I get asked regularly by friends and readers if I used the popular beer app Untappd. My response is typically that I have an account but I rarely use it. Occasionally someone will connect with me on Untappd, I’ll make an effort to check in a few beers and then fall out of the habit and not check the app for months. I’ve currently checked in 159 unique beers on Untappd, while I’ve written 661 articles on Hoppy Boston in the same time frame. Before I started writing this article my account had my old address and didn’t have the new Hoppy Boston logo. The inevitable follow-up question, especially from regular Untappd users, is “why don’t you use the app regularly”? I don’t have a great answer, but I’ve been thinking about this a bit recently (especially after the Fervent Few article on the app) and thought I would outline some of the pros and cons of the Untappd app and the way it is used, at least from my perspective.
Things I like about Untappd:
Great way to track the beers you like/dislike: This is a simple one but needs to be stated, the app is a great way to keep track of the beers you try and whether or not you like them. There are so many beer options available to drinkers now, it is impossible to keep track of every beer you’ve tried and your impressions. I think the majority of people on Untappd use the app as a personal beer journal, keeping track of the beers that impressed them and the ones that underwhelmed.
When you have specific criticisms the breweries can see them: I love that so many breweries have admitted that they keep tabs on the app and have used it to identify potential issues with a batch or tweaks that need to be made to a recipe. I’ve even seen brewers ask the developers if they could have extra access to the app that would allow them more opportunities to directly communicate with users who review their beers.
There is a social aspect to the app: I don’t really use Untappd as a social account, I have a hard enough time keeping track of the apps I use, but many people use the app to check out the beers their friends are drinking. I have gotten beer recommendations from Untappd accounts that are linked to Twitter, so I can see how the social aspect could be useful.
Tons of information: An under-rated aspect of Untappd is the vast amount of information on the app. Most beers are tagged with style and ABV, and if you search by brewery you can find a comprehensive list of nearly every beer they’ve brewed.
Things that bother me about Untappd:
It is overly focused on variety: It seems like Untappd becomes a competition to see how many different beers you can try. I understand the impulse to constantly chase new beers, I need to restrain it on occasion. There is something to be said about enjoying the same great beer again instead of constantly trying the newest release.
It acts as a trophy case: This is probably a bigger problem on beer Instagram, but there are clearly people who use Untappd as a way to brag about the rare/special release beers they have waited in line or traded for.
There is an anti-social aspect to this social app: The issue with checking in every beer you drink on an app is that you need to take out your phone with each beer you drink. I’ve seen groups of people at bars where each person stops to check in each beer they taste, and it’s even worse an beer fests, where too many drinkers spend the whole fest on their phone checking in every taster.
The flood of tweets: My Untappd account isn’t linked to my twitter account, and it never will be. I don’t mind the beer check-ins too much, but I would love to find a way to remove all badge notifications from my twitter feed. I really don’t care that Joey Four Pack earned the level 57 Tooty Fruity badge. Does anyone know how to do this?
It punishes less popular styles: This is an issue with any crowd-sourced rating site, but inevitably scores are higher for more popular styles like IPA and imperial stout and lower for many other styles. There are too many Untappd reviews that dock a beer specifically because of the style.
Spoiler alert: This is a personal reason for me, but I don’t like to check in beers that I will later write up on Hoppy Boston, it would spoil the conclusion of my review!
As I look through the second list it becomes pretty evident that many of the issues I have with Untappd have less to do with the app and more to do with the way some people choose to use it. With that in mind I think I will try to give Untappd another chance, I doubt I’ll ever be a constant user but I will try to check in regularly. Feel free to friend HoppyBoston and follow along!