I know that I’m not the only Washington beer lover sporting an iPhone these days, so I thought it was time to talk about some of the beer-related applications available for the iPhone. This article focuses only on those applications that at least claim to be useful. Sorry, I’m not going to review the Beer Pong game.
My reviews are based on each application’s value to the Washington beer lover. All of these applications are either free or priced at .99 cents, so none of them will break your budget. If you know of a beer application that I missed, leave a comment and tell us about it.
Find Craft Beer – This application simply points you to beer places. It has a clean and simple search interface. You use the settings to determine which kind of beer places will be displayed. The options are Brew Pubs, Breweries, Beer Bars, Beer Stores, and Homebrew Stores. The app uses your current location and you can adjust the search radius (10 miles is default). You can also enter other locations by city and state.
At first glance, this seems like a nifty little app that I imagine being useful when you don’t know where to go for craft beer; however, the information is spotty at best. For example, when I searched for a brewery named Pike, it displayed “Pike Brewing and Restaurant” but nothing showed up when I searched for a brew pub named Pike. In fact, according to Find Craft Beer, there are no brew pubs within a 20 mile radius of my house in Seattle. Lordy, am I glad that’s not true! It disturbs me that anyone would even suggest such a thing. I also tried searches for Tacoma and Bellingham with similar incorrect results.
The skinny? Does a very nice job of serving up some very bad information. Useless and kind of disturbing.
Beer Cloud (powered by GreatBrewers.com) – This application offers three basic functions: Search, Sommelier, and Beer Styles. The interface is simple enough. It has some nice graphical elements and is easy to understand. The search functionality has the same problem as Find Craft Beer. The information is incomplete at best. Other than Redhook and Elysian, I could not find information about any Washington breweries or beers.
The Sommelier functionality works. I am not sure about the accuracy of the pairing suggestions, but it does work. The Beer Styles functionality works as well. For each style listed, the app provides a description of the style as well as a list of beers that fit into that style. The problem here is that when you look up India Pale Ale, Elysian Immortal IPA is the only result from Washington. Although the app’s other functionality might be considered useful, the lack of Washington beer information is irritating.
The skinny? A nice looking application but sadly lacking data about Washington beers. Useless and irritating.
BeerGuide – Basically, this app does a lot of the same stuff as the previous two apps but does not have any “find local” search option. It does suggest the appropriate glassware, which isn’t a bad thing. Another unique feature, you can search their database for beers based on their ABV%. Why? I don’t know. But you can do it.
The app also features a Beer Combos section that allows you to find out the “official” name for blended beers. In other words, the official name for Guinness plus anything. Fat Black is Guinness with Fat Tire, Arrogant Black is Guinness with Arrogant Bastard, The Noogle is Guinness with PBR, and so on.
This app suffers from the same basic problem as the previous apps: bad data. For example, if you go to the Local Beers option and navigate to Washington, you might think you entered the wrong state. Is this app trying to insult me? Thank you for reminding me that I’m old enough to remember breweries that went out of business before Lady Gaga was born.
The skinny? Huge amounts of bad data severed up in a clunky application. Useless and insulting.
Gallagher’s Beer Guide. What I like about this application is that it doesn’t try to be too much. It has a very simple description of each beer style and gives you a few textbook examples. For instance, for the Pale Ale category, it lists Bass Pale Ale and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale as the textbook examples. Sure, their list of beers is seriously incomplete, but I get the feeling that the app just wants to help you find a beer you’ll enjoy. It does not pretend to be some encyclopedia of beer information the way the other apps do. It’s like a friendly bartender who is trying to suggest a beer that you’ll like, even though he really doesn’t know anything about beer. He’s just trying to help.
The skinny? Nice interface, predominantly useless, but at least it doesn’t make me mad.
Beer Signal (powered by Taplister.com) – This one has promise. It allows you to see what is on tap at a particular bar. Optionally, you can search for a particular beer and it will tell you where to find it on tap. Best of all, the users control the data. It is up to the users to submit beers that are on tap or off tap. For instance, if you’re sitting at Collins Pub and you notice that they just put Winterfish on tap, and it is not on the Beer Signal tap list, you can very easily update the tap list. Likewise, you can report a beer that is on the tap list as now being off tap. Basically, this means that the application becomes better as more people use it.
Another really cool thing about Beer Signal is that it has a social networking component. You can add buddies and then update them by sending a beer signal. “I am drinking beer now at…” or “I will be drinking beer at 4:30 at…” From within the Beer Signal interface, you can quickly and easily send these updates using Twitter or Shizzow.
The skinny. Get it. Use it. The more people who do, the more useful Beer Signal will become. Not likely it will be perfect, or 100% accurate, but it will certainly become very useful.