A Survey of the Beer Apps
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.
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.
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
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
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.