Hops, Holidays and Heat Maps

Hops, Holidays and Heat Maps


In the Larson house, beer is practically a fifth sibling. There’s not a family event that goes by, where we don’t sip brews, discuss the best brands and argue over who has the most discerning taste. Of course there is the omnipresent sense of competition in this household with three obnoxious brothers and one very tolerant sister. Over the years, we’ve created families of our own and grown our roots within NJ, NY, MD and DE. There has been a long standing debate as to which one of these states brews the best beer (obviously Delaware is #1…pfff). Thanks to my youngest brother, Ben, we decided to throw down in a formal beer competition this Thanksgiving. Read on for the rules, results and DATA.

Dave, Dan, Sarah Ben preparing for the first pour. Sarah wondered what fate she had chosen when marrying into this madness.

The Rules

  • Each competitor brought three beers that were brewed within their state.
  • The tasting consisted of 9 participants rating each beer from 1 to 10.
    • Beers were rated in four categories: Appearance, Aroma, Initial Taste, After Taste
  • The beer with the highest overall score claimed victory, and thus its selector was granted bragging rights for the year.

The Contenders

From left to right: Honeysuckle Rose, Reach Around IPA, Cantankours, Bogan, Queens Honey Brown, LIC Beer Project, Queen, Numero Uno, Duckpin, Side Piece, Breakfast Stout, Sweet Baby Jesus, Evil Twin, Newburgh

Honeysuckle Rose by Blue Earl Brewing
Reach Around IPA by Mispillion River Brewery
Breakfast Stout by DogFish Head

Checkpoint Charlie by Newburgh Brewing Company
Dutch Kills by LIC Beer Project
Lil B by Evil Twin Brewing
Queens Honey Brown by Big Alice Brewing

Side Piece by Dark City Brewing
Cantankours Blonde by Departed Souls Brewing Company
Bogan by Departed Souls Brewing Company

Sweet Baby Jesus by Du Claw Brewing Co
Numero Uno by Flying Dog
Duckpin by Union Craft Brewing

The Data Collection

To collect the ratings from each of the 9 tasting participants, I created a quick google form. I shared it so everyone could access it and submit via their own devices. Below is a screen capture of the form. You can check it out by clicking here. It took me less than ten minutes to put this together and start rating beers…we spent more time than that determining who would go first.


The Event

Family filled the kitchen and sampled the 14 beers over the next few hours. Of course Lynsey recorded the whole thing on Instagram stories. Here is a compilation of the clips.

The Analysis

Since I used a google form, we were able to set up our analysis to be automated. I quickly built this heat map to show the average score for each of the four categories and total them for overall score. I also like to include a visual component so I added conditional formatting. This made the highest score dark blue and the lowest bright pink, with the ratings falling between that gamut.


We were curious who gave the lowest and highest overall ratings. The heat map below shows the average rating for each of my family members.


The Winner

And the winner was…The CHECKPOINT CHARLIE by Newburgh! Brought by none other than our newest Larson family member, Sarah. The woman who only recently married into this chaos and just stomped all over the brothers in this holiday beer competition. *see the celebration dance in the video posted above (#girlpower)

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We had a great time sipping beers and collecting data. This friendly competition grew into a pretty formal data composition in the end. We can’t wait to do it again next year! How did you celebrate? Share your family traditions and competitions…we just might turn them into a data viz.

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