Beer in Bali

My wife and I spent an amazing 2.5 weeks in Bali.  Other than a couple of beers a friend brought for me from New Zealand, all I drank was Bintang, mostly because that’s pretty much all you find.  It’s a typical pale Asian lager, but what stood out for me, other than the atomsphere for it, was that it had absolutely none of the nasty aftertaste most of the Asian lagers have.  Plus, it was refreshing in the heat; so much that my wife, who loves some heavy IPAs, sours, and Belgians, asked for it often.



BeerMenus for iPhone

BeerMenus is a web site I’ve mentioned many times as a crucial resource for me for finding what beers my favorite bars in NYC currently have on tap, or finding nearby ones. This all of course assumes the bar keeps its BeerMenus page updated. Most of my favorite bars update daily.

BeerMenus always had a quite passable web app, but was always susceptible to the inherent issues of web apps; no/poor resume state on restart, non-native-feeling UI, etc. That’s all thankfully a thing of a past as BeerMenus now has a true native iPhone app. And it’s great. There’s not a ton to say about it since its purpose is relatively simple, at least for the time being.

The first tab, Places, shows you a list of nearby bars in its database, using location services. In each entry right from the index you can see if it’s a bar or a beer store, how far away it is from you, how many beers they have on tap/bottle/can, and most importantly, when the list was last updated. This list is in the Nearby tab of the Places tab. The second Places tab, and what I often use, is called Following.  This is the function I always wanted most from the web app: quick access to a list of my favorite bars. If you create a free account with BeerMenus, you can mark bars or stores as favorites and always have quick access to them here. Boom.

The second tab, My Beers, is something I never really played with. It looks to be trying to provide similar functionality to Untappd. Since I already use Untappd, I really don’t have the need to check my beers into another service, but we’ll see where they go with this.

Next tab, My Feed, shows a feed of what beers are being added to the bars or stores you’re following, or when your favorite beers are being added. This is a cool feature I don’t use often enough, since I tend to just go right to my favorite bars to see what’s on tap.

The Me tab is simply a means to log in and out of your BeerMenus account. I suspect there will be more functionality here in the future. I do look forward to seeing what they do with it.

The last tab, Search, is exactly what it sounds like. You can search for beers or places.

What I always loved in BeerMenus was viewing the actual beers’ entries. From the list you could aready see what style the beer is, and its ABV. Tapping to view the beer’s info page gives a description of the beer, as well as what  bars or stores have it. My one big complaint about this view is that when the description is relatively long, you have to tap a more link to expand it. That’s fine, but you have to go to a new page to view it, then back to its entry when you’re done. I never understood why this couldn’t be either just fully-expanded by default, or just expand in place when more is tapped. Hopefully that will be addressed in a future update.

All in all I’m super excited that BeerMenus is out as a native iPhone app. I use it often and can finally delete my stupid home page bookmarks for each of my favorite bars. I’m not exactly sure where they’re going with their social aspect, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Get BeerMenus here for free.

Records for Mac

Push Popcorn released Records for Mac on Tuesday.  Records looks to be what Bento should have been.  I can’t give much of an opinion on it yet, since it doesn’t yet have any mechanism for importing data, so I can’t really do much with it.  Import is coming in version 1.1, according to Push Popcorn.  Once data import is available, I’ll be very interested to try importing my HanDBase database exports and if successful, try to automate a process as much as possible.  Stay tuned.

Records is currently on sale in the App Store for $30, regularly $50.

Next Glass for iPhone

“Taste, reimagined.” I guess, but the app forces you to create a login before you can even use it. That’s a non-starter for me. I guess this is what happens when you have VCs back your app. And maybe I’m a bitter New Yorker, but people who do what the woman in the demo video does annoy the hell out of me. Put your freakin’ phone away, pick your beer, and get the hell out of my way.


TapCellar for iPhone

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about the sad state of beer apps for iOS. Sadly, it hasn’t gotten much better, with one huge exception: The Gravity Well Group released TapCellar for iPhone. For those who aren’t morons like me who created a database for beer from scratch, it’s been done for you, and really well. 

to;dr: It’s awesome and costs less than a pint of good craft beer. Buy it.

TapCellar is for the true beer geek, yet simple and straightforward enough for the simplest of use; the OmniFocus of beer apps. The app’s goal is to track your beers in various ways, and “Never have a bad beer twice.”

The first thing you’ll notice upon opening the app is that it contains every beer from BreweryDB, currently almost 34,000 of them.  The app stays in sync, so its database stays up to date with BreweryDB’s.  You can sort and filter these beers in pretty much any way you like, and save those for later viewing; they get saved to TapCellar’s side bar, which is just a left-to-right swipe away.  Each beer can be rated, bookmarked, added to a shopping list, and to a storage inventory.  You can create multiple Beer Journal entries within each beer, tagging location and adding photos.  The journal entries are pretty much where the social features start and end: you can share “mug shots” of these entries in anything available in the iOS share sheet.  There’s also basic checkin functionality for Untappd.  That’s it.  But it’s great.  TapCellar was never meant to be a social app.

I’ve been beta testing TapCellar pretty much since it’s infancy, and the question on my mind all along has been whether it can replace my own HanDBase database for recording all the beers I have.  The answer is sadly no, simply because I’m just too vested in my own database, now with over 1000 beers.  TapCellar, however, has become the perfect compliment to my own database.  I rely on it to keep a shopping list for beers I won’t remember once I’m actually in a beer store, as well as keeping track of what I have stored at home.  TapCellar’s built-in functionality is just so much better for this than anything I was ever able to come up with. I have happily deleted my database of stored beers.

I’ve only scratched the surface of what TapCellar can do.  For less than the price of a pint of good craft beer these days, go pick up TapCellar and see what it can do for you.  You won’t be disappointed.


One Reminder/Task Manager To Rule Them All

Spoiler / tl;dr: it doesn’t exist.

Damn this is a frustrating topic for me.  Technology is supposed to make our lives easier.  For the most part, of course it does.  But a key part of this for many of us is dealing with reminders and managing tasks.  And most of us carry a device, in my case an iPhone, in our pockets all the time, making them the perfect command center for this.  But this is where it all falls down.

In my case, I have three key apps in this process: OmniFocus, Fantastical, and Checkmark.  They each excel at at least one function, and where each excels, the others are kind of crap.  There are tons of task managers out there, but OmniFocus always worked best for me. OmniFocus for iPhone is a really good app, but it pretty much sucks for entering time and location reminders.  Time-based reminders (and general calendaring) is where Fantastical excels, with its natural language parser.  I can add todos very quickly and efficiently.  These todos also sync with the iOS Reminders, as well as OmniFocus if you enable it.  So they’ll get into OmniFocus by way of Fantastical anyway.  Both OmniFocus and Fantastical suck for location-based reminders.  OmniFocus is decent at it, but it’s extremely limited.  This is where Checkmark comes in.  Checkmark is absolutely fantastic at location-based reminders, but not efficient at time-based.  In Checkmark, you double-tap on one of your pre-set up your locations, and tell it whether you want to be reminded when arriving or leaving, as well as a choice of delays.  So I can have it remind me of something 15 minutes after I get home.  This is brilliant.  OmniFocus requires separate contexts for arriving at home and leaving home.  And no time delays.  And Checkmark is self-contained.

So, there’s a lot of friction when it comes to entering tasks/reminders.  I have to stop and think about which of three apps is best suited to the particular item.  This is bad.

  • Time-based reminders: Fantastical
  • Location-based reminders: Checkmark
  • Project-based tasks/reminders: OmniFocus

I really wish there were one app that could do all of these things well.

Nerds on Draft

My friends Gabe and Jeff have a new podcast: Nerds on Draft.  The two main subjects are near and dear to me, and the two things I usually talk about here: beer and technology.  I really enjoyed the first episode and look forward to more.  And fortunately all of us being from the Northeast, I can get most of the beers they’ll be talking about.

Paulaner NYC

I went last night to the recently-opened Paulaner NYC.  It was excellent.  They serve both Paulaner beer and Bavarian cuisine.  All I had was the beer, but will definitely come back for both food and more beer. Though as a vegetarian, I rarely get excited over German food.  Bacon wrapped in bacon with a side of bacon just doesn’t appeal to me.

Besides being set up beautifully, the four beers they offer on tap are brewed right at the establishment.  Besides being super fresh, this also means that they use some local ingredients.  For example, the Munich Pale Ale was brewed like an IPA, including American-grown Amarillo hops.  And it was delicious.  The Hefeweizen tasted better than ever, probably because it was so fresh. 

All in all a great experience and highly recommended.  Beer, service, and atmosphere were all excellent.  And if you get there before 6pm for the 2-for-1 beer special, the prices are as well.  I will be back.