Fermento with Anchor Steam

James 'Dr. Fermento' Roberts

I looked back at my beer consumption patterns over this past year as part of my annual holiday ritual. At the end of every year, I always wonder how much beer I drank, what I drank, and where I drank it.

Those used to be incalculable statistics, but technology made this a lot simpler for me. Part of me said “maybe I don’t want to know.” Do I drink too much? I don’t think so. I drink a lot of beer, but I don’t think I could ever drink too much of it unless I was abusing it. I have too much respect for craft beer to abuse it and drink responsibly for the most part.

A couple of years ago while on business related travel and exploring new beers in new places with a beer loving co-worker, he watched me feverously banging away on my cell phone trying to keep up with entering notes about the beers I was discovering, including details about the beers themselves – or what I could find out about them with limited beer menu or barkeep input. He asked why I was doing this.

“Well, craft beer is an art form that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, so I take a lot of notes. Besides, if I find something worthy of mentioning in my writing, I need to be accurate,” I told him.

“No, I mean why do you bang it all in manually? Have you tried Untappd,” he asked me of a cell phone application that fundamentally changed the way I record the beers I consume. Untappd is described as a “geosocial networking service…that allows users to check in as they drink beers, and share these check ins and locations with their friends,” according to the applications description in the Ap Store on my phone. I call it “Facebook for Beer Geeks.”

This isn’t an ad for, nor my endorsement for Untappd, but any savvy beer consumer would benefit from the free application that’s already neatly recorded a couple of thousand beers for me in a well-organized format with all of the beer details I need with minimum keystrokes. The application already knows about all but a handful of the most obscure beers from the most obscure places that I’ve tried, so most of the technobabble I’m interested in like the beer’s alcohol by volume (ABV), international bittering units (IBU) and crap like that that’s only important to a nerd like me is automatically populated when I enter the brewery name and name of the beer. When I’m at a liquor store, more convenient yet, is the barcode scanning feature that brings up the same data and more when the label is scanned.

The application isn’t just popular with consumers; a lot of breweries love the application and support it and enter data about their beers even before consumers know the beers are out there. Up to last week in 2020, 347,355 new beers were added by 210,812 breweries, so Untappd is a hot ticket right now. As far back as 2016, Time Magazine distinguished the application as one of the top 500 for the year with over 8,000,000 members and growing. I will admit that I love Untappd.

Also inherent in the Untappd application is a personal rating scale for each beer and other Untappd user’s ratings, comments and impressions on the same beers. If need be, I can “validate” my impression against others’ and reach out to get their thoughts on something I find particularly interesting or disdainful.

There’s a badge feature that awards electronic badges for certain drinking accomplishments along any beer drinker’s extended foamy journey. The badges mostly celebrate drinking mielstones and accomplishments, such as my recent reaching Level 95 in the “I Believe in IPA” category, meaning I’ve tried 475 different IPAs since I installed the application in November of 2018

As far as I’m concerned, the badging feature of the application is juvenile and detracts from what I’d consider the remaining professional features, but I have to admit, sometimes it makes me chuckle.

“I see you’ve earned your Liquid Lunch badge,” my co-worker pointed out one day a couple of months after I’d started tracking beers. This one reads “are you having a rough morning or perhaps just can’t wait for happy hour?” and points out that somehow I’d consumed a couple during my lunch hour wherever I was. Another day he pointed out my award of the “Top of the Mornin” badge I earned by drinking five beers before noon. I told my drinking buddy “good thing Ms. Fermento doesn’t have the app; she might scold me for having earned my “Drinking Your Paycheck” badge. Don’t ask how I earned that one; maybe it’s a good thing I don’t remember in the first place. Just prior to COVID shuttering my favorite watering holes, I earned both the Beer Crawl badge that recognized my visiting three bars in one night immediately followed by the Last Call badge that distinguished my drinking three beers after 1 AM.

This application changed not only how I track what I drink, but how and what I drink. I don’t enter every single beer I drink. I try to only enter new beers, but once in a while enter a duplicate or two. I feel remiss if I’m out partying and I don’t whip out my phone and enter beers I’m drinking, often passing up long time favorites in deference for something new. In a sense, the application makes me feel beer-worldly.

In the Untappd world, I’m a juvenile, having discovered the application just two years ago. I have some hard core, long term beer drinking associates out there that have consumption habits that comparatively make me look like I’m drinking out of a thimble. So, does the application make drinking competitive? In a sense, I think it does. Still, I have to say I love it.

How did I do this last year? Even though I’ve got a week of hard core beer drinking in one of my beeriest seasons – the week between Christmas and New Years - Untappd shot me my stats and I couldn’t help but peek, and thought I’d share.

According to my usage statistics, I checked in 519 times so far this year. How do I rate? The average Untappd user checked in 52 times. Does that mean I drank 519 beers this year? That’s a conservative number since I’m only really tracking new beers. I drink enough King Street IPA to float a battleship and I buy just about every new Anchorage Brewing Company canned release – usually one a week or so – and those come in four-packs, if that tells you anything. No, I’m not ashamed of myself, by the way.

Of those 519 beers, 505 were unique. The average Untappd user tried around 49 unique beers in 2020. Okay, maybe I do drink a lot of beer.

Aside from that, I tasted beers from 129 different breweries this year with the top brewery being 49th State followed by Anchorage Brewing Company, then Bearpaw River Brewing Company. This particular statistic doesn’t impress me much. It leaves me scratching my head and thinking “I can do better than that.”

Untappd lists 215 styles of beer. I managed to drink through 119 of those, and probably like everyone else, my most frequently tired style was IPA. Is this because I love IPAs? Hardly. I’m actually tired of the style. Because I focus on new beers and IPA’s continue to be all the rage right now, I drink a lot of it by default.

And, what about those pesky badges that keep popping up like freebies for about every other beer or so I drink? I’ve earned 1,511 of them this year.

Finally, since this is all about statistics, between 2018 and 2019 I challenged myself to see if I could drink three new beers every day for a year, with the caveat that a “new beer” included any beer I hadn’t had in over 10 years. That’s “easy done” in sudsy Anchorage, Alaska, and Alaska in general: we live in a huge craft beer loving community, robust with local beer from local breweries, and a strong influx of craft beer from the rest of the world. I drank very close to 1,100 beers between those dates. Disclaimer: I raided my bulging vintage beer cellar for “new picks” on those days when I just couldn’t get to the liquor store to shop, but that was a very small percentage of the overall numbers that pushed my average to well over three new beers a day regardless.

Don’t forget to support our local craft breweries during these challenging times. If you join Untapped and friend me, you’ll see I’m a big supporter of this incredible, but struggling industry right now. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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