Untappd: "Foursquare for Drunks"

We are living in a world where there’s an application for everything. It was only a matter of time that beer lovers would start developing useful applications. Untappd is a mobile-based phone and web application that lets you “check-in” beers that you are drinking, like Foursquare. They borrow Foursquare’s API mapping, so you can also check-in to the bar where you are drinking your beer. It was released to the public in late October 2010 and has already surpassed two-million check-ins. I use it often and here’s my account.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Untappd’s co-founder Greg Avola. He talks about his app and he even drops a potential pick-up line to use on the ladies.

After being a “Mobile Web-only” application for nearly a year, they expanded their product to include an iPhone and Android app. Avola said “user rate has increased about 200% on a daily basis.” He also added, “The download and sign-up rate have been insane and we are really humbled.” Avola started the company with Tim Mather after he had the initial idea of extending the check-in activity. Currently Untappd is a three man operation with the acquisition of RedPint in February, they added John Vajda as Product Manager.

Now that we got some of the nerd talk out of the way, this application is pretty sweet. You earn badges for various things, just like Foursquare. The developers at Untappd are constantly upgrading and adding new badges, so there’s always something going on when you check-in. The badges range from a “St. Patty’s Day” badge if you check in on St. Patty’s Day to “Beer Connoisseur” badge when you drink five different beers from five different countries. You earn a “Newbie” badge with your first check-in, so you’re off earning badges from the first day. Like many other applications, Untappd can be integrated with your Facebook and Twitter accounts, if you choose.

Anyone who uses Untappd will increase their knowledge of beer within the first few check-ins. The application recommends beers that you might like based on your previous check-ins. This is very handy for those wanting to try new beers within the same beer class. Here’s an example: if you check-in with a Southern Tier 2XIPA, the recommendations will be other IPAs. If you want to try something different, you can just search for beers or look at some of the recent check-ins from your friends. The rating system and comments will help you decide if you want to try the beers. Avola wants to do more with individual breweries and add brewery specific badges like he has done with Dogfish head and Karl Strauss in the past.

Your friend feed on Untappd will certainly leave you with “beer envy,” especially if you have friends in other states. Craft beer breweries are popping up all of the time and their distribution is usually regional. Avola, who currently resides in New York City, even admits that he suffers from “beer envy.” He sees friends checking in beers from New Belgium Brewery and Russian River Brewery. Those breweries do not distribute to Avola’s New York City area.

Knowledgeable beer drinkers are the key to Untappd’s success. The more people who take the time and rate or comment on the beers, the more useful the application is to everyone. Untappd is not just for newbies looking to learn more about beer, it is useful for those who already know a lot about it. You can chat and communicate with other beer lovers around the world. One of the biggest compliments that Avola has received was actually his goal for the application. “People are starting to branch out and try new beers & venues. That’s the whole point of Untappd, to allow users to expand their palate and try different things.” He has even noticed people checking into beers at one of his favorite bars in NYC and it made his night.

Avola hinted that you can use Untappd as a pickup line at bars. He admits that one of his friends uses it successfully. “One of my single friends always tries to start a conversation with girls and uses, “Have You heard of Untappd?” It’s quite funny.” So, if you see a pretty lady at the bar using Untappd, you have a solid icebreaker. You’re welcome!

If you own a bar, I would spread the word of this application to your patrons. The customer will check-in to their beers at your location and their friends will see what is being sold there. It could lead to more business and help spread the word about your bar and what is currently in stock.

There are other beer applications on available for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry, but until there’s a new approach to them, Untappd will be the standard that all of them will be compared to. It is a free application, so save your money and start checking in beers. Even if you’re a college kid and Natural Ice is your beer of choice, there’s a badge for cheap beers.
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