Plug beer into the iPhone app store search engine and you are presented with a plethora of choices from across the world. A large proportion of them being those oh so humorous magic refilling virtual beer glasses (I had on at one stage too..), many others being pretty country specific and almost all of them showing pretty poor customer review markings.
So why would you want one? For me it was a few things, I wanted something that allowed me to type short notes about a beer that I could refer to at a later date in order to aid my flagging memory cells, perhaps add a photograph and maybe even let me search to find information about the beer in question. Having said that after using or trialling several there were other things too that could be useful, a wish list, stockists, similar beers or further brews by the same brewery. I suppose though generally speaking these functions usefulness would always be a individuals preference.
I decided to test several apps to try and find one that suited me from the app store, all of them free with the exception of one, this being the CAMRA good beer guide at £4.99. I’m not going to include the paid for app in the results or summary, but will cover it off in brief albeit being pretty self explanatory.
To trial the apps I picked 6 of what I thought “looked” the best according to my desired functionality, markings on site and their descriptions.
Beermap as you may imagine from the name is a map based beer reviewing & research tool that works by your GPS location. It allows four main functions, to add a review, to search for beers near to your location by review, location and a general search tool.
When I first tried the app I spent much time in trying to make it do anything at all, however after a few emails back and forth to the developer we jointly sussed the problem which was the locator being turned off in settings and I was away. (I have to add that the support was very good, with quick responses)
Good points: The add a review function was excellent, you can select or add a new beer, add a photograph, notes a five point beer rating and where you drank it, i.e pub or home etc. (home locations do not show on the map. Map and beer near me would be great too if everyone was adding reviews as it only shows beers that have been uploaded.
Bad points: It needs a save draft facility big time, if you add something that’s it you add it, therefore if you make an error it’s uploaded and non editable meaning your notes (gaffs and all) are there for everyone to see. Cannot be used off line. If no one adds reviews the “Beers near Me” and “Map” will be pointless. Search, I can see no real use for.
This app is a little different as it is reliant totally on the input from publicans and as such it could be extremely useful. Landlords, bar managers etc register the details of their respective establishments on the “yourround” website. Then as each beer changes they can either search for it and use the featured pump clips or, add a beer in which case the yourround logo appears on the handpull within the app.
Beer lovers too can register their details on the yourround website, only this time you register your favourite beers or beers that you’d like to try, then when a pub in your vicinity puts the beer on the bar and updates the details you are sent email/text alerts based on your preferences.
Good Points: It’s limited but could be brilliant, knowing what’s on where would be a cracking tool to have if you have a few choices of watering hole and would encourage landlords to keep a good selection coming through.
Bad points: It is solely reliant on input from the trade, will they have time on busy days, will they want to bother, only a very few have in my locale. As an example there are around 10 pubs within half a mile of my house, yet the nearest currently using it is 1.8 miles away and counting.
I had a bit of a fight with this one as it seems really web dependant and slow to load anything. From the limited use I’ve had from it I’d say it was trying to be a beer reviewers social networking platform. You have the ability to scan your Twitter and Facebook profiles etc to look for friends that also use Untapped, connect to them and share beer notes. There are also tabs to review beers, tag against pubs and the pub/bars details and keep tabs on your own reviews. I have seen UK users on the site but it is mainly USA users that dominate so it seems more established across the pond.
Good Points: Some nice features including a wish list which is an important one for anyone seeking those elusive beers or in receipt of regular beer reviews where you think “I must remember to try that”.
Bad points. It’s a bit busy and seems to want to be master of all trades without really mastering any. Slow.
What Ales You is very much like Beermap, in fact one of the poor reviews on the app store said; “it looks a lot like BeerMap, just not as good” That about sums it up really, many of the functions are similar but just not as detailed. For example when you add a beer you have pre defined slots within a text box that you can fill in, with the tastes of bit being limited to three which are only pickable from a short list which is a bit limiting to say the least.
Good Points; Hmmmm, looks nice, has potential…
Bad points: It’s all just a bit average, with the review section a classic example…
Beer is a little different to the others in that it does allow a reasonable amount of personalised detail to be added about each beer which can be either saved for your own personal use or shared with other users. You can track these to see where and how often you’ve had them etc and import and export your stats from a central server. I’m just not really sure why you’d want to, could be a little scary…
Good Points: I like the fact that you can save information without sharing, it allows you to check and edit mistakes before sharing with the world and his dog.
Bad points: It’s all a bit geeky but not in a good way, also seems only to be of use within a set group with no links to Twitter, Facebook etc.
The final app on test was iLoveBeer which is more of an information source, which if it grows could be useful especially to those of you who like to pair beer with food.
It has separate sections with detailed guides on how to pour different types of beer, how to taste beer to get the most out of what you are drinking and how to pair beer with different types of food.
The content looks great and is presented in a really professional manner, the big problem I see with this though is that it’s all a bit limited in terms the beers included and is therefore a bit predictable.. The developer has tried to get around this by a clever little last section that lets you define a beer by flavour, body, alcohol and bitterness but in truth it only refers back to the contained beer list.
Good points: Looks well and is informative, can be used off-line, also connects to social networks.
Bad points: Very limited
To summarise there are some good apps here with potential to be great, they aren’t there yet but could be with a little development. The top app currently from those tested in my opinion has to be BeerMap, it’s fast and allows a great degree of self input and sharing. To improve it I think it needs the ability to have a wish list, save drafts and to have limited use off-line as the pubs in my area for example have awful phone reception and almost no wi-fi.
A close second would be BeerCam, not in terms of what I looked at as a brief, but with the most potential if we can get all those lovely publicans to use it, it could be a fabulous tool if used in conjunction with the Good Beer Guide (see below). I am certainly going to be pushing my local watering holes to start using it and have already added some favourites in anticipation..
So do you use an app, are these or similar available on other smartphones, either way please add your comments and suggestions below, I plan to share the link to this to each of them at some stage but would welcome your comments first..?
I’ve left this until last as it is more of a reference tool AND it wasn’t free which all of the others are.
Basically it’s an electronic version of the book and much handier to carry… It has a few bells and whistles like a search facility which uses “near me” via GPS, address, postcode, tube station or a pub name all of which are particularly useful if you are visiting an area that you are not familiar with.
Good Points: Easy to carry, informative, great reference tool.
Bad Points: Needs web connection to access all features.