Beer industry publication Brews News has this week launched an ambitious project, the Australian Brewers Network, a visual representation of the interlinking relationships between Australian brewers and the breweries at which they have worked.
The project will seek to capture the work biographies of brewers who have worked in Australia and, using data visualisation software, present them in an interactive and dynamic format showing how they are connected.
Brews News editor Matt Kirkegaard said the idea for the Australia Brewers Network was born from years of observing the industry and speaking with brewers and learning of surprise connections between them.
“It never ceased to amaze me to learn the many ways that brewers are connected through working together directly at a brewery or working with someone who had worked with someone else,” he said.
“I was fascinated and always wondered at how this would play out in a Kevin Bacon six degrees of separation way, and who would be the most connected brewer or brewery.”
He said a casual discussion over a beer with staff at Lion about the idea and whether Little Creatures or Malt Shovel would have a higher ‘Bacon’ number ended up making its way to the Little Creatures brand team, who immediately wanted to get behind the idea.
Little Creatures Fremantle Head Brewer Russell Gosling said the Brewers Network was an intriguing idea and also a way to look at the positive impact that Little Creatures has had on the brewing industry as it celebrates 21 years.
Matt Kirkegaard said that while the idea is very exciting, the challenge is to capture the work histories of Australian brewers in a form that can be entered into a that shows the linkages.
“It is actually a frighteningly large job. But if we can do that, we will have a powerful – and very fun – dynamic representation of the way Australian brewers and breweries are connected,” he said.
“However, when you look at how little data exists in the industry, the project is massive and it was pretty much a dream of a concept until Little Creatures offered to help. We simply couldn’t have taken it on without them approaching us to back the project.
“What we will be creating will be a truly industry-wide resource.”
Once collected information the information will be displayed in the form of a network graph in a dynamic format. This style of data display has been used on sites such as Visual Thesaurus and Kindred Britain.
Brewers and breweries that would like to be involved can complete the data collection survey. The key data needed is a brewer’s name, the breweries they have worked at and the dates that they worked at them.
Kirkegaard said that the tool also collected contact information to enable Brews News to verify or clarify any data, but would be limited to that use only. It would not appear in the visual database.
Given the extent of the survey, hopefully encompassing the entire Australian professional brewer cohort, the research tool also includes a number of voluntary questions that aim to capture some demographic information about the Australian brewing industry.
“There is scant data that is available to the industry to measure topics such as average age, diversity and training in the industry,” Kirkegaard said.
“While we are capturing fun metrics such as the linkages between breweries, it was a good opportunity to look a little more broadly at the makeup of the Australian brewing industry.”
“All data collected will be kept strictly confidential, and only used in aggregate to provide the industry some much-needed statistics on its makeup. This will be of value to the entire industry.”
Data collection begins today and a first release of the graphical interface will be seen in mid-January.