There is no denying the growing popularity of craft beer in America and the growing numbers of craft brewers expanding the market to meet that demand. Last year alone there were 2,483 craft breweries/and brewpubs in America, with 409 breweries/brewpubs opened. If statistics are to be believed, this year should see this type of growth continue.
For those of us who enjoy craft beer we’re enjoying the golden age of American brewing, and it’s both a blessing and a curse. How do we keep track of all the delicious beer pouring in to the marketplace? How do we know what to drink? How do we know what’s available in our area? Well, the simple and overused answer is there’s an app for that. But wading through the thousands of beer related apps in both the iOS app store and the Google Play store can be a daunting task. Who wants to spend good money on a crappy app that was thrown together just to profit from the craft beer craze (and there are a lot of these). So I’ve done a bit of the leg work for you and offer my favorite most useful and best of all free craft beer-related apps.
Platform: iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows phone
One of my favorite beer apps, Untappd provides a fantastic way for keeping track of what beers you’ve consumed. It provides a convenient place to take notes on the beers you’ve drank and it allows you to check into (using Foursquare) the pubs and breweries where you’re buying your beer. Untappd is also a social network allowing you to connect with your friends and drinking buddies and share your thoughts about the beers you’re drinking. Like many other social networks it also awards badges and makes recommendations for beers based on those you and your friends have been drinking. You can also share your Untappd status with Facebook and Twitter so you can make all your friends jealous when you sit down to that pint of Pliny the Younger.
Platform: iOS only (Android coming Q1 2014)
Price: Free (as of this writing)
A relative newcomer to the app store (released Nov. 2013), Brewery Passport is a fantastic way to find local craft beer near your current location. Clicking "Find Breweries Nearby" brings up a list of breweries within a 50 mile radius of your current location. You can also search on a map or by specific location. The app allows you to keep track of your visits, take notes on the beers drank, and rate the brewery. It keeps all of this information in your personal brewery passport that you can revisit at a later date or share with friends on Facebook or Twitter. While those features are interesting, I use it primarily as a tool to find local craft beer in unfamiliar areas or to plan and chart out brewery visits when touring a new city.
Platform: iOS, Android
TapHunter is a fantastically useful app that allows you to look up your favorite beers and find out who has them on tap locally or, if they're available in bottles, where you might pick up a bottle. Even more helpful, the app also tells you what your favorite bar or brewery currently has on tap. If your sitting at the bar trying to decide what beer to drink the app also offers brief descriptions and user ratings. You can save your own reviews and thoughts about the bar or brewery.
Platform: iOS, Android, Blackberry, Kindle, ePub
Want to know more about what you're drinking? Check out the BJCP styles app. The BJCP was establish to certify and train beer judges. BJCPStyles allows you to quickly look up the specifics of any BJCP style including, aroma appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, ingredients, the beer's history and its specific statistics (OG, FG, IBU, SRM and ABV). While styles are being challenged by many American craft brewers, they are still an important baseline and marker of a style's attributes, and more importantly its historical pedigree. These style guidelines are a great introduction to beer that should be required knowledge for anyone exploring craft beer.
Platform: all platforms
Price: Free or Premium ($45.00 per year)
Evernote is probably the best and most comprehensive notebook app. It allows you to collect notes in a variety of formats from simple text notes to images, photos, audio, video and voice memos, and it synchronizes your files incredibly well with your phone, computer, and tablet. I use Evernote for many of my writing projects, including this blog. In Evernote I can collect my thoughts, draft reviews and blog posts, and attach photos (labels, pints, menus and photos of the breweries I've visited and people I've talked to) and videos to the notes. The notes can even be tagged with labels and GPS locations, giving you endless ways to organize your notes. When it comes time to write, I sit at my computer or laptop and my images, videos and notes I've take in the field are there and ready to be compiled into a post. These along with the search-ability and OCR features makes Evernote the perfect tool for keeping track of your craft beer habits.
If you're one of those people trying to limit your tech time, there is a solution for that too. Admittedly a bit old fashioned, it's called a notebook, and to be frank, it's what I use most often. My favorite is the Moleskine classic notebook (the company also makes a beer specific journal). This hard cover, pocketable notebook is perfect for jotting down notes, thoughts, reviews, lists of favorite beers, etc. In a digital world there is something satisfying about going analog. Sitting down with a beer and pencil and paper is relaxing and often thought provoking. The world slows down, my drinking pace slows, and I have the opportunity to really enjoy and think about the beer in my glass as distractions melt away.