The other night I was sitting in a foreign bar in Atlanta, GA that had a deceptively inadequate chalk board beer selection. It did, however, include one of my favorite beers, Lagunitas IPA on tap. My decision was clear, but after my first glass, the tap went bust. Lucky for me, Dan Gold was present. (for those of you who do not know, Dan Gold’s wife is the president of the Maltose Falcons, the oldest brew club in the country and the 2010 recipient of the Anchor Steam Homebrew Club of the year.
Dan got right on the case and after one iPhone text pic and three phones calls we had our selection. It was no simple task as it turned out that most of the walls offerings were actually sub par. But with the help of the prez, we nailed a fantastic beer, that to our mutual disbelief came out of a can.
I woke up the next morning and thought, “wow, what a great service that would be, text or call a professional beer sommelier to make sure you are always having the best beer available at any given establishment.”
Then I woke up a little more and realized that there must be an app for that. Ah, but it turns out that it is not that simple.
A casual search for beer in the app store yields about 175 apps, most are games, after that a fair number of beer rating database apps and finally a handful of beer finding apps. Of the finding apps it kind of fell into two categories. Most were localized to a given city such as What’s On Tap NYC and Tap Hunter. Tap Hunter has a lot of promise as it allows to search, find, map and the discovery of a good craft beer in your area, the limitation is that only Austin, Denver, Phillie, Portland, SF, San Diego and Seattle are supported. Of course they claim to be adding new cities all the time. But none really were more what I was imagining, a national, interactive registry of craft beers in a fun, intuitive app package. The closest I could find was Find Craft Beer.
Find Craft Beer is a basic, no frills app that taps into The Beer Mapping Project, a site dedicated to:
“beermapping.com is a project by someone who likes knowing exactly where he is and how far he needs to go for good beer.”
I have now used Find Craft Beer numerous times to help locate interesting brew sources here in Atlanta, and though useful, it lacks the “fun” aspect that I glimpsed the night before while investigator Dan researched our situation. There is one other app that uses the Beer Mapping Project as its jump off, RedPint which appears be be trying to included a more social element to finding craft beers, but to my surprise, there seems no clear way to get the kind of hard data Dan was able to cull from his wife over the phone.
Then I remembered a troubling moment I had in San Diego a few months back where I was trying to track down a specific ale that is not bottled and is only available in a single neighborhood of San Diego. Not an easy task without calling a bunch of bars and getting a lot of surly attitude in the process. This landed me at Untappd.
Untappd is part social networking and part craft beer finder. Ultimately I found it the most fun to use. Of course anything that makes me feel like I am part of the bigger picture helps, thus the Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare ties in intrigued me.
Untappd has definite limitations, the most annoying of which is due to the fact that it is a mobile web app (a webpage that is formatted and made to feel like an app). so, whenever you use fast user switching and move away from Untappd on the iPhone and then come back to it, the page it has to reload and it reverts to the start page. (not “fun”)
Also, I think it needs more mapping and localized searching integration. You can search for beers that are “trending local” and then follow the info to the “venue” and hopefully find what I you are looking for, but I did not find this function very intuitive. If Untapped had more of a Yelp-ish integration, I think this it would be a real winner.
There is a native iPhone app that uses the Untappd API called iTappd. It is a a young offering, but perhaps in time it will grow into just the app I am dreaming of.
For now I would say that a combination of Untappd and Craft Beer Finder are the way to go.
This means that Dan and the misses have a clear shot at cornering the market with their new (unknown to them) texting beer locating service.
Beer can be serious business