In the post below, where I reprinted the data from the Brewers Association about breweries per capita, I promised to show you some more interesting regional data. Here we go.
Breweries by Region
While it's interesting to see state-level data, I find regional data more compelling. The culture that feeds a healthy beer industry doesn't confine itself to state boundaries. The Northwest, and to a slightly lesser extent the West Coast, forms a continuum of beer culture that's reflected in all the breweries dotting cities from San Diego to Seattle. But the vast stretches of the heavily-populated South--bupkis in terms of breweries. Have a look:
For the purposes of this breakdown, "other" refers to states on borders between regions--Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, the Dakotas, as well as Hawaii and DC. You could through Hawaii (9 breweries) in with the West Coast and it barely changes things. But we shouldn't be forced to break the country down into regions so slavishly. If you go through and select out the states within regions that are especially dense, you can pinpoint heavily-breweried regions even more precisely (see lists in footnotes below and blame Lew Bryson if you don't like the looks of Central Atlantic).
Breweries by Region, Per Capita
Now here's where things get pretty interesting. By parsing the regions, you can really get a sense of how there are beer regions and non-beer regions in the country. First, the whole country:
Now the rejiggered regions. Look particularly at the regions in comparison to the national average.
What illustrates to me is that there are four regions well below the national average. Except in the case of New England, which remains intact, all the sub-regions demonstrate far greater concentrations of breweries. (If you went for a sub-group of New England that included only Vermont, Maine, and NH, you could lower the figure to 1 in 50k. This is a specious calculation, however, for the culture of New England--as defined by the Red Sox catchment area--is one of the most coherent in the country. I'd allow for lopping off the Southern, Yankees catchment area, of Connecticut, but that would improve matters only marginally. Angelo, if you're reading this, back me up.)
Why Regions Matter
I didn't do these calculations only because doing calculations like this please me immensely--that was just a fringe benefit. The whole point of this is to see if my pet theory about the US having discrete brewing regions holds water. My theory holds that within these five sub-regions people drink local beer, but different types of local beers and in different ways. The markers of these regions is not the breweries per capita (see Minnesota in notes below); rather, the breweries per capita is just one rough guide to where the regions are.
Anyway, I thought you might appreciate some data showing a more fine-grained look at the per-capita numbers than the Brewers Association provide.
The beer regions look like this. Northwest: Alaska, Oregon, Washington. Mountain: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, New Mexico. New England: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont. Beer Midwest: Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa. Central Atlantic: DC, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania.
The whole-country samples follow established regional definitions, except for "other," which is comprised of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, the Dakotas, Hawaii, and DC. Including Hawaii in the Northwest section barely changes the figures.
What about Minnesota? This was a head-scratcher. For some reason, Minnesota doesn't have the brewing density of Upper Midwestern kin Wisconsin and Michigan. Their ratio of 1 in 236k is slightly lower than Missouri, and way below others in the "Beer Midwest" region. Truth is, I think Minnesota is culturally part of that continuum, but I'd like to visit and confirm this suspicion. It is one of the biggest riddles of the data.