixies, tight pants, and a fair serving of beards, don’t light up for PBR.  This hurts our hypothesis around hipsters and PBR, but uncovers something more interesting.

The places we do see PBR light up are around universities.  Cambridge and Boston have tons of schools, and larger ones like Harvard and MIT bring droves of college kids that can’t spend a boatload on drinks.  That raises the next natural question: if you keep a tight budget, are you wise to flock to PBR to keep costs low?

Here are two charts from the San Francisco area that help uncover that question.  These charts show the price distribution of PBR and Bud Light in SF:imageimage

We see that cost-conscious folks are right to stick to PBR.  There are two reasons to develop a taste for PBR to save money.  The first is expected cost: you can usually get a PBR for around $2, whereas the Bud Light price falls around $4-6.  The other is variance: the PBR price distribution is a lot less scattered, so you’re more likely to be able to walk into a random PBR-serving establishment and get the expected price.

That is, if some hipster doesn’t finish the supply before you get there.

Zooming Out

It’s cute to answer questions about hipster migration patterns with our data, but Locu is focused on a bit more than that.  Aside from merchant-oriented insights, we can use our data to answer other macroeconomic questions.  For example, does The Economist’s Big Mac Index hold up with other foods?  Stay tuned to our blog for more data analyses!

Want to nerd out on fun data for a living? Come work with us!

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