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Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Survey of the Beer Apps

Updated!

Long ago (in internet time), Kerry Finsand and a group of friends launched Taplister, one of the first smart phone apps to make it to market. Thereafter, I more or less forgot about them. But recently I was poking around for a homebrewing app and discovered that a whole lot of new beer resources have come online. I haven't a clue if any of them are good, but here's what I discovered. I would love input by anyone who has tried these out.

Ratings Apps
This seems like the most logical type of app--after all, BeerAdvocate and RateBeer have dominated the internet-based cyberspace for some time. They don't seem to vie on an equal footing with online BA and RB, though, which is odd. (Post fodder?)
  • RateBeer. It appears that two different developers have created app versions of the website. The iPhone version was released this summer and has some bugs, but is noteworthy for failing to link to online accounts. (Much gnashing of teeth on that.) The Android version also has lots of bugs, but does appear to link to online accounts--and has the virtue of being free. 92,000 beers rated. | iPhone $1.99, Android Free
  • BeerAdvocate. Planned. Doesn't look like it's going to happen anytime soon.

Beer Guides
Some apps are trying to become online guide books for all beer. With 1600 US breweries and thousands more internationally--with tens of thousands of beers worldwide--this poses obvious difficulties. If you're willing to live with the creators' advice and the spotty descriptions of beers, these are fine. Advanced beer geeks will be frustrated, although Pintley, which is free, looks to be a decent place to start.
  • Pintley. This appears to be the most comprehensive, with 16,000 beers listed. Allows you to rate beer and take notes, then suggests beers based on your ratings. Clean interface and users love it. | iPhone, free. Android (?)
  • BeerCloud. 3,000 beers and 400 breweries rated. Has an interesting "sommelier" feature that suggests food pairings. | iPhone/Android, free
  • Beer Universe. 3,000 beers. Purports to save your ratings on beers and offer suggestions based on your ratings--but users doubt that it works. | iPhone, $.99. Android, $1.29

Location Apps
These would be the most appealing to me, but seem like the hardest to operationalize. How do you keep track of when beers come on and go off at your local pub? Taplister chose crowdsourcing, but crowds are unreliable. If one of these figures it out so they're accurate and current, I'd pay substantial bank to get it.
  • Taplister. Uses beer drinkers to report what's on tap, with obvious advantages and disadvantages. | iPhone/Android, free
  • RedPint. Apparently designed to maximize social networks and link up friends to suggest beers. | iPhone, free
  • Beerby. This is actually hard to place in a category. It's a combination Foursquare, ratings site, social networking gizmo, and game. It allows you to track your friends and see what they've been drinking. It offers "badgers" for people who have done a lot of reviewing (little pictures of badgers corresponding to the kind of ratings you've done). More for the beer-drinking social butterfly than hardcore beer geek--though there is definitely overlap between the two. | iPhone/Android, free
  • [New] Beer Mapping. The invaluable web-based site Beer Mapping doesn't have a map, but their data are used by several third-party apps, some of which I've mentioned. | iPhone/Android, prices vary.
  • [New] Find Craft Beer. Appears to be the cleanest, most straightforward translation of the Beer Mapping info, and it's only a buck. | iPhone/Android, $.99

Homebrewing Apps
These seem fairly promising, particularly for folks with iPads and iPhones. They allow you to create a digital, mobile directory of your recipes--and allow you to get info quick from their databases and the internet.
  • IBrewMaster. This looks like a fairly comprehensive app, but the rap against it is that it's slow and awkward to use and doesn't have key info regarding strike temperature and mash volumes. The designers are consistently updating it, though, and raters give it four stars. Big advantage is that it stores your recipes and has access to a huge library of recipes. Another downside is the price. | Android/iPhone, $6.99
  • HBCalc. This may be the solution to IBrewMaster's deficiencies. It's a crudely designed, but sophisticated app that pretty much only does the complex stuff like calculating strike temps, mash efficiency calculations, etc. | iPhone only, free
  • Brewzor. This app gets great reviews and has all the detail homebrewers need--and it's free. Downside? It's only on Android. | Android, free.
  • Brewpal. Some rave, some rant, but mostly, this seems to be the best app available for iPhone users. Lots of detail, but apparently a bit unwieldy to use. And it's cheap. | iPhone only, $.99.
  • [New] BeerAlchemy. This comes in two version, free and spendy. The free one is essentially just a database of your info. The spendy version seems mainly targeted at all grain brewers, but not ones with large systems (the conversions for large volumes is apparently unweildy. A big virtue is it works with Apple computers. Those who like it really like it. But the cost is daunting. | iPhone $14.99, Android (?).
  • [New] Get Hoppy. A database with info about 54 hop types and 112 yeast strain types. I didn't think it looked that useful, but it's getting decent reviews. | iPhone only, $.99
  • [New] BJCP app. I'll add this because a lot of people seem to like the BJCP guidelines. I would personally caution anyone who doesn't want to use it as a beer evaluation tool from getting it. | iPhone/Android, free.
By all means, weigh in if I missed a good one or if you have comments on any of these.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

the BJCP App.

KeAloha said...

The BJCP app is very awesome. Also, Untappd is the latest hotness. It is a webapp that is essentially Foursquare for beer only.

Jeff Alworth said...

Keep 'em comin'. I'll update the post with suggestions.

Though I will skip the BJCP app--which I looked at. I have sort of a philosophical problem with the way BJCP classes and describes beer, and I don't want to participate in propagating their work. Folks can seek it out if they wish.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the list, there are a couple of good ones on there that I hadn't heard of before. BeerAlchemy is another very good iPhone/iPad brewers app.

Jason said...

I almost did a post a few weeks ago regarding Taplister. My intent was to express frustration about it's lack of use by local craft beer bars. In doing my research for the post, I went through every single one of the bars listed in Portland on Taplister and came to find out that the majority of the recognized beer geek establishments (Belmont Station, Saraveza, Bailey's, Hop and Vine etc....) had rather up to date taplistings. It was a surprising high number (more than 10).

I think more and more Taplister has gotten away from crowdsourcing. It seems to me that the app works best when updated by the pub owners/managers. Relying on beer drinkers to maintain the listings does not seem sustainable to me.

I also think Taplister needs to figure out a way to highlight the bars that do update their taplists regularly. It is frustrating searching through all of the other bars that have no updated taps to find ones that might be up to date.

As for Untappd - I am not a fan of this one. I have "unfollowed" a few people on Twitter who have started using it and linked it to Twitter. I do not need to know every single time you open a beer. Wow, you just cracked a Full Sail Amber at home? Awesome.

Richard Miller said...

Another vote for BeerAlchemy, which not only works on the iPhone, but is one of the few Mac-compatible apps out there.

dr wort said...

Great Jeff... WHy would ya want to link to the National Standards of beer definitions and judging standards? Its like our country... Great idea, but has some flaws. Don't try and ignore the obvious. You're like the single putz standing in front of the Ocean screaming "save all the fish in the sea."

Sorry.. I have nothing really constructive to add... or did I?

THOMAS 'Tom' CIZAUSKAS said...

Jeff, Beermapping has a list of apps using its API at http://beermapping.com/apps/

Chris C. said...

I use Beer Ratings Guide from Nirvino. I think it was $3. It is a good guide to track your own ratings and wants and they seem to have a good size database but I don't trust their "flavors" or "ratings" all that much.

Angelo De Ieso II said...

I agree with K-man. The BJCP app is quite useful and I find myself referring to it all the time while thinking of Bill Schneller.

Jeff Alworth said...

Doc, KeAloha, and Angelo, I stick by my guns--BJCP has fatal flaws as a general-use app. It has perhaps not quite fatal flaws as a guide for beer judges--which, straightforwardly enough, is what it was designed for. (It's right there in the title.)

But you have given me provocation to post more fully on the topic.

@beermont said...

Brew Pal is invaluable to me. I use it constantly to play with recipes. It's so easy to tweak ingredients and get immediate feedback on the expected outcome. Very straightforward and easy to use. I love this app.

Jake said...

Find Craft Beer, which uses the Beermapping information and is 99 cents for the iPhone.

Brewmance said...

I haven't found one useful Android app yet regarding beer. I see Taplisters potential.. but actually seeing beers updated, or even at all in many of the locations is non-existent. Too bad really. Perhaps the BA app will be a little more useful if it is ever released.

dr wort said...

I agree, there are flaws with the BJCP, but it's the only game we have to follow. Maybe you should come up with a better (more precise list) of beer descriptions and profiles. That would be constructive. BTW, do you have your BJCP certificate? ;-)

beeraroundtown said...

Looking forward to the 33 Beers app... well at least someday when I have a phone that can run apps.

dr wort said...

Yea! The 33 Beer App!!! I want pretty snowflakes on my cell phone too! It is the holiday season! :-0

Shawn said...

If anyone has a good idea for a beer app, let me know. I'm an iPhone/iPad developer and I'm always looking for a cool, fun side project. Hit me up at shawn at gmail dot com

Devon B said...

Here is another vote for Beer Alchemy. The iPhone app and the corresponding Mac desktop app are fantastic. Also, by the same developer who makes Beer Alchemy is the Brew Math app for iPhone. Full of common formulas for making SG corrections, ect. Extremely useful.

Jeff Alworth said...

Excellent comments, folks. I'll update this and bump it back up to the top of the blog--possibly by this evening. Thanks for the input--

Shan said...

Shannon from Pintley here...

To clarify, I'm building the Android app right now, for release early next year.

Jack R. said...

Taplister would be very useful if brewpubs/taproom staff kept it up to date.

The lack of currency of taplister suggest (a.) bar managers are more right brain foodies than tech savy and/or (b.) craft beer drinker seek convivial/sociable atmosphere over the most unique/exotic beer selection.

Ed said...

Here are some of mine. All on iphone.

Beer Guides:
Find Craft Beer (mentioned previously)- Recently saved my life in Budweiser laden Walt Disney World. Who knew that Disney had a brewpub on property?

Beer Styles:
Belgian Beer App- If you like Belgians, there is some interesting info here. (.99)

Homebrewing Apps:
Get Hoppy- Directory of hop types and suitable replacements (.99)

BeerandBreweryTerms- A glossary of beer terms. Handy quick reference but not much more than that. (.99)

Anonymous said...

I love iBrewmaster...it's actually very easy to use and I find it pretty intuitive. It is missing some of the advanced mash calculations, but I think it makes up for that in other features. I don't find it all that pricey, especially since it's cheaper than a good beer and can be used over and over again. Doesn't seem to be slow at all on my device. I love it!

melani said...

Great review and list. Learned some new ones too.

http://taphunter.com might be of interest to you too.

Chuck Northrop said...

BeerKeep for Android.

You can add tasting events/sessions, track personal tastings and keep notes. You can also rate beers on a 5pt. scale and it has a massive list of breweries. Brewery not listed? Add it! When you select a particular brewery you get a list of their current brews with star ratings from other users.

4.5 out of 5 stars

matt anderson said...

I use Remembeer. It is a simple beer list app for Android that helps you keep track of beers along with brewery, style, abv and notes/rating. remembeer.info

A WebOS version is supposed to be out soon, and I heard a mobile site for iPhone / Windows phones is coming, along with crowd-sourcing features.

Lo Chef Anarchico said...

Thanks for the putting together a nice list! In the "ratings" category there is Beer Etc for the iPhone: big DB, works offline, allows notes, personalizes ratings Netflix-style.

Kerry Finsand said...

@ Jason

Crowd Sourcing individuals to update tap lists is a difficult task that is why we are now working more with bar owners to update their tap lists as you found out most of the popular beer bars are regularly updating Taplister. If you want your bar to use Taplister tell them about it or have them email team(at)taplister.com

I agree with you that there are too many bars listed on Taplister that are inactive. It is in the works to highlight bars that regularly update tap lists.

Kerry
- Taplister

Anonymous said...

The Beer Expert for Android is worthy as well, it has the largest database out there, including local brewpubs, etc.

Anonymous said...

great list, I would add Beer Talk to the homebrew list

Brian said...

If you like to update again, I'd like to introduce Brewski Me. Please check us out at www.brewski.me

Derek said...

I think more and more Taplister has gotten away from crowdsourcing.
Janine Zargar | Moshen Zargar | AKZ management

Anonymous said...

Jeff - checkout Findmytap!

Anonymous said...

You covered some great ones here! I haven't heard of the BJCP app before, I'll have to check it out. I found a huge list of iphone beer apps on one brewery's blog and its pretty thorough so take a look! http://frankenmuthbrewery.com/blog/brewery/iphone-beer-app-awards/

joe tucker said...

We're tardy, yes, but our RateBeer apps are popping up all over. Some of the strongest now are BeerBuddy for iPhone and the RateBeer branded app for Android. We also have Nokia and Windows 7 apps available. Just hit our front door.

Anonymous said...

Pintely is not comprehensive and slow to add new listings to the database. If you are used to BA or RB you will be greatly disappointed with the db. Beers I submitted 18 months ago are still not added. Unresponsive developers.

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