DFW’s Favorite Breweries

Oh hello again.

Now that science has determined Dallas’s favorite year round/flagship DFW-made beer, science must answer the following question: what is DFW’s favorite brewery?

You might be thinking: “Derek. That’s a stupid question that doesn’t require science. Given the abundance of overpriced Miller Lite at Jerry’s Dome of Eminent Domain, the answer is MillerCoors (which is produced by smashing frosty-cold bullet trains into mountains)”. While it might be technically correct (based on sales) that’s just gross and you should feel gross for having such gross thoughts.

Unlike before — I’m not going to tell you upfront which breweries are the best. You’re going to have to get nerdy with me (or just scroll to the end). So let’s continue the tradition1!

So how can we determine which of DFW’s breweries are the best? Well, you might be thinking, “don’t we have the (much reviled) Yelp average ratings?” or “I gave it 5 stars on Facebook so it’s clearly the best.”. Yeah, sure. If you go to Facebook, you see how many people rate Lakewood Brewing Company with 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1 star. You can do the same with Yelp, but you need to make sure to go find the hidden ratings, too. So, for this venture into stats and beer nerdery, I aggregated all the ratings from Yelp and from Facebook for all the DFW area craft breweries2. This gives me a count of, for example, how many 5 star ratings a brewery has (per platform: Facebook or Yelp).

Before we go on, let’s get something quite obvious out of the way. The 5 star all-purpose rating system is… flawed. In fact, these types of systems are usually despised. It’s pretty well documented, especially here in DFW, that ratings systems need to be more elaborate — rating different aspects of something, instead of an all-purpose feel-goodery star system (as if it were kindergarten and you didn’t knock the blocks down today — 5 stars for not being a clumsy 4 year old).

So the average rating might be quite unfair for these breweries. Are people giving stars because they are architecture nerds and love the actual building? Was it the tour? General opinion on all the beers? Who knows. What we do know is that the 5 star all-purpose feel-goodery system is flawed. And some businesses are very anti-Yelp because of this all-purpose feel-goodery star system.

Sometimes, when averaged together, the stars tell you just enough. But when it comes to these breweries, as we’ll see, the average tells you very little. However, when we take a closer look — the distribution of stars speaks volumes. Let’s begin with just looking at the frequency of ratings for all the DFW breweries. We’ll also sort them (top to bottom) the total number of ratings per brewery, with “average stars” on the right:

Here, we can see that Rahr & Sons and Deep Ellum Brewing have the most overall ratings in DFW. So, let’s sort this by average rating (average of Facebook & Yelp):


From the looks of both of these pictures, it really seems as though 3, 2, and 1 star ratings are rarely, if ever, used. This suggests that, for the most part, when people rate these breweries 5 means “Great”, 4 means “Good” and anything else means “Relatively Unsatisfactory”. So from here on out, I’m going to combine 3, 2, and 1 star ratings into a single category of “Not Good”.


But that still feels weird, so let’s look at things proportionally: that is, the percentage of ratings for each brewery:


From the looks of this, you’d probably think Peticolas is DFW’s favorite brewery. And then I would kindly interject and say “Your thought lacks science and is thus far incorrect!”.

When we look at these ratings, we’ve probably noticed right away that all ratings exist between 4.45 and 4.8. In fact, 7 different breweries have ratings between 4.63 and 4.67. So if we go just by average ratings on a (fictitiously) 5 point all-purpose feel-goodery kindergarten star scale — we’d conclude “they’re all pretty good so let’s go party.”.

So, how can we figure out which brewery really is the best? And how can we do that when the number of overall ratings are so different between breweries? By now you’re thinking the answer to that is “Science, duh”. So let’s science.

The data here look something like this:


Brewery 5 Stars 4 Stars 3, 2, or 1 star
903 289 40 28
Rahr & Sons 2690 726 277


where each row is a brewery, and under the ratings columns, are the total number of stars from both Facebook and Yelp3. One of the best ways to analyze this type of data is with Correspondence Analysis (CA). If you’re not into stats, avert your eyes for a moment…

For the stats nerds: CA is a technique that takes a large table made up of a counts, and finds the best overall representations of these counts. Like PCA, CA produces components. These components explain the maximum possible variance in descending order. But these components are derived under χ2 assumptions. However, CA—unlike other techniques—takes into account the total number of ratings (which is different for each brewery). That means we can more fairly analyze the ratings, even when the overall number of ratings is very different for each brewery. In this application of CA, we’re going to use the asymmetric version — where the columns are privileged. The privilege here is that we want the columns to define a maximum possible boundary of where the breweries can go. This is called a simplex.

Back to beer business. So, with some statistical magic, let’s start to find out which breweries can lay claim to being the best. First, let’s look at the ratings:


The configuration of ratings here defines a boundary, that can be broken into regions:

5 6

Those regions reflect 3 different traits of how a brewery receives it’s “average” rating. The purple region is due to breweries that pretty much get 5s and 4s. The orange region is due to breweries that get 5s and {3, 2, 1} ratings. And finally, the red region is due to breweries that are more associated with 4s, and {3, 2, 1} ratings than the other breweries. So let’s put the breweries in:


All those purple dots are the breweries. Note how close they are to “5 stars”. Let’s pause a moment. We can already assume that the average ratings-type system is flawed — people love to love their favorite things. Because the 5s are being used a little too much, we can’t figure out which breweries are really the best just by average. We need to use the other ratings to find this out. Let’s pretty that last picture up a bit.


A little better. Now we can see the breweries’ logos and where they fall in these boundaries. If you’re here for beer… avert your eyes again.

For the R nerds: I searched high and low for a way to plot raster graphics onto a plot device. I found no obvious and simple way to do this (but plenty of advice on how to put a plot device on a raster image — painfully unhelpful). My current solution (pictured above and below) exists somewhere between “Neat trick” and “Disgusting hack”. See the attached code in the footnotes. 

Back to beer business. Let’s zoom in on this area, which has all the breweries:


And bring back our magical boundaries:


Oh man we are about to get scienced. Remember: all these breweries have a ridiculous amount of 5 star ratings. What’s important for figuring out which breweries are the best are the not-5 stars and how the stars are distributed. Instead of asking “which breweries get loved on the most?”, we’re really asking: “which breweries get hated on the least?”. Also remember that the red area means that these breweries get their average ratings from a higher number of 4, and {3, 2, 1} ratings than any other breweries. While beloved, Deep Ellum, Firewheel, Cobra, and Community get hated on the most. But 903, Cedar Creek, and Grapevine live in the “love-hate” zone — they have their lovers giving them 5s and their haters giving them {3, 2, 1} ratings. Here in the orange “love-hate” zone there is no middle ground: these breweries are less likely to get a 4 star rating than the other breweries. That purple zone, though… that’s what we care about.

So now we know that the purple zone is, generally, the “zone of favored breweries” in DFW. But exactly which breweries are the best?… We’re so close to the big reveal. So close. Before the big reveal, let’s look at the breweries, but marked with their average ratings:


Now that’s fancy. Science just told us that not all 4.6whatevers are created equal! 903 and Grapevine’s “4.64” is because they have lots of 5s, but those 5s get dragged down by the {3, 2, 1}s, where as Martin House’s 4.64 has its 5s dragged down by 4s! Making Martin House the best damn 4.64 in DFW! Likewise, Cedar Creek and Rahr & Son’s 4.63s are different: Rahr’s 4.63 is the best damn 4.63 in DFW!

Now that we can see a lot more of what’s going on — let’s take a look at just those top ratings: Peticolas (4.80), Revolver (4.79), Rabbit Hole (4.76), and Franconia (4.72). With Correspondence Analysis (CA) — we can think of the dots for the star ratings (5, 4, {3, 2, 1}) as pulling the breweries towards their “star position” (in CA the terminology is “inertia” because we can think of this as a gravitational pull)4. So which star ratings are pulling which breweries towards them?

While Peticolas and Rabbit Hole are being pulled by 5 star ratings — they’re also getting pulled back towards the {3, 2, 1}s. While there’s no doubt that these are some of DFW’s favorite breweries — they are not, according to (my analysis of) Facebook and Yelp (ratings), #1 nor #2. Rabbit Hole is #4 and Peticolas is #3.

And then there were two. To find out the #2 and #1 breweries in DFW, we need to get extra nerdy: Facebook ratings vs. Yelp ratings.


First off — most of the ratings from this analysis come from Facebook. There is a disproportionately high amount of them there as opposed to Yelp. However there is something quite insightful on how these ratings relate to the overall analysis:

Facebook ratings are generally very positive and include even more 5 star ratings. Note how in the figure on the left, that the blue Facebook dots are being pulled towards the 5 star ratings. Then look at the figure on the right. And then notice how far away all the Yelp ratings are. This would suggest an anecdote most of us are probably well aware of: Yelpers are mean-spirited jerks (or, rather, just tend to more negatively rate things).

This is actually really important to note: Facebook ratings are overly positive while Yelp ratings are overly negative. Now, there’s a bit of additional unfairness here… Franconia has no (business) Facebook page. That means, it has no ratings from Facebook to help it out. Let’s look at one more picture: how Franconia and Revolver stack up on Yelp (with respect to their aggregated results):


From Yelp’s perspective, Franconia is closer to the 5 stars than Revolver. Revolver is getting pulled closer to the 4 star ratings. And given that we now know that Yelp ratings are generally more negative than Facebook we have but one conclusion:

Revolver is #2, and Franconia is DFW’s #1 brewery (based on two of the ubiquitous 5 star rating systems available).

But it’s quite important to remember: we have no idea why people are rating these breweries as they do5, simply that—when it comes down to ratings—Franconia gets lots of 5s and 4s, and very, very, very few {3, 2, 1} star ratings.

All analyses performed in R. Correspondence Analysis was performed with the ExPosition package – a package created by particularly attractive and smart people. Code and data for the nerds who are so inclined.


1 I don’t think 2 blog posts counts as “tradition” yet.
2 Some breweries don’t have any ratings, and some have just a few, so they’ve been unfortunately excluded.
3 Some breweries only have ratings on Facebook and some only on Yelp.
4 I just rewatched Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars (in Machete Order) and am really emphasizing “star systems” and “star positions”. Space operas are the best.
5 For the stats nerds: there is actually another problem hiding here. Not all ratings are necessarily independent. In fact, it’s not unlikely that the same person provides a rating on both Facebook and Yelp. So, yes, there are some statistical assumptions that have been violated. But this is what happens sometimes — just do the best you can.

3 thoughts on “DFW’s Favorite Breweries

  • Pingback: Dallas’s Favorite Local Coffee Shops | An Exposition Of

  • August 2, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    WOW – how can conclusively decide on a favorite brewery or a favorite beer when Shannon Brewing Company wasn’t even included?

    • August 2, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Hi Jacob,

      Like with my beer and coffee shop analyses, any brewery (beer, coffee) had to be excluded if: (1) they hadn’t been around long enough or (2) simply didn’t have enough ratings.

      It’s unfair to include these types of data points when, for example, some breweries had 100s (or even 1000s) of reviews.

      In my analysis, which was in performed in October-November of 2014 and then posted in December 2014, Shannon Brewing was only open for (if I’m not mistaken) about 3-4 months, and at the time had very few ratings. This would be different if I were to re-run it all today, of course.

      So it was not done with disregard: just what data were available at the time.



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