Pub Scout’s Honor

Badges, beers, and smartphones.

Photo by Flickr user Geoffrey Fairchild
“It’s like FourSquare for beer.”

That’s how I usually describe Untappd (oh, the indignities of Web 2.0 naming conventions) when asked why I’m pecking away at my smartphone as I take my first few sips of ale. For my entire adult life, I’ve been what you might call a “beer enthusiast” — unless you were trying to hurt my feelings, in which case you would call me a “drunk.” Any way you phrase it, I’ve made it a point to try as many different craft beers as I can. A friend introduced me to Untappd about a year ago, and it’s become an indispensable part of my hobby.

When I’m enjoying a beer, I’ll search for the brew in the Untappd app on my iPhone. When I find it, I rate it on a scale of zero to five bottle caps, make a comment and sometimes attach a photo, include my location if I’m at a bar or other public venue, and post the check-in for my friends and well-wishers to see.

There are plenty of benefits to this. I can keep track of which beers I liked, which ones I loved, and which ones I might hesitate to drink even after 40 days of wandering the desert. Untappd also makes recommendations of other microbrews similar to my selections, so I can discover other new boozy treats. Moreover, I can rely on the wisdom of my peers to determine which beers might be worth my time and money.

Of course, there’s one other silly little thing that keeps me hooked on Untappd: The badges.

Oh my stars, the badges — the little virtual tchotchkes that you unlock when you drink on a special occasion or meet a certain criteria. Christmas, St. Patty’s Day, Independence Day, your birthday: All badge-worthy. Try 50 or 100 different brews? There’s a badge in it for you. Sample 10 different British beers? Pip pip, jolly good badge, old chap! It’s a silly, meaningless incentive, but it’s an incentive nonetheless. Noting my tireless pursuit of new Untappd badges, my good friend Molly has cleverly dubbed the app “Pub Scouts.”

In the pursuit of my badges (81 and counting!) I have tried 330 distinct beers over the past 11 months. But don’t worry; I’m taking the app developers’ instructions seriously and drinking responsibly. I haven’t even earned the “Take It Easy” badge — that’s a dozen check-ins in one day.

Although if you know of any tastings nearby, I’d be glad to join you for a pint.

Article © 2013 by Kevin Brotzman