Can Regulations Slow the Social Web? The Beer Example

Cultural and legal traditions vary from country to country. eCairn Conversation™ shows that they are also visible in online communities. Let’s consider the example of beer in Germany and the U.S.

Small German Online Beer Community

Germany has one of the highest beer consumptions per person in the world. Beer is a major part of the German culture (just think of the Oktoberfest). We expected to find many people talking about beer online – but to our surprise, the contrary was the case: Only few people write about malt and hops.

German drinks community
The German beer tribe appears to be somewhat disconnected from the rest of the drinks topics and is surprisingly small

Extensive U.S. Beer Tribe

In the U.S. the online beer community is much larger and has more depth. The passionate discussions vary from home or micro brewing to American craft beer and beer festivals.

These results reveal a big discrepancy between our assumptions and the online reality. eCairn therefore dug a bit deeper to find out why:


U.S. drinks community
The beer tribe in the U.S. is much larger and has more depth than the German one

Offline creativity results in online creativity

The U.S. and Germany have a very different legal history regarding beer brewing. This permeated and shaped the beer culture of both countries in an almost opposite manner.

The American Story:

  • In 1978, President Jimmy Carter changed U.S. law to allow home brewing.
  • Home brewers could now easily create micro breweries; the commercial craft brewing industry started to boom.
  • Today, there are more than 1,700 breweries in the U.S.
  • Beer brewing has become a trendy hobby and people like to discuss their brewing techniques.
  • Specific American beer styles and variations (pale ale, red ale, brown ale, stout, barleywine) have developed as a result.

The German Tale:

  • Until its repeal in 1988, the “Reinheitsgebot” (“German Beer Purity Law”) restricted German brewers to use only water, malt, and hops for their beers. Only since 1993 a greater range of ingredients has been allowed.
  • But many breweries still adhere to the rules of the “Reinheitsgebot” and use it as a marketing tool.
  • The traditional and widely accepted brewing standard does not allow for much room for new variations.
  • Today, about 1,300 German breweries produce more than 5,000 brands of beer.

Share of Voice confirms results

Looking away from the online community maps – we now analyzed how often beer or other drinks were mentioned in the German and the U.S. drinks communities. The results of eCairn’s Share-of-Voice analysis confirm our findings:

Share of Voice - German Drinks Community
Germans talk about beer as much as about coffee – almost not at all (green: wine; orange: beer; blue: coffee; purple: spirits)

In the German tribe, beer is talked about as often as coffee – wine is by far the most discussed topic in the online community. The U.S. drinks community does not have such a single favorite. Together with wine, spirits, and tea, beer ranks among the most mentioned topics.

Share of Voice - U.S. drinks community
In the U.S., beer ranks among the 4 most discussed beverages (pink: wine; purple: tea; blue: spirits; orange: beer; green: coffee)

Since the U.S. community discussing drinks is much larger (2,827 sources) than the German one (260), the beer cluster in the U.S. is still much larger despite greater “competition” from other drinks topics

Why is this analysis useful?

In our example we see that online communities are highly influenced by culture, traditions, and legal circumstances.

A comparison of similar topics in different countries with eCairn Conversation™ allows for deep cultural, historical, and legal comparisons and gives interesting, sometimes unexpected insights.

Furthermore, the more creative a certain topic is, the more and the deeper the online community will discuss and elaborate on it.

German drinks community

4 thoughts on “Can Regulations Slow the Social Web? The Beer Example

  1. To claim that this tool “allows for deep cultural, historical, and legal comparisons and gives interesting, sometimes unexpected insights” is a bit of a mouthful. Anyone with some knowledge of the international craft beer scene could give a more comprehensive analysis of this.

    1. You think what we say about our tool is a stretch? We’ll come up with more examples in future posts. Maybe we’ll be able to convince you 😉
      With regard to “a more comprehensive analysis” of our findings we’d love to hear more about your thoughts!
      Your suggestion to also “look at the shifting perception of food in various countries over time to get behind the figures” is a good one – we’re working on it.

    1. You are right – not all blogs are from the U.S. That is because we started out with creating a list that included English-speaking blogs that are influential on the U.S. bloggosphere. Similarly, the German tribe includes blogs from German-speaking regions in Switzerland and from Austria. We are currently geo-locating our beer tribe to be able to display only U.S. beer blogs in the near future. You may be interested in this similar post which includes a more detailed geographical analysis.
      However, the trends described in our post are definitely there. We were truly surprised to see how much of a role legal and cultural regulations also play in the online community…

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