Beer 

HONEST PINT: THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE PINTLEY: BEER RATING APPS

HP

There’s a [craft beer] app for that.

So you’ve been seeing a craft beer. It started out as nothing serious—just a six-pack your home brewing friend brought to your house party—but now it’s not enough; you know there’s a whole world of beers out there with heart, attitude, and fire. The sheer number of microbrews in the US leaves your liver breathless, and you have no idea where to start. What’s a novice craft lover to do?

As with many modern quandaries, the answer is: there’s an app for that.

To thin out the herd a bit, here are two that have crossed my radar recently:

Untappd is the Foursquare of beer. You can “check in” every time you tackle a new bottle, cask, or draft to earn badges, track your drinking path, and share how you found Heady Topper stocked at Eastern Standard Kitchen one magical Tuesday night. These check-ins have taken over my Twitter newsfeed, but I’d MUCH rather see them than RunKeeper updates. The app also lists nearby bars and breweries you might enjoy.

Pintley is an excellent real world connector to (free!) craft events taking place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in your own backyard. Boston’s home base has historically been Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square; other venues have included The Vault, Scholars, and Sunset Grille. If you’d like access to the latest from Backlash, Newburyport, and Element, you can sign up for their tastings notifier here. Bonus: They have a great blog!

Now for the downside …

After years of using Yelp as a place for both reviewing and reading reviews of local businesses, I noticed a curious trend: my reviews started out as one star or five star, and began to plateau over time to a three/four-star average. I started listening more to what people recommended, and stopped taking chances in where I ate and shopped. Beer rating apps seem to have a similar flat line effect, to the point that Danish brewers To Øl created Raidbeer.com—a joke website that averages any rating you enter to 3.6—and watching Beer Wars prompted fashion photographer Danno Watts to add his own tongue-in-cheek spin at shouldidrinkthisfuckingbeer.com. There’s something to be said for qualified opinions, but too many beer geeks can spoil the journey—and the average.

Also, you’re going to see the same handful of beers touted as the best. Maybe they’re being talked about due to merit, but it’s equally as likely they’re being talked about because they’re hard to get, impressive beers to say you’ve tried (the drinking equivalent to an English major saying he’s read Infinite Jest). As Matt Osgood of ReviewBrews.com puts it, “It seems to me that people use Untappd to show off the ‘whales’ they’ve had. No one checks in with a Mexican lager, even on sunny summer days, which I find amazing because I drink them all the time by the pool.” I think it’s fair to say that for every area craft fan that sniffs and swirls Hill Farmstead’s Abner DIPA, there’s another five knocking back a Harpoon IPA. And that’s perfectly all right.

The good news? Ultimately the draw of beer rating tools—and craft as a whole—lies in the spirit of exploring new styles, interacting with fellow fans, and sharing the excitement of discovery with others. The Boston beer community is all around you, and now it can fit in your pocket. Happy apping!


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One Response to HONEST PINT: THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE PINTLEY: BEER RATING APPS

  1. Vinny Vinny says:

    I think lost in the gamification and social aspects of these apps, is there actual inherent usefulness: for tracking beers. Personally I check into every beer I have on Untappd. Maybe I don’t check in to every single Boston Lager or Bud Light, but the usefulness is in knowing what I’ve tried. My Untappd stats are Total Checkins – 2360 and Distinct Beers – 1326. Holy shit. I’m not going to remember what every one of those beers tasted like; did I like it, did I hate it, have I even had it? Boom. Untappd. Oh I had it and enjoyed it? Let’s refresh my memory. Oh I had it and didn’t like it? Pass. Oh I never had it? Hello, #1327, and hey look at badge!

    If your problem is the oversharing via these apps on Twitter, then the problem isn’t the app, it’s the users.