Tuesday, December 3, 2013

POURsuasion: Untapp'd, bringing beer drinkers together

There was a recent article by another Indiana blogger that pointed out some of the problems that come with Untappd and the people who use it too much. Take a second to read it if you haven't already because it's very well thought out. It has some good points but in general I think its ignoring some of the most important parts of the beer related social media. Basically the author, Jake, believes that Untappd takes people away from socializing, makes it too easy to provide innacurate ratings, and turns craft beer into a competition and encourages people to spend more time on their phones than talking with the people nearby at festivals, tastings and other beer related shenanigans.

This is pretty similar to the argument that many parents make about smart phones and social media in general with their kids. I agree, social media in excess is probably bad, but there is no reason for all of us to throw out our smart phones and go back to the days of the Zach Morris phone or, God forbid, no cell phone at all.

As far as Untappd goes, I completely disagree. I've had a wonderful experience with beer in Untappd and other social media platforms (namely Instagram). Often it's way too loud to make phone calls, or service sucks. With Untappd your friends can find where you are by tracking your check-ins.

The biggest thing is to remember that Untappd is a tool, it's not a way of life or a reason to drink. Through check ins around Indy on Untappd and Instagram, I've met an awesome group of beer geeks, #ICBM, who share a similar interest in rare beers, trading and basically having a good time. These social media programs have allowed us to come together and start doing bottle shares on a regular basis. Just like with any hobby, craft beer is better when done with people that appreciate it at the same level that you do. Having the ability to ask my friends for suggestions, talk about new releases and meet up with people all because of an app has really made the craft beer scene more fun. The group I drink with now does a bit of whale slaying, and we really do look for the biggest baddest beers to share with each other, but because of Untappd we're doing it together.

Some guys with big Untappd profiles and tons of beers finished do tend to brag, but they'd brag without the app. They're the same people that have to tell you every detail about every Dark Lord Day they've been to just because you started talking about a stout. People who brag, and I can totally be guilty of this at times, are going to brag whether its in person, over Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Untappd. If you don't like it, you can just avoid those people like you do at your high school reunion.

The craft beer scene can be a scary thing these days. There are tons of choices, just ask Matt at HBG. Untappd is like training wheels for your craft beer ride. When you start off it's hard to find out what you like, and so many brews don't put everything on the labels. You can get style, ABV, an average rating, description and similar beers to help educate you on what you're drinking. The last one helped me when I got started, because I could look at some of the beers I liked, and find other things in the area that were similar. There is so much combined knowledge from the craft beer world on this app, that you can really get a head start as you decide what you want to taste.

One of my favorite parts of the app are the badges. It's easy to enjoy the American craft beer scene without thinking about the traditions that come from so many other countries' brewing history. We tend to think about what is the most recent IPA from whoever, instead of thinking where IPAs came from. Having the badge structure has forced me out of my comfort zone. It's made all of us look for German lagers, Belgian Tripples and crazy sour beers when it could have been easier to continue drinking that Zombie Dust that everyone knows is amazing. After trying so many of the original foreign styles, you get a much better appreciation for what we are doing in the craft scene right now. I realize that some people are naturally curious and some of you probably tried these brews on your own. Some people need a reason to do something different and Untapppd gives us that reason.

Despite all my arguments, I do think rating beer when you are three sheets to the wind is a pretty bad idea. I'm totally guilty of it, but I know that the next day I often make a comment just so I can remember that I was shit canned. The notes on Untappd are more for me than anyone else... hell they're more for the blog and putting out a good product for those of you who read our reviews.

It's easy to hate on social media for the time people spend using it, but you have to remember it's just a tool; not something that is master of your universe (yeah, He-Man reference). Maybe we need some guidelines to help us remember common courtesy:
  • Use it to find your friends, and figure out what they like and what you might like.
  • Don't rate beer while hammered, or at least tell me you're hammered in the comments.
  • Always look for the year on big beers to help your fellow whale hunters know when the time is right to pop the beer.
  • You don't have to share every beer, badge and accolade on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as well.
  • Comment on people's posts, try and be helpful, even try and make a friend. It is social media after all. 
  • Chill out, it's just beer. Don't worry if you forget one or miss a location or mess up a rating.
There is such an awesome craft beer community, and the more we can do to unite and help each other the better off craft beer will be as a whole. If we can look to more experienced drinkers for guidance and look to people nearby for hot spots to drink, we can bring more people into the craft scene then ever before.

By the way, I'm TheBigGuy on Untappd and the picture is correct, Mickeys fine malt liquor was my 1,000th beer.

TheBrewniBomber- Just to throw my 2 cents in here. I'll start off by saying I love Untappd, I pay $5 a month to be an Untappd "supporter", but I think I fall somewhere in the middle of the two schools of thought on this topic. For me Untappd is a tool to keep track of what I've had, what I thought about it, and to share those thoughts with other users. Being a numbers person, I think it's great that I can look at detailed stats of my beer love and make sure I'm not about to drink something I've had before and hated.

I think untappd is great for recording quick ratings and notes (which I think more people need to do) that I can reference later if I want. I have a separate app that I use to do somewhat detailed reviews of new beers, but I don't always want to do a thorough review of every beer I'm drinking especially if I'm at a bottle share, festival, or out at a bar/brewery. Why? Well this goes back to the heart of the argument- it takes me time to do a review of a beer and I'd rather spend that time talking to the people I'm around… you know being social. In situations where I'm going through a lot of beers I keep my notes simple and I don't take pictures, which seem to take up a lot of time.

While I appreciate the social features and when people "toast" my check-ins, I rarely if ever use the social function of Untappd, because personally I think it's a bit clunky. Plus I could care less if people are impressed with what I'm drinking… besides that's what instagram is for!

As far as the badges go, I'm kind of over it and I don't let them dictate what I drink anymore, but I do agree that they can be a motivation tool for some people to try things out of their comfort zone. Just don't feel like you have to race to get those badges though, your wallet and liver will thank you for it, and I think it's safe to say that Untappd will be around for awhile.

So my guidelines:

  • Have you said "what did you say bro?" several times during an outing? A beer went around the table and you didn't get it? Put the phone down. I'd actually like to institute a "no phone" rule at tastings. If you want to take notes or rate the beer bring a notepad and check-in later.
  • Don't feel the need to share all those badges and beers on social media- if you have a badge you're particular proud of go for it, but I don't really care that you hit "Land of the Free" level 4. I encourage you to tweet/fb check-ins when you provide tasting notes or useful commentary on the beer.
  • Drink something good for your "milestone" badges. Don't be an ironic hipster. 
  • Don't be a slave to badges. Remember- they're not worth a damn thing.  


  1. Great stuff, guys. Thanks for taking the time to write a response and I think your guidelines are spot on. I have definitely missed the social side of Untappd because I use Twitter and Instagram SO heavily and I am resolving to start taking a look from time-to-time to get a better feel for the app.

  2. I really liked how well thought out your article is. I know that I've been guilty of some of these "no no's" especially at festivals and tastings when there a ton of beers going around. The only way we are going to be better about all of it is if we think about what we're doing. Your article totally made me think. Thanks for cranking out the good stuff Jake!

  3. I posted my personal rules in the HBG article's comments section. Honestly they are pretty different from yours Andrew, but they seem to work for me.

  4. Totally fair dude. The nice thing is the app is pretty versatile, where you and Russ may get more out of the log, I may find the people side of it more helpful. I like the idea of the day after check-in but I have a tough time remembering most of my impressions unless it was really good or really bad. I think the big thing is making sure you don't let the app run you.