Keeping Tabs on Beer: There’s an App for That

Innovation by | Jun 2011 | Issue #53

As the writer of this column, I have had the pleasure of talking with a bunch of people who have created something cool and beer-related because they are beer fans. But this time, the invention came first, spawning new craft beer fans afterwards.

Meet Joshua Patterson and Chris Spencer of Tap Leap Software, the creators of Brew Vault, an iPhone app that helps beer aficionados track and manage their beer cellars. But Brew Vault wasn’t the duo’s first app. Patterson was a wine lover first, and neither he nor Spencer admittedly had ever experienced anything called “craft beer.” This was in 2009, when the two launched Velvet Vine, their wine-tracking app. And although it went over well, public outcry for a beer app is what changed their course forever.

“I remember receiving numerous requests shortly after the release [of Velvet Vine] to have the same type of application for beer,” Patterson says. “[Spencer] and I had never been exposed to craft beer—we liked beer, but never imagined the scope of the craft beer movement. I felt that in order to develop a product, I needed to understand the consumer. I started attending tastings and festivals, and quickly realized that the same palate rules applied to beer as they do wine. I must admit, I fell head over heels for craft beer.”

After the “research” period, Patterson and Spencer started developing the Brew Vault in early 2010. It was released as an iPhone app in November and is available in the iTunes App Store for 99 cents.

“Brew Vault is a member-driven, community database. Even though there are over 100,000 beers in the database, it doesn’t have everything,” Patterson says, indicating that the community is responsible for adding new beers. “Brew Vault works like this: You update your Brew Vault, your Brew Vault updates the cloud, and everyone receives the updates from the cloud, constantly expanding the database. Since Brew Vault is a member community, you can read other member reviews and tasting notes.”

Patterson says Brew Vault is made up of five key areas:

The Vault is the user’s cellar. It’s where users track inventory and manage purchase history. Here, users can record how much was spent, quantity, plus date and location of purchases. The Vault will also display an overall summary report that shows the number of bottles in your Vault and what the total value is.

The Notepad allows the user to make notations on beers, which can easily be added to the Vault or Tasting Event sections. “This is the section I use the most to add beers when I am session tasting,” Patterson says.

Events is the area where users can create journal entries and tasting events, allowing users to group beers into specific tasting sessions—handy for dinners, tastings or judging.

The Search component allows the user to browse the database by different topics such as brewer, brewery, style or beer name.

The Extras section lets users sync Brew Vault, review tasting notes and read member notes. There is also a reference area for tips, beer terms and styles.

While Brew Vault isn’t available for Android yet, Patterson says they are working on an iPad version, and they continue to make improvements as suggestions come in from users. One recent upgrade: making Brew Vault usable when there’s no WiFi around.

“I love the ability to use Brew Vault when no service is available,” Patterson says. “When you are on an airplane, you can still write notes, manage your Vault and review beers. You sync when you have service again.”

Patterson says it is the craft beer community’s passion that inspires them to continue improving Brew Vault.

“My favorite part of Brew Vault is working with the craft beer community. I have never worked with more talented, interesting, helpful, friendly people in my life. Not that my experience with wine hasn’t been rewarding, but the craft beer folks are the most open and honest of the lot.” Get more details at brewvault.com. 

Previous: Broyhan
Next: Books