Untappd:Gamification of Beer

If you are like me, and spend your time at a desk in the corporate world it is likely that you have heard one of Corporate America’s newest buzz words.

I have to admit, every time I am on a conference call and hear a senior manager use hot buzz words during a presentation, I usually roll my eyes. Paradigm, out of the box, gamification, etc. It’s kind of annoying.

However, today, while in a meeting speaking about gamification and engagification (a term my employer just made up apparently) I started thinking about gamification, and what gamification existed in my life. They mentioned on the call, frequent flyer programs, reward cards. Then I thought of things like FourSquare, and then I thought of beer.

And I realized that gamification is alive and well in the craft beer community, and I in fact have fallen victim to gamification and didn’t even know it. Untappd is one of these apps, and as it happens is my favorite of all the gamification apps. What Untappd does from a high level is to create an incentive based environment to try new beer, and new places to have them.

User profile screen in Untappd
User profile screen in Untappd

I joined soon after the website went live in late 2010. I had been other gamification apps, like FourSquare. While I do use FourSquare, I usually couldn’t tell you WHY I use it. At first I thought this was going to be similar. And to make things worse Untappd didn’t even have an app at this time.

Whaaaa?? I know, right?

Yeah, they were using a mobile based website to be accessed through your phone’s mobile web browser. At the time I thought that was time of lame. But I soon realized it was kind of genius, since it allowed them to develop a web based app quickly with lower cost, without having to deal with the expense of developing for multiple mobile platforms. This was a mobile only website. Try to check in a beer on your PC, you would hit a brick wall.

Quickly I found that Untappd was engaging. I started checking in every beer I had, and it seemed like every third one awarded a badge. I was pulling up the app when shopping for beer to see if certain beers were on the list to qualify for a particular badge. Honestly I really don’t care about the badges, but it was fun. It was a great way to discover new beer. Or, at least new to me beers.

As time went on I did notice how I used the app was starting to change. I was looking at what people on the other side of the country were drinking. Discovering more and more about what beer was available in other parts of the country. But even more importantly I would learn what was being served in my area.

I recall in October of 2011, soon after Founders Backstage Series release of CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout) and I saw one of my Untappd friends was drinking a bottle at Al’s of Hampden.

Recalling a specific checkin
Recalling a specific checkin

I had never heard of Al’s of Hampden, and how were they serving Founders, much less a very rare release? I immediately opened Google Maps to find where this Al’s of Hampden was.

With the Baltimore area visible in my browser, I searched for Al’s of Hampden. Curiously I saw the map view zooming to the northwest of Baltimore. Huh?

Come of find out Al’s of Hampden is a pizza place in Enola, PA near Harrisburg. And it happens to boast an excellent beer selection. Today they even brew their own beer, and are moving to a new much larger location with a state of the art brewery.

My experiences with this app continued to evolve. I know that I have had at least 829 unique beers since November 2010. So when I look at a draft board, and decide I want to drink something new it can be a challenge. I now find myself pulling my phone out to see if I have had something. It usually ends in an, “Oh yeah, I remember that!”

Of course Untappd is helping me remember by telling me when I last had the beer in question, and where if I used FourSquare to check in to the location.

While this information is nice, being able to log ratings, and notes about the experience becomes useful. At least to me. I now almost completely ignore the badge aspect of Untappd, and use it as a tool to keep quick notes about when, where, and if I liked a particular beer.

Exploring style history
Exploring style history

One of the other features on a more macro level, is on their website. I can take a look at different styles of beer I have been enjoying. While this feature may only be useful to someone who is, let’s say, writing about beer. I am sure that the guys at Untappd will take this to the next level by helping people explore within a style based on geolocation, and something they have not had. This could help people seek out new beers within a particular style or help a restaurant owner looking for ideas about the next Belgian Dark they want to put on tap.

Untappd has also been able to encourage exploration of new venues. It seems like almost every beer week has an associated badge. There are also badges for finding the founders of untapped favorite venues. The Ladies of Craft Beer also had a few limited edition badges for different regions of the US. I have two children, so the venue badges have never been an attraction to me. But I am sure for some if has helped them find some great new beer bars.

Some of the most avid beer enthusiasts I know, don’t really do Untappd. And that’s OK. I think we all have a slightly different opinion of it. I really like to log what I have, and this way I don’t need to have a pad of paper and pen handy all the time. Others may just use it for the social aspect, and the badges.

And while I am sure that I will cringe the next time I hear a hot new buzz word during a conference call. I will give them credit for gamification. I hope that some of you that read this will search for me on Untappd. It’s one place, where I welcome friends I don’t know, because I feel I can introduce you to some new beers, which I really like to do. If you want to find me, just click here.

Upcoming Events

April 30th – May 5th – Brooklyn Brewery MASH
May 11th – 18th – Frederick Beer Week
May 11th – FBW BeerFest @ Stillpoint Farm
May 18th – Maryland Craft Beer Festival

One thought on “Untappd:Gamification of Beer

  • April 28, 2013 at 12:17 AM

    Good article. I’ve been using Untappd since the beginning and yes, I use it to try new beers and get new badges. I don’t usually check what beers my Untappd friends are drinking, though. I have only one real friend on Untappd, my sister, who got me to use the app in the first place.

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