For the beer lover who shuns Facebook but feels the need to connect with his or her kind, there is a solution: Untappd app for mobile devices. It's like sharing a virtual pint with your friends.
The app for iOS and Android devices connects beer fiends worldwide, allowing users to share and post pictures of their favorite brews and track beers that are trending.
Untappd works like Foursquare, a location-based mobile social-networking application that allows users to "check in" to a physical place and share their location with friends.
Like Foursquare, Untappd users can earn badges when they check in. Badges are milestones of usage of the app, and the number of badges in different locations varies.
While brainstorming about industries conducive to social networking, cofounder Tim Mather thought beer would be ideal, so he and business partner Greg Avola formed Untappd.
"Other social network applications are broad-based, such as Facebook and Twitter, where our app is a guide for beer seekers and drinkers," Avola says. "We believe that drinking beer was a social action but never put in an online sense, and hence Untappd was born."
Avola lives in New York City and Mather in Los Angeles, so they connected via Twitter. When the minds of the two techie hops-heads met, it was a match made in virtual hops heaven. A short while later, Untappd was born.
Avola handles the infrastructure, coding, and development for the platform, and Mather handles the design and user interface. "I'm good at making things work. Tim is good at making them look good," Avola says.
Geolocation is essential for the app. Users check in to their venues, which are sourced through the network by other users. It promotes venues and events such as Craft Beer week. Users earn badges in the process. Photographs of beer are taken at the venues and shared across the network.
Breweries, brewpubs, and other venues also hold their own pages and generate statistics, connect with users, and manage their brand. Schnebly Redland's Winery & Brewery, Wynwood Brewing Company, and Gravity Brew Bar can be found on the network.
Arwen Lehman of the Craft Brewjas beer club has been using the app for nearly a year to connect with breweries and fellow beer enthusiasts across the world. Through Untappd, Lehman has increased exposure of the club and met new friends in the process.
"It has really given us the chance to see what kind of brews we are all sipping and that has helped with a general camaraderie among us," Lehman says. "The 'Toast' feature is nice because it lets Brewjas know I would raise my glass with them if I were sharing a beer with them at that moment. It's a virtual cheers!"
Avola could not comment about the number of times the app has been downloaded, but so far more than 150,000 users have signed on to the network. One feature that is being developed for an updated version is the bar code scanner, which allows users to track their bar/beer tabs, but it will work only for nondraft beers.
Untappd is a free app for Android and Apple mobile devices. The network can also be accessed through a computer web browser.
It's easy to use. Simply download, enter your birthdate -- must be 21 to use -- and other personal information, and start connecting. The privacy settings are transparent. All accounts are made public by default, but private information can be made as private as the user wishes.
"Our app aims to educate and stimulate beer drinkers to allow them to keep track of what they had, recommend beers based on their style, and has the social element that brings it all together," Avola says. "Our goal at this time is to get Untappd the best-quality product out there for beer, and we plan on talking with our users and breweries and venues on how we can get there."
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And for the record, Avola's favorite beer is Pliny the Elder, brewed by Russian River Brewing Company.