By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In the wondrous age we live in, it seems as though technology can’t get any better. Then the new-and-improved smartphone model that will call your mom and email your boss at the same time hits store shelves. As you know, we can use our phones to surf the web, solve crossword puzzles and check in all of the beer that you drink to earn badges. But you can also get assistance with developing your homebrew.
There is a vast array of apps that pop up with just a simple search for “brewing” in whatever app store you have. Some — not all — are helpful for making beer and can be used throughout the entire process. Naturally, free is the best price when it comes to acquiring anything, but you also get what you pay for. Some of the no-cost apps may not have features you’re looking for. Some of the free apps for Android products include Biermacht, Brewing Assistant, Brewing Calculator, Brew Timer, and Wort Homebrew Calculator.
Biermacht, Brewing Assistant and Wort Homebrew Calculator are all full-service brewing apps. You can use them to build recipes, add and edit ingredients, and even plan brew days in advance so that your phone will remind you when it’s time to brew (not that you really need to be reminded about something you’re looking forward to, anyway). The best way to decide which app will work for you is to install and play with each to figure out what suits your brewing habits.
The other two apps work better as a tool for your brew day if you already have brewing software or just a recipe on paper. Brewing Calculator is exactly that — you can calculate everything from alcohol content and IBUs to even how much sugar is needed to bottle condition a beer. The app is a quick and easy way to calculate all the little equations that may get a little fuzzy after you’ve had a few of those tasty homebrews. Brew Timer allows you to program in all of your different beers’ hop schedules and save them for later use. You create an “event” and set the minutes once you’ve entered all of the information and start the timer. Basically, this app replaces the kitchen timer or the need to constantly watch the clock so that you don’t miss an addition.
In the land of the free brewing apps, those mentioned will work for most applications. Of course, you can purchase options with more bells and whistles. BeerSmith 2 is a popular option. It works in conjunction with your desktop, allowing you to keep track of your brewing process, share and compare recipes with other users, get assistance or inspiration through a podcast and much more. The price for both Mac and PC is $27.95.
Apps aren’t just for making beer — there are plenty that exist for entertainment. Untappd is designed as a social network for beer drinkers. You can rate the beer you’re consuming, list where you’re drinking it and even chat with friends about the beers they’re trying. This app also keeps track of the beers you check in, so if you can’t remember whether you like a brew you can look up your rating from the past. There are also brewing games like Fiz: The Brewery Management Game where players build their own brewery from the garage up, SimCity-style.
Have fun exploring the world of beer apps where one thing is certain: as technology improves there will likely be more ways to improve our batches of homebrew in the future.
Bell Hop Porter [AG]
Bell Hop Porter [Extract]
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Six years ago the craft beer world was considerably different than it is today. Six years ago technology was considerably different than it is today. Both were less sophisticated, still children with unexplored potential.
That's when Kerry Finsand had the idea to put technology to work to create a product that would help craft beer drinkers find specific beers on tap. As a craft beer consumer himself, he was tired of calling places or finding outdated information on websites and felt he could create something that would make his life and the lives of other craft beer consumers easier.
During that time he had been a regular attendee at Beer and Blog events at the Green Dragon. They were geared toward the technology crowd, and Kerry found three like-minded individuals who were interested in working on something he describes as "a fun side thing." With shared interests of craft beer and technology, Kerry, Ken Baer, Kevin Scaldeferri and Scott Wray created Taplister. Less than a year later their product, one that allowed consumers to both look up beers and submit beers into the searchable database, was ready to be launched. Kerry drew upon his experience working at Groupon and similar companies marketing their products to implement marketing for Taplister. A kickoff party was held at EastBurn, Taplister's first account, followed by a significant presence at that year's Oregon Brewers Festival. They secured a booth at the festival, hiring friends who were paid in beer tokens, to get the word out about what Taplister was and why it should appeal to the craft beer community. Following the festival, they brought on a group of Taplister ambassadors to visit establishments and ensure tap lists were up to date.
Fast forward two years and Taplister, now far more than the side project it had started as, was expanding to Seattle and beyond. This was also a time of restructuring for the group of four that had started the company.
Scott and Kevin were the first to leave Taplister and not long after that Kerry became sole owner when he bought out Ken. With the full weight of the company on his shoulders Kerry kicked Taplister into high gear, raising $100,000 to help fund the young company. That success was followed by acceptance into local business accelerator Upstart Labs, a now-closed entity that focused on early-stage development of technology companies. That opportunity provided Kerry with hands-on mentorship and business experience to draw upon. The initial money raised was then supplemented by Kerry's efforts that raised an additional $150,000, the majority of which went toward developing the technology to support his vision of Taplister. With things getting considerably more serious, Kerry left his full-time position to focus on Taplister.
Taplister founder Kerry Finsand kicked the business into high gear after becoming sole owner, but eventually found he needed a team with the knowledge to complement his. The search for help grew frustrating and Taplister actually shut down for a period of time. It’s now been revived with Finsand taking on the role of consultant. Photo courtesy of Taplister
Kerry eventually found that he needed a team of individuals who had skillsets to complement his. He worked with multiple people, but had difficulty finding those with the right mix of skills and passion. A bit frustrated and needing a break from devoting all of his time to the company, Kerry made the decision to shut down Taplister in the summer of 2014. The announcement brought forth multiple people who wanted to help out or even buy Taplister in order to keep it around. The unexpected positive response was heartening and prompted Kerry to reconsider the future of the company. It was important to him that Taplister remain a Portland-owned business, therefore he wanted to find someone who was more skilled in running the business side of the company he had created.
Enter Mark Meyer, a man who grew and ran a company for 22 years before selling it. His background was in computers, and after he sold his company he began working with the beer industry on the equipment and software side of things. He found the industry to be full of "nice, fun people," so when the Taplister shutdown was announced he was quick to contact Kerry. Not long after that, Mark purchased Taplister with Kerry remaining involved as a consultant. Then it was time for Mark to get down to business to figure out how to resurrect and improve Taplister.
The first step was to rebuild the entire platform, retaining the same functionality but improving its performance and adding new features. Beyond that, Mark focused on getting feedback from customers. Mark is proud to hear people say, "You give really, really good service," and it's something that is of the utmost importance for him to continue. He knows that listening to potential customer feedback is key improving and expanding Taplister.
The world in which Taplister exists faces increasing competition all the time, so finding the right niche, doing a superior job of filling that niche and working with customers to help them understand the power the platform provides when it's fully utilized is key to both customer and consumer satisfaction. Customers, like EastBurn, have four levels of engagement to choose from that range from the most basic, free listing of their establishment and tap list (The Six Pack) to a full package of capabilities (The Keg), which includes digital beer boards on-site, pushing information to social media accounts and even transferring digital beer listings into easily printed, hardcopy menus. Keeping tap lists up to date benefits Taplister's customers by allowing craft beer drinkers to find locations that have beers they are looking for, a win-win for both parties.
It has now been a year since Mark took the reins at Taplister. He's pleased with what has been accomplished to date, but not ready to rest on his laurels. For the last year, he's primarily focused on educating customers and being responsive to their needs. As he moves into the second year with Taplister, he'll take a closer look at the craft beer drinker side of the equation. There will continue to be challenges — figuring out how to better manage the listing of collaboration beers, keeping up with the new beers that craft brewers seem to be constantly be rolling out and finding ways to use the vast amount of analytical data they’ve amassed. But as a veteran businessman, Mark is excited by the challenges and looks forward to the future of Taplister.
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Two boys from North Carolina eased their truck up alongside John’s Market in Multnomah Village on a rainy day last October for one of three Portland stops on what has to be the greatest beer run in history. And they’re doing it for you.
While a ponytailed Stephen Pond was rattling and scanning bottles on the store shelves and downloading the information onto a laptop, George Taylor explained they were creating an app that will “evaluate beer based on scientific data rather than subjective adjectives.”
Beer Census 2014 was the collection phase of the latest project from Next Glass, which came about when Taylor’s father and brother got some bad advice from a sommelier. They figured there had to be a better way to pick wine than knowing if it was oaky, earthy or citrusy.
Taylor said they decided to run first wine, now beer, through a scientific investigation evaluation. Similar to what happens on the television show, “CSI,” a small sample of “evidence” is put into a mass spectrometer. The machine “spins the sample so fast it separates everything — proteins, sugars, carbs, alcohol content, calories, everything,” Taylor said.
That was the easy part. What was harder was getting the bottles for testing. Unlike most wines, many craft beers are not distributed nationally, and having them shipped cross country can be expensive or legally prohibited.
So the boys hit the road, lead-footing it from the Northeast, through Middle America to the West Coast.
In Oregon and Washington they bought nearly 2,000 bottles, pushing closer to their goal of 40,000 beers. And they purchased “one of everything ever made — seasonals, those crazy one-offs.” Taylor explained, “What’s cool, if they don’t ever make it again, I can put you onto something almost identical that is being made.”
Last October’s rains were dried up by a long, hot summer and now September is again easing toward the kind of weather an Oregonian can live with. Meanwhile, those boys from Carolina have been computer crunching the info gathered on their epic beer run. So, what do you get for all those miles, all that beer and all that digitalizing?
To find out, I downloaded the Next Glass app to my iPad, entered account information and worked my way through the tabs.
The Taste Profile tab rates beers on a 100 point scale, but also tells you the alcohol and calorie content of your favorite beer. The Breakside Country Blonde, for instance, comes at 7.5 percent ABV and 225 calories. Next Glass said it is 90 points on a “My Favorites” scale.
The Recommendations tab works like a Cicerone, suggesting beers you might like. Clicking on the Filter tab narrows your search to just beer. You can also refine your hunt to a particular beer style; though the app does not define styles.
The Search feature can help adventurous beer lovers find many, but not all beers. I easily found the offerings from Portland-based breweries, as I did larger craft brewers. But smaller breweries didn’t make the app. For instance, in Central Oregon, Deschutes made the app but Three Creeks and RiverBend didn’t. In Southern Oregon, I checked for six breweries, including Standing Stone and Caldera, and didn’t find them. In the Gorge, Logsdon made the list as did Full Sail, but pFriem didn’t.
The Snap feature is the most fun. To test it I hauled my iPad to a nearby New Seasons and input images of labels and bar codes. The app rates those beers based on my taste profile and should recommend alternatives. The results were mixed. Next Glass recognized the Rogue Dead Guy I liked and gave me a rating. But when I snapped a Pelican label it merely brought up a listing of other Pelican beers without ratings. In neither case did the app offer alternatives to those beers. And that is a problem. The most interesting challenge and potential for Next Glass is to allow a user to go to a place like Portland’s Belmont Station, take a picture of a strange beer label and then find out if the app compares it to something you like and tells you where to buy it.
To find out if Next Glass has plans to upgrade, I emailed Emma Johnson, Next Glass user happiness specialist, and asked about adding a match feature along with the GPS locator Pond and Taylor described to me last year. Johnson replied: “Next Glass does have a Glass Match feature available, but we've removed it for the time being for some revamping! It'll be back and better than ever soon. We're also working on another new feature — filtering by geographic proximity. As we perfect these features you'll be able to see bottles that you like that are available in your area!”
Apps are like beer, there’s probably going to be more than one you’ll like. Next Glass has potential but has some catching up to do. Untappd and Pintley are better at social networking for beer drinkers. BeerCloud offers a beer and food pairing service. Find Craft Beer has a mapping service that directs you to a shop carrying the beer you are hunting for.
Like beer, you probably have a favorite app. Just make sure you don’t ignore the newcomers. Each has the potential to enrich your experience.
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Beer apps have come a long way since the days of iBeer (you remember: “drink beer” on your phone). Today’s apps include versatile, useful tools: everything from beer tour itinerary builders and brewing calculators to flavor guides and assistance with ordering a beer in multiple languages. There’s even a brewery game. Here are some must-haves for your device.
Note: Generally apps are available for phones and tablets, but your mileage may vary. Apps were evaluated on an iPhone 5s running iOS 8.4.1.
Search, rate, discuss
iOS and Android
Combines beer news, online discussion forums, beer style profiles, events and user ratings/reviews. A free account is required for this reference app from the folks behind BeerAdvocate magazine. Many features could be more robust, such as narrowing down events by location and date. Styles are brief but provide a solid, non-technical overview, followed by most popular beers in that style. Beer listings default to recent reviews, with one option of filtering by the top 250 instead. The search is useful if you know exactly what you want; improved filtering would make searching reviews more useful. Overall, though, a handy app that is a free alternative to RateBeer.
All-in-one homebrew assistant, calculator, tracker and brew journal
iOS, Android and Kindle
From its humble desktop origins, BeerSmith has expanded to online forums, social media popularity, a regular blog and podcast, and, of course, handy mobile apps. In addition to integrating with cloud storage and more than 68,000 recipes at beersmithrecipes.com, BeerSmith’s simple, easy-to-use app interface helps beginning and advanced brewers search, build and manage recipes; review profiles of hundreds of ingredients; track all steps in the brewing and fermentation process; and run brew timers, calculators and converters. Professionals such as Hanns Anderson, head brewer at Eugene’s McMenamins High Street, have used BeerSmith, and it has something to help your homebrewing too.
Be the sensory expert you wish you were
How many times have you been at a loss for words when describing a beer? Beer Judge turns your phone into a taster, a sensory analyst and an amateur spectrophotometer. The Flavor Wheel feature lists flavor and aroma descriptors, and the Off Flavors guide shows at-a-glance and detailed descriptions of flaws. Tap any color on the Standard Reference Method (SRM) spectrum graphic for an SRM value, or use your device’s camera with the app’s Analyzer to calculate an SRM (you wouldn’t use it for a brewing lab analysis, but it’s a good ballpark figure for happy hour technical evaluation). Perfect for beer tastings and enhancing your competition chops.
Is your beer in style?
iOS and Android
A just-the-facts compilation of official 2008 and 2015 BJCP official beer styles. When you first open the app, you’ll be asked if you want to default to the 2008 or 2015 guidelines (you can switch between them at any time). Search for a style or scroll the list, then tap for the full profile. Text is well presented and easy to read, with controls to increase or decrease the size. While you can highlight and copy, functions to export to email, PDF or printing would be useful. A must-have for brewers, judges and enthusiasts.
Build your next beer tour
iOS and Android
Whether seeking out neighborhood places or planning a beer tour, BreweryMap builds itineraries and locates breweries, brewpubs, tasting rooms and more. Users can also add new listings or submit updates. The Road Trip function builds your next beer tour from start point to end point. Once you choose a route, the map fills in with pins. Tapping “List View” shows a list of locations in each locality: an Oregon Coast itinerary from Astoria to Brookings pulled up 21 locations in a 15-mile radius. Save itineraries for later reference too. The perfect app for the beertripper.
Who says brewing isn't a game?
iOS, Android and Windows
Whether you’re a homebrewer who dreams of owning a brewery or a beer pro who believes work is play, Fiz allows you to realize your dream of running your own brewery. With graphics and music reminiscent of ‘80s/’90s early Nintendo, Fiz allows you to start a brewery, analyze the market, develop recipes, brew beer, manage staff, enter competitions and more. Play during a few minutes’ break, or moonlight all weekend as a pixelated brewer. Fiz is rooted enough in reality to have real ingredients listed and a solid sense of the realities of brewing. And it’s fun enough that I better stop playing and finish writing this article.
Order a pint in 59 languages
Travel in foreign lands is all about mastering the basics of the local language. And it doesn’t get more essential than confidently ordering a beer in anything from Afrikaans (“n Bier, asseblief”) to Zulu (“nye ningi utshwala”). Pivo is simple, useful and fun for the global beertrotter. Alphabetically scroll a list of 59 languages, complete with phrase, phonetic pronunciation and video or audio. (Browse, search, or favorite functions would have minimized scrolling.) One caveat: this app’s last update was 2013 and is no longer being developed, but functionality was fine in testing. Does Google Translate do the same thing? Sí. Is it as cool? Nein.
Every beer everywhere
iOS and Android
Since 2000, RateBeer has become one of the beer world’s largest independent online communities and a go-to source for beer and location reviews and information. Take the pulse of any beer on the market: Who’s drinking it? What are they saying about it? Share what you think of what you drink, and rate where you’re enjoying that beer, cider, mead or sake. Whether searching by name or scanning a barcode, you get easy and quick access to beer data, including reviews, IBUs, ABVs, preferred glassware and more. Also curate your own wish lists and favorites, and search by location for bottle shops and watering holes near you.
A beer a day
iOS and Android
You know those “quotation a day” calendars that wind up under the Christmas tree? This is the beer version. Today’s Beer presents one beer, every day, along with beer info, bottle and pint views (with 360 degree rotation), beer color and more. (You can also look back at beers from the past seven days.) A simple interface with intuitive controls helps you dig as deep into a beer’s profile as you want. A must for beer hounds hunting inspiration, designers seeking ideas for novel labels and bottles, and anyone who knows that sometimes a bit of daily random inspiration is all you need to keep your palate dazzled and intrigued.
Never drink alone/
iOS, Android, and Windows
The “Facebook of beer” makes sure your drinking is always social. See the latest with the beer world in three main ways: “Friends” lets you see what folks you follow are doing. “Global” goes macro with updates from users all over the world. And “Nearby” tells you what users are enjoying in your area. Fancy an old favorite or something new? Seek out beers, pubs and breweries popular and nearby, and keep tabs on trends for the next tipple you should try.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.