Monday, April 21, 2014

Beer Apps for KC

In the spirit of full disclosure, I hate smartphones. Ok, maybe hate is too strong of a word, but they most definitely annoy me. Call me an old curmudgeon, complaining from my rocking chair about new technology, but I get so tired of people pulling out their smartphones in the middle of conversations. That ranting aside, some things that smartphones do are awesome. And considering you're reading the KC Beer Blog, clearly the most important thing that your smartphone does is help you find, drink, catalog, and brag about beer. Lately there has been quite a bit of new development in the beer app scene in Kansas City with some nice new apps out now or coming out soon. I imagine that lots of you will be using these apps in the future if you're not already.

Kansas City Breweries (iOS)

The Kansas City Breweries App fills a pretty specific niche but an important one. As its name implies, you're not going to be taking this one very far on the road with you. However, there's enough new and established breweries around here that unless you make a dedicated effort to keep up with them, you're probably not going to know much about most of them. This is where the app comes in. Jonathan Bender, founder of the Recommended Daily blog put this together to showcase our local breweries.

The app covers breweries in KC metro, Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan, and Springfield. It includes information on each brewery including opening times, contact information, brewery tours, history and more. The breweries are shown on a map around you and have recommended brews to try at each one.

PourMeABeer (iOS, web)

PourMeABeer, in the words of one of the co-founders, is "the marriage of Foursquare and Pandora for beer." Created by Jacob McDaniel and Ezequiel Cabrera, both local Kansas Citians and Army veterans, this app will be available on iOS early this summer and will have a mobile web interface optimized for Android users.

As a beer drinker, you will get to tap into a real-time beer search engine in order to find out what beers are on tap, in bottles, or in cans nearby. The app is built with a simple thumbs up/thumbs down rating system and includes style, IBU, SRM, and other specs about each beer. The database of available beers with their ratings and specifications is then used to give you recommendations on other beers you might enjoy in the same way that Pandora recommends music.

On the backside of the app, bar owners will have a range of tools available as a subscription service. The simplest tool is the ability for the bar to update its own tap and bottle list in the app. The bar will be able to list special limited releases they have and also be able to note when those limited run beers are tapped out. At the highest level of service, PourMeABeer can manage TV menu boards and online beer menus that are automatically updated through the bar owner's web interface. If you've been into Rock & Run in Liberty, you've seen PourMeABeer's TV menu board up and running behind their bar.

One more exciting feature is the rewards program. Instead of just giving out gold stars for drinking a lot, they plan on offering real world rewards. The app creators will work with bars, breweries, and event coordinators to provide exclusive and/or advanced access to things like limited release tappings and event ticket pre-sales for top users. Bar owners who are using the service will also be able to manage their own customer rewards programs through the app.

TapHunter (iOS, Android, web)

TapHunter is a very similar app to PourMeABeer, but is much more well-established. It has been around since 2009, but most people around KC (myself included before I wrote this) probably haven't ever heard of it. This is because TapHunter grows very systematically by only allowing certain areas to add bars--up to this point KC was not one of those areas. However, they're attempting to make their move into the metro now and looking for bars to partner with.

Comparing the app to PourMeABeer, TapHunter lacks the beer recommendation engine and the real-world rewards planned with PMAB. However, the support for bar owners seems to be more robust than what PMAB plans to offer. The automatically generated print menusTV menu boards, and online menus look great and are highly customizable. They've also already got a database with over 30k different beers entered with their information and won't need to wait for users to build up the database. Prices for TapHunter are set online, but I haven't seen any info on prices for PMAB yet.

I'll be interested to see which of these two apps comes out on top. The only way either of these apps will succeed is if there is a large buy-in from bars and drinkers alike. TapHunter has the experience, big marketing team and bar tools, but PourMeABeer has the local edge, extra features for drinkers, and a better interface. A little competition never hurt anyone anyways!

Untappd (iOS, Android, web)

Ok, ok. I know. Untappd is nothing new for us here. Well I had to throw it in there anyways because it's the granddaddy of all the beer apps, and if you don't know about it, you probably should. It's been around since 2010 and has spread fast to become the most used beer rating & check in app. Even though the rating system is much simpler than that of RateBeer or BeerAdvocate (or maybe because of this), it has surpassed the number of new ratings by those websites by a wide margin in the last couple of years. It also has a great social aspect to it since you can easily share your beer check-ins on Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare and has pretty good social networking within the app itself.

However, the location and beer search functionality really isn't there. I haven't ever had much luck getting the app to consistently find beers for me. This isn't really the prime functionality of the app, but it would still be nice if it worked. I've also heard from brewers that it's difficult and time consuming to wrangle people into rating the correct beers since users can enter any new beer they want without any with limited oversight. Even with these defects, Untappd still has a huge leg up on all the other apps out there because of the sheer size of their user base.

Have any of you out there used these apps? Let us know what you think about them! What other apps do you use for beer?

1 comment:

  1. Regarding Untappd and "users can enter any new beer they want w/o any oversight." Every single beer that is created hits a list to be reviewed/merged. The users far outnumber the moderators, so this is a slow moving process. Also, every brewery that verifies itself on the app has the ability to go to the website and moderate their own beers. So if a brewery is complaining about that aspect, maybe they should invest some time into managing those lists.