Where Beer Meets Technology

Where Beer Meets Technology HR Growler

If you’re looking some place to get the scoop on your favorite craft beer and you own a smartphone, the next five words probably won’t surprise you: There’s an app for that.

Actually, there are a lot of apps for that. In fact, a search for beer apps on the iTunes store yields somewhere in the realm of 500 possible options.

The challenge is trying to differentiate the legitimately useful from the mostly worthless, but some of the most popular apps are location-based, to help consumers find the nearest location to purchase craft beer, while others favor the methods of social media, providing users the opportunity to connect with fellow beer aficionados, find out what they’re sipping on, and see if it matches up to their own tastes.

Untappd offers this and more to its 1.6 million users. Co-founders Tim Mather and Greg Avola created Untappd as a way of taking the social-media model of checking in at various locations and melding it with aspects that beer lovers would appreciate, including the opportunity to cite the beer they’re drinking and their opinion of the beverage, earning badges for the number of beers tried, breweries visited, and so forth.

“When we started it about four years ago, we thought that industries were inherently social, but not really social in a Facebook or Twitter way, and beer was the first thing that came to our minds,” Avola said. “So we said, ‘Why don’t we build kind of a Foursquare-like system where people can check in their beer, tell us where they are, and then from there we can get recommendations, we can catalog what we have, what people like, and what their ratings are?’”

Ironically, it wasn’t until after the success of Untappd that Mather and Avola tapped into their own passion for craft beer.

“The funny thing is, Tim and I weren’t really all that interested in beer when we first started this, but we’ve become beer lovers and beer connoisseurs through the tool we offer and the recommendations we provide,” Avola said.

It’s not always about the beer drinkers, however. Sometimes it’s about the beer makers.

“The consumer is one side, but the brewery is also another major side,” Avola said. “The breweries have really latched on to the opportunity to get a better understanding of how their product is received in the real world, to be able to get feedback about their brand (and) to see how their brand is viewed in the wild.”

Shawn Childers, co-owner of Chesapeake’s soon-to-be-open Big Ugly Brewery, has already seen the power of social media in the local beer scene.

“It’s almost as good, if not more impactful, than regular traditional types of advertising, I think,” he said.

“For instance, we already have something in the neighborhood of 50 or 60 check-ins from our brewery on Untappd, which is pretty interesting, given the fact that we’re not even open yet,” Childers added. “But it still brings one more level of touch and one more level of contact between us and the people out in the social-media beer world in a positive light, and that’s a great thing.”

Untappd is far from the only game in town, however.

“Whenever I get a new beer, I pull up the beer on RateBeer and BeerAdvocate and print it out for my staff, so they know about the beer they’re selling,” said Kyle Melendez, bar manager of The Public House in Norfolk.

“But it’s also a very good tool to figure out if the beer is good or not, because a lot of different breweries come in and try to sell me their beer, and if it’s not good, it’ll show up on BeerAdvocate,” he said. “I really only try to bring top-notch beer into the bar, and those two websites are probably the best to find out ratings of beer.”

For his part, though, Melendez is well aware that no app is foolproof.

“Most of the ratings are pretty good on these things, but it comes down to personal taste a lot of times,” he said. “I know what I like, and I also know pretty much what the general public wants to drink, so there could be a few on there that say they’re rated 100 percent, but I know for a fact that either the general public isn’t going to like that kind of beer or it’s just really not going to taste as good as it says.”

In order to help you cover as many bases as possible when searching for the best possible craft beers in the Hampton Roads area (or anywhere else, for that matter), here’s a list of 10 apps that regularly rate high when it comes to providing beer aficionados with the alcoholic beverages their hearts – and taste buds – desire the most.

BrewGene

FREE | Check out app | Customer Rating: 4.5 stars
“The core of BrewGene is an easy-to-use and comprehensive beer tracking feature. Rate and tag what beers you’re drinking, where you’re having them, and how much you like them. You can also write detailed tasting notes, and create a ‘watch list’ of rare or favorite beers. Now, you’ll never forget what that great beer was you tried last week, and you’ll never accidentally order a bad beer twice. BrewGene will analyze your beer preferences and actually be able to predict whether or not you’ll like a beer you’ve never tried before. You get a whole personalized list of new beers to try, and you’ll never be disappointed by a random beer order again.”
– Appcrawlr.com

Brewery Passport

FREE | Check out app | Customer Rating: 3.5 stars
“Brewery Passport is a fantastic way to find local craft beer near your current location. Clicking ‘Find Breweries Nearby’ brings up a list of breweries within a 50-mile radius of your current location. You can also search on a map or by specific location. The app allows you to keep track of your visits, take notes on the beers drank, and rate the brewery. It keeps all of this information in your personal brewery passport that you can revisit at a later date or share with friends on Facebook or Twitter.”
– JustAnotherBeerBlog.com

Craft Beer Directory

FREE | Check out app | Customer Rating: 4 stars
“Heading to another state or just want a road trip to cold pints? Simplistic and easy to use, Craft Beer Directory breaks down breweries by state or by your location. The app notes whether it is a brewery, microbrewery, or brewpub so you do not waste your time tirelessly searching the web (even worse if you have bad cell reception).”
– Lipstick on Pint Glasses

Find Craft Beer

99¢ | Check out app | Customer Rating: 4 stars
“Location-based apps are all the rage these days, but for too long they’ve been used for things like locating late-nite Mexican food, finding thrift stores and spying on spouses. Find Craft Beer for the iPhone and Droid is Google Maps used for the benefit of men everywhere – to locate quality craft beer.”
– CoolMaterial.com

Next Glass

FREE | Check out app | Customer Rating: 4 stars
“The app polls its users for ratings of beers they’ve already tried, and uses those likes and dislikes to create a taste profile which it accesses to give recommendations, and rate beers that the user has on hand. If you’ve got a can or bottle in front of you and you’re not sure whether you’ll like it, or you want to know more about it, you can scan its label (not its barcode!) to find out what score it would get based on your preferences, as well as ABV, calorie, and carb information.”
– Thrillist.com

Pintley Beer Recommendations

FREE | Check out app | Customer Rating: 4.5 stars
“If you’re always on the lookout for new beer, Pintley is here for you. This app focuses on three things: tracking the beer you like, making personalized recommendations and inviting you to beer events and tastings across the country. BeerAdvocate calls it the ‘Pandora of beer,’ and for good reason. Like other apps, you can connect with friends, see user ratings, read about specific beers and share what you enjoy, but the really unique quality in this app is its terrific recommendation system.”
– BerghoffBeer.com

RateBeer

$3.99 | Check out app | Customer Rating: 3 stars
“Claiming to be the world’s largest source for craft beer info, the app definitely feels comprehensive. The idea is obviously to type in a beer and search for reviews (by users, in-house editors, or pro beer critics), but there’s also a clever barcode scanning function to instantly call up specific details about virtually any beer in the world. This is especially handy when we’re traveling, since browsing a list of best beers by country is a fun way to be a tourist and discover regional specialties. And you can also just pick among the best rated brews by style and even pull up a list of the best places worldwide to find whatever beer style you desire.”
– MensJournal.com

TapHunter

FREE | Check out app | Customer Rating: 4 stars
“TapHunter is for you beer drinkers out there with a finer taste in beer. As the craft beer movement continues to explode from city to city, TapHunter is a great way of discovering new breweries and sellers of craft beer. If you’re out exploring the city, you can search by location, beer, or brewery and find the closest bar that sells your favorite beer! Aside from the fact it is only currently serving a select group of cities, TapHunter is one of the best apps out there for discovering new breweries and finding out what’s on tap.”
– PasteMagazine.com

Taplister

FREE | Check out app | Customer Rating: 2.5 stars
“Taplister, at its most basic, uses GPS to access your location and point you to beer bars and restaurants near your location. That’s a function lesser beer apps have offered, clunkily at best. Taking things a pint or three higher, the app updates you as to what is on tap in real-time. Craving that one Double IPA you’ve been hearing about? Boom, there it is. Better yet, the app’s beer info comes from RateBeer.com’s insane database of 130,000 beers, reviewed an astonishing 4.5 million times.”
– WeeklyPint.com

Untappd

FREE | Check out app | Customer Rating: 3.5 stars
“Untappd is a social beer finding app that lets you connect with friends as well as find popular beer around you. Add friends or view people nearby to see what they’re drinking. Untappd offers a wealth of information on local and craft beers including ratings from others. You can then add beers to your wish list or find places that sell or serve them right within Untappd. If you want beer drinking to be a social affair, you want Untappd.”
– iMore.com

Prices and customer ratings were pulled from the iTunes store on December 22.

 

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BY WILL HARRIS
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