Bart Watson, Ph.D., is a beacon for those of us who love beer and analytics in equal measure. (We exist, and we are all over the internet.) The Brewers Association’s chief economist analyzes economic data, statistics, and market research to distill beer industry intel and predict trends.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, Watson is the mastermind behind this mesmerizing animation that plots all U.S. brewery openings, by month, on a map, from 1900 to present day. It’s an incredibly effective visualization, and a helluva lot more impactful than staring at rows of numbers in an Excel sheet.
We caught up with Watson to hear about his last-supper beer, the problem with large-format double IPAs, and the fantasy brewery tour that made him realize beer might just be his calling.
Don't Miss A DropGet the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.
1. What’s your desert-island beer?
The smart move would be something in a 750 cork-and-cage bottle for the notes after I drink the beers. But, since I need to keep my wits about me, I’ll go with the Live Oak Pilz. That’s a beautiful beer on a hot, sunny day.
2. What’s the beer that made you fall in love with beer?
I don’t think I had a single “a-ha” moment. I knew I was getting into beer when my girlfriend (now wife) asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, and “take the Anchor Brewing tour” was my immediate first thought. In grad school we knew the manager at Jupiter in Berkeley, and I drank a lot of their beer.
3. FMK three beer types: IPA, pilsner, sour
These are probably the three categories I drink the most, so this question is well positioned to make me squirm. I’ll go with f&%k IPA, marry pilsner, and kill sour… Funky Brett beers aren’t sour, right? Right?!?!
4. You’re on death row. What’s your last-supper beer?
The oldest bottle of Saison Brett from Boulevard I can get my hands on.
5. You can only drink one beer for the rest of your life. What is it?
Has to be sessionable but interesting and flavorful. I’ll go with Allagash Hoppy Table Beer. They nailed that combo.
6. What’s the best and worst beer in your fridge right now?
The worst beers in my fridge are always large-format double IPAs that don’t get drunk right away and then I don’t want to drink because I have something that is fresher and I am more excited about. You’d think I’d learn and drink them fresh. The best? I just got a bottle of Oxbow Crossfade that I’m pretty excited to drink. That or all the Russian River sours.
7. If you could no longer drink beer, what would be your beverage of choice?
I already drink way too much coffee, so I don’t know if that counts. I’ll go with wine. My wife works with wineries, so it’s always around the house.