Zeitgeist of Beer

So when we think of the cultural theme of an era, we think of things like popularity, trends, inventions, and revolutions. Beer is an ageless almost timeless object, and it rarely comes into the realm of Zeitgeist. But because it is such a timeless object Zeitgeist can be contained within it. Google has for years had something Google Zeitgeist, which is a culmination of all the trends we see in society.

For 2014, Google has folded Zeitgeist into their Trends project, and it has the very normal name of Year in Search. I for one enjoyed Zeitgeist better, had much more of an evil villain feel to it. But really what this project does is provide analytics into the many trillions of searches Google has provided results for in the past twelve months. This is a pretty interesting way to gauge Zeitgeist.

When visiting the Year in Search page, you are greeted with a question.

“What do these searches say about us?”

And of course this question is meant to pique our curiosity and apply deeper meaning to the lists of search terms Google is about to supply. One of the many list categories is beer. So I am writing today to attempt to answer Google’s question. What do these searches say about us (as it relates to beer)?

The Year in Search analysis, was a direct correlation from their 2014 search trends. And for the most part it created compelling stores. The missing Malaysia Airlines flight, the death of Robin Williams, ebola, ISIS (ISIL), Crimea, Ray Rice, Serial Podcast, and Ferguson. Things that were topical, engaging, and important. However, I then spotted the trend list for beer. My heart sank.

When you are passionate about something a few things happen. First you hope that other may be passionate about that topic as well. Then sometimes that can turn into delusions that more people are passionate than is really the case.

I didn’t feel too bad when I saw Budweiser was number 1 on the search list, or that Corona was likely a close second. But my heart really sank when I read number 3. Keystone? Really Keystone? Who is search the web for Keystone? Seriously? Is there an army of fraternities making pledges search for Keystone over and over? Grant it, I don’t really understand why anyone would search for Corona either, but Keystone?

The only craft beer search term that made it to the Top 10 was Sierra Nevada. While this might be a little disappointing, it is at least consistent with the marketplace. Craft beer makes up about 10% of the market now, so having 10% of this list be craft beer related is in a way expected. I guess.

What do these searches say about us? In some ways this particular search means nothing. There is no valuable lesson to be gleamed from this list about our cultural Zeitgeist pertaining to beer, other than most people still like bland watered down American Light Lagers. At least that is my cynical view of this list.

The optimist in me might say, not many craft beer searches made it to this list because of the extreme diversity craft beer brings to the marketplace.

Does a Google search really tell us anything about what people like to drink? I think that’s a good question. I search Google for things I want to learn more about. I am not sure what people want or need to learn about Keystone or PBR.

Maybe I just overestimate the average beer drinker.