I don’t like traveling except for one thing — new beer. I don’t do well with the confinement and lack of personal space on airplanes, and being 6-feet-4 makes me uncomfortable at best when I travel, but the reward of new foamy horizons is sometimes worth it.
A year ago, on November 3, I found myself in Florida, a place I’d never been and one in which I didn’t have high expectations for local beer. I know I’m wrong, but the paradigm of our great beer up here makes beer elsewhere pale in comparison, if you can excuse the pun. And of course I was wrong; I had some stellar beer back east.
It was work related travel and one redeeming factor was my traveling with a buddy of mine named Andrew who’s a notable craft beer aficionado and finds the same joy in discovering new beer that I do.
As we made the rounds, I noted that every time Andrew experienced a new beer, it looked like he was banging notes into his phone. I take many notes about the beer I drink, but up to that point, I recorded my musings with scribbles on paper, some of which got less legible as I got less coherent or dark bars and crowded places made pulling out a notepad and writing more of a challenge. “What the hell are you doing with your phone every time you drink a beer,” I finally asked Andrew?
Andrew was using a cell phone application that he seemed to be waiting to introduce me to. “Well, it’s called Untapped, and I use it to enter the beers I drink,” he told me.
“So, what do you key in? What you’re drinking, where you’re drinking it and stuff like the style of beer and alcohol content and stuff like that,” I asked?
I did the same thing on paper. It’s important for me to know details about new beers in case I want to mention them in my foamy rants. I sometimes find myself grabbing a menu or looking around to find out the name of the joint I’d wandered into or to get the correct spelling. Sometimes I have to take notes about the beer from the menu, if there’s any information available, which isn’t often the case.
“No,” was Andrew’s reply. “I just type in the name of the beer and the app fills in the rest. If I’ve got a good connection, it can usually figure out where I’m at and that becomes part of the record. Once the app knows what I’m drinking, I have all of the beer’s details including the brewery, alcohol by volume and other stuff about the beer. It’s super cool,” he said, turning the phone around and pushing it in front of me.
He showed me how it worked. Even typing in part of the name of some beers brought them up. Andrew was drinking a Coors Light and he demonstrated the app’s features by typing Coors in the search banner. Instantly a number of Coors products popped up and he tapped on Coors Light and all sorts of information came to light. All of the notes – except for Andrew’s own impressions – showed up on the screen. I saw that on Andrew’s phone, he’d “checked in” with this beer a number of times, seven of his friends had checked in and 355 other people had logged the beer as well. He could even go back to his previous check ins and see exactly where he was drinking the beer. The application even stored a picture of the beer if he took one as part of the record. I could see how he individually rated each beer on a scale of one to five, the serving style, including draft, bottle, can, taster or nitro, and where he had it including full details about the establishment.
That was all it took. I’m not very tech savvy, so I set my phone down, turned it around and pushed it in front of him. “Get it for me,” I said, and Andrew quickly set to work downloading the app and within a couple of minutes, I was up and going and a proud new member of the Untapped community.
That was a year ago. I don’t take beer notes with pen and paper any more. I share my impressions with dozens of my beer drinking friends in the Untapped community. In short, this application has become an integral part of my beer drinking life.
This isn’t a sales pitch; — the app is free anyway — there are other similar applications out there that do the same thing. What I’m really here to share is an unintended, positive consequence the application’s had on my beer drinking life.
Rather than focus on the tried and true, go-to beers, I went on a serious beer binge to log in as many new beers as I could find, which made traveling even more enjoyable. I was on a road of discovery and felt my palate expand. I even drank a number of shitty beers in the last year just to log them in.
It didn’t take me long to challenge myself. I looked at my consumption pattern after a couple of weeks and thought “you know, I bet I could drink at least three new beers on average every day for a year,” and set about to do it.
I’m proud to say that after a year, I reached my goal. Some days I only had one new beer, and some days, I had eight or more, usually in smaller sampling format. I became a regular – okay, I already was – at La Bodega, because the new beers that come in on a regular basis are prominently featured right up front in the store, making a lunch time grab-and-go for new suds simple and quick. I used the app’s bar code scanner to quickly determine if I’d already tried the bottled and canned products. There were times it was a challenge, but it put me in our local breweries and bars a lot more than I had been before I downloaded the application.
Disclaimer: when I set out on this wild, foamy journey, I defined a “new beer” as not only a brand new beer I’d never had, but a beer I hadn’t had in at least 10 years. That was another awakening. I started going back through some of the classics that I’d abandoned for new stuff and found myself saying “where the hell has THIS beer been in my repertoire?”
That doesn’t mean it’s not possible to drink three new beers – and not “old beers” – a day in Alaska. In fact, I know it is, and I’m betting that one could easily drink three new LOCAL Alaska beers a day. Looking at some of my high consuming friends on the app, I think they’re doing it without even knowing it. Are you reading this, Curtis?
Drinking three new local Alaska craft beers a day may well be my next Untapped challenge, but I’m going to give myself a break for a bit and see what hits my palate by default.
I’m headed to the beer-improbable Huntsville area with a stopover in Nashville next week. I haven’t done my homework on Nashville yet, but I see there are at least 14 craft breweries in Huntsville, so here I go again.
If this intrigues you and you end up on Untapped, friend me; the experience is a lot like “Facebook for drunks,” as a critic once called it. Regardless, it’s a cool craft beer community and I’m pretty sure I’m in for life.