Saint Patrick’s Day is Sunday, and there is no better time for enjoying a good beer. Never mind that green-dyed watery swill they’re slinging at the local dive. There are literally hundreds of tasty options and dozens of unique styles. In fact, all the options can be overwhelming and daunting, but fortunately, we’ve got a roundup of Android apps to help you find the right brew.
Android Beer Guide, by MaxDroid – Free
ABG is a fairly straightforward app for browsing brands of beer by name, brewery, or country, and reading the reviews of each. On the surface, it has a wonderfully simple interface: just choose what you want to do from the main menu, and away you go.
Unfortunately, ABG also insists on hitting you with multiple full screen pop up ads, pretty much every time you tap on anything within the app. When even the simplest functions require you tapping through two, three, four screens of spam in order to get to what you were looking for, I was more than ready to uninstall the app by the time that I was done exploring its features.
On top of that, it’s real-world abilities are rather shallow. The highest rated beer listed has just 7 reviews, and most of the “top rated” beers are based on one or two reviews. Even its “most popular” beers have less than 100 reviews. It’s not all that much help to the curious beer drinker, but frankly even if it was a slightly better app, I couldn’t even consider recommending it, simply on the basis of the incredibly invasive advertising.
Beer List, Ratings & Reviews, by Metosphere – Free
Metosphere’s contribution to the Android beer lover’s options is an app which has a lot of potential, but not a lot of real world usefulness, mostly thanks to a bad user interface. While it offers a lot of options on the surface–list your own beers, search for beers in the shared database, look at recent reviews, and more–it essentially depends on the assumption that you know what you’re looking for already. Don’t have a beer in hand, or know the name of a beer you would like to lookup? Too bad, because you need to be able to put in a search string, rather than being able to browse beers by either category or availability.
On top of that, the interface is more than a little over complicated for the task. Half the menu options are concerned with the app’s database: backup to server, restore from server, export as CSV, bulk delete – the sort of options that most casual users are never going to need, which makes these features get in the way. The other half are just not very well laid out, making navigating around the app more complex than it really needs to be. All in all it has the potential to be a nice app, but could really use a significant polishing, since it comes off less like a beer guide and more like a database app.
RateBeer, by 2312 Development – Free
In short, RateBeer is everything that other beer guide apps wish they could be. Starting with a database that’s both broad and deep: it includes hundreds of individual brands of beer, many of which have thousands of user reviews. You can find individual places near you which sell beer, as well as find lists of which beers each location offers.
For instance, I can look up one store in a town half an hour away from me, and see a full list of the 47 individual beers they offer, from “Sixpoint Rightous Ale” to “Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.” Or you can do the reverse, looking up places that stock a specific type of beer (although when doing this, the app doesn’t seem able to sort by distance). You can scan the barcode off a beer to find out about it, leave user ratings, take your own personal notes, find beer-related events, and even more, with features available for just about everything you could want to try.
RateBeer also offers online integration for the event and user review portions of the app, but in a nice departure from the usual, you don’t actually have to sign up in order to use the app. All of the search functions and references will work perfectly well even without a RateBeer online account, making things easy for those who just want to open it up and go.
BJCP Beer Style Reference, by Transmutable Explorations – Free
BJCP stands for Beer Judge Certification Program, the source of the official “style guidelines” that this app brings to your phone or tablet. It’s less of a guide to specific beers, as the first three are, than it is to types of beer in general. Instead of rating specific brands, it gives you in depth descriptions of the various specific classes of beer–and mead and cider as well, although those aren’t traditionally thought of as “beer.”
It includes detailed descriptions: aroma, appearance, flavor, “mouthfeel,” “impression,” history, commentary, ingredients, examples, and even statistics. Multiply that across the almost one hundred different varieties of brew listed such as: standard American lager, Bohemian pilsner, cream ale, Russian Imperial stout, and many more.
It even includes a visual comparison guide to the “Standard Reference Method,” which quantifies a beer’s color. All in all less useful if you’re looking for a specific beer you’d like to try, but more helpful if you’re looking for what types or classes could appeal to your tastes.
Beer Map, by Free Beer Solutions LLC – $0.99
Priced at 99 cents (maybe a little ironic coming from a company called “Free Beer Solutions”), Beer Map is exactly what it says on the label, an app to help you find where to get beer: bars, breweries, homebrew shops, and stores. Using either GPS or a location selected on the map, it will show you returns within 20 miles, color coded by type. Bars, stores, breweries, you name it.
Unfortunately like most mapping apps, Beer Map is only as good as its database, which in this case isn’t very good. It misses a lot of bars, especially smaller ones, and I can’t even guess how many small homebrew outfits it misses. It certainly didn’t pick up on the one local one I know well, making it a hit and miss option if you’re really looking for that undiscovered jewel of local brewing.
BrewR Beer Recipe Manager, by Weekend Coders, LLC – Free
Obviously if you’re reading this, you’re interested in beer. But suppose for a second that you’re not just serious about beer, but serious enough that you want to try actually brewing your own. Enter BrewR, from the makers of the FeedR news reader app. BrewR is designed to help you build, manage, and track your own personal beer recipes. From “fermentables” (meaning grain) to hops, to recipe notes, to the final product’s color, qualities, and alcohol content, BrewR tracks just about everything about the process. It also converts from Metric to Imperial and vice versa, and provides an in-app timer to let you know when a given part of the process is done. You can even share recipes via NFC on compatible phones.
Of course, this isn’t for everyone–homebrewing takes considerable interest and dedication, not to mention materials. I speak from experience, albeit with wine rather than beer. And BrewR’s biggest fault is that it’s not particularly easy for the new user to pick up, since it uses lots of specific technical terms that most people who’ve never home brewed wouldn’t understand. But for the real enthusiast, it helps you get a good handle on what you’re doing, and lets you keep (and share) very specific and precise recipes to make sure that when you find that special formula you like, you can keep getting it right.
Untappd, by Untappd – Free
Untappd describes itself as “a social discovery and check-in network for anyone that enjoys beer”–in other words, it’s Foursquare for beer lovers. For obvious reasons, straight out of the gate Untappd expects you to either register for an account with them or log in via connecting to a Facebook account.
Once you’re into the app, it runs the usual gamut of check in related activities: finding bars, “recommended” beers based on your reviews, a “wish list” of future beers, finding where friends are, etcetera. The interface is simple and easy to use, although to take full advantage of it you’ll want your beer-drinking friends to also have Untappd accounts. But for the most part, if you’re into the social check in element of it, it’s an interesting and potentially fun app.
For the really, really serious beer aficionado, it’s hard to beat RateBeer. It combines a beautifully simple and easy to use interface, extremely deep and well informed database, and all sorts of features which are useful even without even having to sign up for their website. It’s by a long measure the best guide available on Android to learning about beer and exploring what other choices you might have. Honorable mention also goes to BrewR, for lending a hand to the growing ranks of home brewers and those who might want to try it.