Data Visualization from the Motor City

Detroit Fall Beer Fest 2021

Normally if I’m posting about beer my first option is to use my site, but I thought this would be a great time to double down and also host a story at Visual-Detroit. Given that the topic is the 2021 Fall Beer Fest held at Detroit’s Eastern Market it feels quite appropriate to double down. First, here’s a small screenshot of the eventual graphic using a lovely seasonal palette (, followed by a link to the interactive version for you to enjoy. (opens in new tab). Be sure to start clicking around; you can’t go wrong by exploring. If things get too small, scroll in, and if they get off-center simply drag things back to the middle of the screen. There are user-friendly controls to help you get this stuff done.

The idea is to capture the various beers poured based on frequency, style, color, name, and brewery. This is all pulled together as part of a network graph, bringing the beer to life by enabling users to interact by style, beer name, and brewery. You’ll quickly notice the large nodes representing beer styles like American IPA and Barrel-Aged Beers, reflecting their seasonal popularity. A secondary aspect of the graph is the ability to quickly see both the style and number of beers poured by the participating breweries. For clarity’s sake, all breweries have been given a single color (blue), in contrast to the color-coded nature of individual beer styles that range from blonde to dark brown.

Let’s examine a few aspects of the network in greater detail to get a big picture view. We’ll start with a view of the highly popular American IPA style which will include both West Coast and an assortment of Midwest-style IPAs typified by beers such as Bell’s Two-Hearted.

In this case we have hidden other styles that would clutter the overall picture; this leaves us with a large American IPA node surrounded by individual beers made in this style. Note also that each example uses the same color; this color will change for a darker (or lighter) beer style. You can also see thin lines (edges) connecting each beer to the parent American IPA node. This is the essence of a network graph – nodes containing some level of information (beer style, beer name, relatedness, etc.) and the edges that connect them through a common theme (style in this case). We do have some overlap but this can be overcome by zooming and panning in the interactive version.

Let’s take a look at a somewhat less popular style that still has many examples due to the season – the Oktoberfest style:

Lots of repetition with the labeling here; nobody is attempting to get too fancy with this type of traditional beer. In fact there are so many with the generic name it makes sense to go down a level to see who is brewing these beers. We’ll do a bit of that later on.

Meanwhile the transitional nature of the late October Michigan season means a lot of barrel-aged beers are making their way to market; while there are still loads of sours and other fruit beers to share, the barrel-aged portfolio is getting into full swing prior to the cold winter days on the horizon. Here’s a glimpse at this varied category:

Note the overlap here as many breweries choose to share multiple offerings of this type at the festival. Let’s zoom in for further clarity:

Zooming in to this degree reveals the true nature of this category – we can see multiple vintages and variants on a single theme from individual breweries (two vintages of Depth from Brew Detroit, 3 variants from Griffin Claw, and 3 vintages of Malted Milk Ball from Perrin). This is a category where brewers get to have some fun with variants on a theme.

Of course one of the best reasons to attend a beer festival is to explore some lesser known or rarely made styles, often done by obscure or startup brewers. Our interactive graph is great at facilitating these sorts of explorations as well, as we’re about to see. Let’s see if anyone was showing a Munich Helles at the festival; all we need to do is enter that style in our search bar (we’ll get some help from the search function) and the results will display:

In this case we have one beer for the style produced by a single brewer. Talk about focused results! From here we can also select the Petoskey Brewing node to see what else they are pouring:

With one stop for the Munich Helles we can now select from five additional beers ranging from a cherry beer to a juicy New England IPA. The power of interactivity at work!

Well that’s it for now – hop over to the interactive version and make some discoveries for yourself! Happy graphing and enjoy your beer, whichever style you prefer!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *