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Friday, June 12, 2009

Beer Signal App is Live

Rewind six months. It's December, and we we're in the midst of that amazing snowstorm. Despite the city's paralysis, we manage to find a bus downtwon downtown so Sally and I can pick up twin iPhones--our gifts to each other for the holiday. Even before we were back home, I was looking for apps. It didn't occur to me until a few days later--wouldn't it be cool if there were an app that updated me on which beers were currently pouring at area pubs? I reported on an early version of this called Draftlist, but yesterday a far more sophisticate app came on line: Beer Signal.

Kerry Finsand and the guys who launched Taplister are behind the app, and it works more or less the same as that site. I just downloaded it yesterday and I haven't screwed around with it much, but the functionality looks fantastic. Here's how Finsand and Co. describe it:
Beer Signal is an iPhone app that helps you bring your friends together to enjoy some good beer at your favorite establishments around town. Powered by, the app leverages the power of social networks like Twitter and Shizzow, and it simplifies the task of inviting the friends of your choice to join you at your current location, or to plan to meet somewhere in the future. By using the dynamic database of local pubs and watering holes, you can find who serves your favorite craft beers, or who has the latest seasonal brews on tap. You can also post a tweet telling your friends what you are drinking, or informing the database that a beer is no longer on tap at a particular location.
It's free, so you should definitely download it if you have an iPhone. (To those of you who don't live in Portland: sorry. This version is only available for our fair city, though I assume they plan to expand in the future.) Let the informed tippling begin!

Update. In comments below, Patrick observes, "I tried Bailey's, which keeps an updated tap lists on their website, and the results did not correspond well at all."

I should have mentioned more about the function when I posted this item. It's truly an experiment in 21st Century connectivity and neural-networking. No one person keeps this updated (a task that would be nearly impossible). Rather, it depends on inputs from two main sources--Twitter and users. The designers have created a bot that updates the site when people or pubs use Twitter. (You have to use a specific nomenclature so the bot can find the updates: "drinking Pilsner Urquell at Green Dragon #ontappdx.") And now, with the app, you can instantly update taplists while you're drinking in a pub. The more people who use it and participate in keeping it updated, the more it will function properly. I've no doubt that the early weeks will be rocky, but I'm prepared to do my bit and keep it updated when I hit the pubs.


  1. I love the concept, but a quick test reveals pretty lousy performance. I tried Bailey's, which keeps an updated tap lists on their website, and the results did not correspond well at all. Terrible in fact.

    Hopefully this will improve soon.

  2. I'd love to see this come to the Blackberry App World for us who are stuck on Verizon's network.

  3. I wonder what people are so fascinated with beer. To me it just is a poison. That is the science of it as well. I am all for good times without any harmful substances. Drunk driving accidents are preventable. We have Reddrox as the ultimate hydration and wellness beverage, its in the NFL now and going to be biggest beverage ever, bigger than RedBull, Gatorade. Free trial on website. Thanks.

  4. Patrick,
    I dont even have an iphone so I cant check the app. I do know since I work on Taplister that the draft list for Baileys is mostly based on their own Twitter account! One that they update as soon as a beer blows and a new one goes on. I bet they dont update the website as often as that and that Taplister is probably even more accurate.
    Actually Baileys is the perfect model for how a beer bar can keep a perfectly accurate tap list at all times. They are doing a great job with their twitter updates.

    Also Jeff you didnt even mention the pubcams!

  5. Taplister & Beer Signal were created by beer fans for beer fans. Kevin, Scott, Ken & I are working diligently to make the most comprehensive tap list resource in Portland. However we need your help. To make these services more useful we need everyone to update what beers are on and off tap and what venues. Look for a lot of changes in the next few weeks before our official launch of July 6th 2009. Ezra also brought up a good point that we are installing pubcams (EastBurn is the first) that displays the live tap list of a particular venue. If you are interesting in helping out please connect with me on twitter @kfinsand. We need a graphics person and a web developer. Cheers

  6. Ooops, didn't meant to sound too negative. I just meant to say that if you use it right away and go looking for a beer on the list, you might be left thirsty (well, I am sure you'll find a good sub). I think it will take a little time to converge to a pretty accurate current list. I love it and I am sure it will get much better very quickly. Thanks to all you folks who did the work and are giving it out free - you are my heros.

    BTW, Bailey's seems to keep a pretty accurate up to the minute list on its website, as well as diligent tweets. Perhaps, though, the tweet language is not in the appropriate ontap lingo.

  7. @Patrick, actually, Bailey's is something of our poster child for excellent use of the #ontappdx hashtag. But, neither the bot/parser nor any twitterer is perfect. We really are depending on the community to help correct & improve the data. So, if you're at a bar and something has gone off tap, click the button on the iPhone app or the website to let everyone know. Or if you're drinking something that's not listed, send a tweet about it!

    And, thank you to everyone trying it out and participating in the community!

  8. Sorry about the mix up. I'm @gizmopunk, and I created Taplister with Kerry, Kevin, Ken, Ezra and Joe (a big thanks to them btw). The issue were the Bailey's Taproom tap list was inaccurate was my fault. In working on many tap list's I somehow accidentally duplicated Bailey's Taproom as Belmont Station, so Bailey's tap list for a couple days was unfortunately Belmont Station and Bailey's Taproom combined (a dream come true in itself maybe haha). Anyway it's all cleared up and Geoff of Bailey's is our Poster Child again. His venue's participation and use of #ontappdx is "Golden" as well as his establishment.

    Matthew (BlackBerry owner) if you view from a smart phone (try using the "Skyfire" browser if possible) you should get a lot of the same functionality as with the iPhone's Beer Signal app. If you're experiencing any issues give us a shout at We want this to work for everyone.

    If you visit the beer and bar info right now as of 6/12/09 at 9pm there are over 50 venues and 400 beers accurately listed and up to date. It's all coming from #ontappdx participants, they're just tweeting what's on tap, for e.g. "drinking New Belgium La Folie at Saraveza #ontappdx" and Bam! That gets updated to and the Beer Signal iPhone app.

    "If you tweet it they will come." (sorry lol, I was at Beer and Blog @pdxgreendragon today some I'm uber nerdy right now)

    You can also ask where a beer is located on tap around town by tweeting something like "@ontappdx where New Belgium La Folie?". The bot will get back to you shortly, and you can even do this from a regular cell phone theoretically, but I personally haven't tried it yet.

    When ever you're tweeting with #ontappdx/@ontappdx, below are a few steps to remember. Most of which have to do with common grammar ethics but we've lost all grammar ethics tweeting and texting probably, I know I have. So here's the reminder.

    1. Remember to ONLY "Camel Case" (capitalize the first letter of) the name of a "Beer".

    2. Before the name of a venue make sure there is an "at" or an "@", at Bailey's Taproom etc.

    3. If you're stating a question don't forget the "?".

    4. If you're listing a beer don't forget the hashtag "#ontappdx" at the end of your tweet.

    If you don't have an iPhone or a BlackBerry don't worry you can still use Twitter and the @ontappdx bot and #ontappdx hashtag, just Google "how to use twitter with a cell phone?". Sorry for the crazy long comment everyone, Cheers Jeff!

  9. I'm sure I'll hear crap about this.....

    The Doctor doesn't get it, maybe we're just getting to old for some of these redundant toys. We have Text messaging, Twitter and iPhones that allow us to look up a host of crap that really is not that necessary, but we also have computers and the internet. Do we really need all this crap?

    Lets say the Doctor was a total dinosaur and couldn't look up a tap list of his cell phone web connection, iphone, twitter, internet or the like.... Would it be such a crisis? I could pick up a telephone (anybody remember those?) and call a pub or brewery and just ask what's on tap. Is that so hard? Maybe, I could even just walk into a pub and be surprised! Would that be a crime or do we all need such instant gratification?

    In the time someone could access a tap list via any source... A person cpuld pick up a telephone and call the place of business or look it up on the internet.

    While we're on the subject... Can someone explain the reason for test messaging? I have no problem calling someone and leaving a verbal message! Then, we acquired cell phones... OK, they can be useful, but can't I call someone and leave a verbal message on a cell phone faster than sitting there and texting a message? By the time I type out a message, a could have spoke with that person and moved on to something new or just waited for a verbal reply.

    Can someone tell me a rational reason for this stuff? ;-}

  10. Doc,

    Couldn't the same be said for Blogs?

    I mean, what happened to the good old days of anonymous curmudgeons sitting next to you at the bar? A mysterious persona in a black trench coat and hiding their face behind a big brimmed hat, spouting beer rhetoric and only leaving behind a symbol of ;-} drawn onto a bar napkin as their mark?

    Now they just sit behind the computer..... guess I'm just a total dinosaur.

  11. DW: sometimes other people are interested in things you're not. Periodically, repeating this little mantra might save you a lot of grief. You're sweet--you have your telephone. I'm sweet--I've got my Beer Signal. (Of course, your joy in life is Andy Rooney-like commentary ["you know what I hate ...?"], and I wouldn't dream of depriving you of that. )

  12. i love how 'prolitariat' is spelled wrong on the lead image.

  13. @DA - "A mysterious persona in a black trench coat and hiding their face behind a big brimmed hat, spouting beer rhetoric and only leaving behind a symbol of ;-} drawn onto a bar napkin as their mark?"

    I love it! You see the persona that we've created! I guess others have never read a mystery book or Theater Critic!! That's Dr Wort....!

    I see Blogs as place to vent whatever you want, as long as you're not talking about mass murder.

    I see Dr Wort as an old fashion Newspaper Food & Theater critic. Probably something Portland never had... obviously no one could take the criticism?!

    Dr Wort (the collective) all pretty much grew up in the Bay Area, we were all used to snarky and sharp honest Newspaper columnist like "Herb Cain" or the many sharp to nasty San Francisco food, movie and theater critics. It was a great entertainment to read those columns and try and read between the double entendres, as well as, sharp stabbing critiques.

    Like the Food Critic in the Disney movie Ratatouille, there was a mystery and darkness that was alluring. It's a shame some people can't relate to such sociological commentary and historical figures.

    Thanks for allowing my comentary... Although, I already have the freedom to say what we want. Others have the freedom to read or just pass over the Doctors words... ;-}

  14. Hey doc, ever tried calling the Horse Brass to see whats on tap, haha. Taplister would be the Google of recent beers on tap if people like you learned how to use tech to solve your own issues with tech, a phone is still futuristic. If your going to get all purist on us, I'd say you should be a single celled organism that never evolves, jkjk.

  15. last night beer signal quit working while at the pub. today it's still not working. and taplister changed its look and doesn't seem to work either.
    Sep 12, 2012