Given that both artisanal brews and smartphones are a hit with younger generations, you’d expect some overlap between the two, and indeed, there are dozens of craft beer apps. Frankly, though, only a few of them are any good. Craft beer is a very decentralized movement, so getting up-to-date data about beers and breweries can be quite difficult. That said, some apps have pulled it off pretty well, and you may find a few of them quite useful.
This is the biggest, and arguably best, craft beer app out there. Think of it as Facebook meets Yelp, for beer: it has lots of reviews, ratings, and social tools. Your local breweries and pubs are likely to be listed, and if you’re lucky, they’ll update their beer lists with some regularity. You can find ratings for just about any beer in existence, though typing works way better than the barcode scanner.
Untappd lets you check in, see what your friends have been up to, see special events, see trending beers and breweries, track the beer you’ve tried, and even discover new beers based on your past beer ratings. Because it does so many things, though, it does seem a bit cluttered. You’ll have to do some exploring to figure out all its functions.
Barly is a minimalistic, nicely-designed app that does a few things very well: it helps you find local bars, see what’s on tap, and figure out which beers you would be most likely to enjoy. Perhaps its best feature is that it lets you customize your personal beer palate and rate beers you’ve tried; it then helps you find new beers based on what it knows about your taste. It has good coverage of local craft beer bars, drawing both on outside databases and user-submitted tap lists. Where it really shines, though, is at bars with huge tap lists: instead of looking through the whole menu, just pull up Barly and see which beers it recommends for you.
3. Craft Check
If you aren’t interested in the politics of craft beer, you probably don’t need this app, but if supporting an underdog movement makes the brew taste better to you, you’ll want to check out Craft Check.
Why? Some craft beer labels are actually owned by brewing giants like Anheuser-Busch and Miller (Blue Moon, Goose Island, Elysian, and Ballast Point, to name just a few). With this app you can enter a beer or a brewery (or scan a barcode), and immediately get a yea or nay on whether it is an independent brewery or a big-beer brand.
Usually, apps that only do one, semi-useful task are just wasting phone space on something you could do in a browser. Craft Check is an exception for a few reasons:
- It’s faster. Finding out if a beer is craft isn’t always just one click away on Google, but this app delivers results in seconds.
- The barcode scanner is, for some reason, much better than ones I’ve had on my phone previously – it can read a barcode from almost any angle, and get you an accurate result in almost no time.
- If I have it, I’m way more likely to check out beers than I would be otherwise. I recently came across a Belgian beer brand that turned out to be owned by Sapporo, which I hadn’t previously had a clue about.
The acronym stands for “Beer Judge Certification Program,” and if the title sounds academic, it’s giving you the right idea. This app has one purpose: to tell you all about every kind of beer that officially exists. Obviously, Google would be a fine substitute, and there are webpages for this as well, but if you’re truly a beer geek and want a ready guide at all times, BJCP has you covered. The interface is fairly uninspired, but it’s not trying to win design awards.
5. Virtual Beer/iBeer
Exactly what it sounds like. An app that makes your phone look like it’s a glass of beer. It’s weirdly fun.
Conclusion: some apps aren’t worth your time
Let’s be honest, no matter how much you like craft beer, you’re unlikely to need more than an app or two on the topic. The market pretty much reflects this. There are a few big apps that have done fairly well, and the rest don’t have enough users or listings to be useful. Untappd and Barly are both solid choices, and Craft Check is handy to have around, but having tried most of the other beer apps out there, I wouldn’t choose to keep any others on my phone.
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