Monthly Archives: July 2012

In which Wil Wheaton is awesome

Wil Wheaton, amongst other cool things, has gotten into home brewing.  Both with his son and his wife.  I’d do it, too, if we had the room and ventilation for it.  Damn NYC apartments.

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O’Reilly

This is pretty great: The O’Reilly Animals. Any kind of computer geek knows, and probably loves, O’Reilly books.  As a UNIX sysadmin, I have lots.  Really nice to see how much they care about the animals.

Beer content: I’ll toast my next beer to O’Reilly and the animals.  You guys rock.

Mobile access to BeerAdvocate

Though RateBeer is a perfectly good site, I tend to use and prefer BeerAdvocate.  One problem with BA, though, is lack of good mobile access, which users in their forums have made very clear.  BA is finally gearing up to develop a mobile app for their site.  The interesting take they’re using for this, though, is going through Kickstarter.  Considering everything thus far on BA has been free for users, I will be more than happy to support this effort.  As I suggested in their forums, my one big wish, besides great access to their vast database, is integration with Untappd.

I’ll post here when I find any updates on the project.

Maui Brewing Company

I love discovering a great new-to-me brewery or beer.  Last month I was in Maui for our wedding.  I had previously had, when on the Big Island and Oahu, beers from the Kona Brewing Company, sadly now owned by InBev (they don’t deserve a link). Kona makes some good beers. I really enjoyed last time having their Fire Rock Pale Ale on tap.  While planning our trip this time, I learned about the Maui Brewing Company.  I knew nothing of them, so I had no expectations.  The day we arrived, I had a can of their Big Swell IPA and was extremely pleasantly surprised that it was fantastic. Their brew pub was pretty close to where we were staying in Lahaina, so it was a must-visit. In fact, I ended up going there with my male friends the night before the wedding.  About as close to a bachelor party as I was going to get. They had lots of beer on tap, including two collaborations, with Dogfish Head (Liquid Breadfruit) and Jolly Pumpkin (Sobrehumano Palena ‘Ole). I got a flight of both of those, plus the Pueo Pale Ale and Dawn Patrol Black IPA.  The Sobrehumano Palena ‘Ole was kind of weird, but I liked it.  The Liquid Breadfruit I thought was great.  As were the Dawn Patrol and Pueo.  I also tried someone’s CoCoNut Porter.  Pretty good.  And for good measure I had some Big Swell on tap (still excellent) and a guest beer, Hopportunity Knocks, from the Caldera Brewing Company from Ashland, OR.  Pretty crazy IPA, but very good.  Two days later, the day after the wedding, we went back there to meet a couple of beer buddy friends who were leaving the next day.  This time I tried another of their IPAs that was newly-tapped, the Freight Trains IPA.  Heavier than the Big Swell, but very good.  The winner for me of all the beers I tried there was the Big Swell.  Just an all around fantastic IPA. I even drank enough of it (in a row) throughout our stay on Maui and then Kauai to get the Untappd “Six Pack” badge.

I don’t expect to be seeing anything from Maui around NYC since they’re pretty small, but I’m hoping.  I’ll just have to savor the cans of Big Swell I brought back with us.

iPhone beer apps I DO use

As a followup to the post about the general suckage of iPhone beer apps, out of the two folders of beer apps I have, here’s what I do actually use.

Untappd / iTappd for checking in beers to Untappd. Which one of the two I use depends on my patience, functionality needs, and whether I’m on wifi or not.

BeerMenus to check for what beers are currently on tap at bars I like. Just the web site saved to the home screen. Works better than the Untappd “native” app.

BeerBuddy as a reference guide. The only part of the app I ever seem to use is the Search By Name function. Results come from ratebeer, in a proper iOS app. Awesome.

Beer Match for food/beer pairing. Good info, but awful interface. The organization of the food list is a joke.

That’s it. If anyone reads this, I’d love to know what you do and do not use, and why.

iPhone beer apps suck

There are lots of beer apps for the iPhone and 99% of them are not good. You’d think with how the iOS platform has matured this would be different, but no. As far as I can tell, the apps that are out there are mostly useless, and the beer services out there have no good mobile access. These apps range from reference to pairing to cataloging to sharing.


Cataloging

Some people like to keep a list of beers they’ve had. Early on, I quickly got frustrated with these apps for beer, so I made my own. I got Bento, a database app, and made my own beer list. Bento quickly got too limited and the developers added mostly fluff over functionality, so I switched to HanDBase and have been thrilled with it and its flexibility. I can now have the info I want in there, not what someone else thought I should have.

 

Reference

There’s a pretty bad lot of beer reference apps. UI aside, most will mention the 1000s of beers in their database, yet when I search for beers and breweries I love, like Sixpoint, nothing is there. So they’re immediately useless to me. The shining exception is BeerBuddy because it uses the RateBeer database. That’s key. Pretty good layout, too, though I wish it would default to the search tab (I have no use for a featured beer). I wish it could check the beers into Untappd, though. More on that later. Most use their own and just don’t have enough of a range to be truly useful. BeerAdvocate is currently working on getting their own together, which I’m really looking forward to. I hope they make a proper Objective C app.

 

Pairing

I don’t understand why there’s no good beer/food pairing app out there. It’s a really interesting subject, yet the best one that I’ve found (and currently use), Beer Match, has a pretty bad UI. The list of foods could be MUCH better laid out. It takes me too much time to find the food I’m looking for.

 

What’s on tap?

Another category is finding out what’s on tap at a particular bar, or where to find a particular beer. The main problem with this type of functionality is how often the bar updates its tap list. There are a couple of apps for this, but I have yet to find one with mostly recently-updated tap lists. Some go back many months. Useless. The only “app” I use for this is the BeerMenus web app. It’s the only one I find where a lot of the bars I like have their tap lists updated daily. I do wish BeerMenus had a native app, but their web app seems to work well enough. My one feature request is a favorites section, so I can jump right to seeing my favorite bars’ tap lists.

 

Sharing

I find social networking for beer pretty fun. In my opinion, Untappd is the best, and what I use often. It’s a great network with great guys running it, and the badges you can earn often introduce me to beers I would not have otherwise tried. The app itself isn’t great, though. The layout is good, but it’s essentially a native wrapper around a web app. This makes it slow and sluggish, and doesn’t work like you’d expect an iPhone app to work. I know they’re working on a new version of their app, but I have little hope it will be rewritten in proper Objective C. Early on, before they had a “native” app, I bought the no-longer-available iTappd app. It’s a truly native iOS app and I use it very often, though it offers little functionality. It really shines in low cell phone signal situations, when the official Untappd app becomes useless. I really wish the developers of iTappd had kept up with it. Untappd certainly seems to offer a pretty comprehensive API.

There’s another network called Brewski Me. Nice guys, and very nice app, but they just don’t have the network like Untappd does, so I don’t use it. Too bad, since the app really is very nicely done. My wish is that they and Untappd will somehow get together so we get a great app and a great network.

 

The general theme of iPhone beer apps seems to be that you rarely have a great app AND great content. It’s usually either-or. That’s sad.

I apologize if anyone involved in any of these apps is offended by what I’ve said, but I really want better, more useful apps for beer.