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Beer Portfolio - Document What You Drink, Repeat as Needed
Let me preface this with saying you will see the term “beer snob” repeatedly throughout this review. It’s said with love. I consider myself a beer snob. It’s meant to denote anyone who enjoys, appreciates, and commonly tries new and different craft beers; and appreciates them for their complexity, not just for their alcohol content.
So sometime around, we’ll say a few months ago (I don’t remember when exactly I joined), I joined a site called Beer Portfolio. At the time, the site was in its infancy, but I liked what it potentially had to offer. Having been a member of Untappd for some time, I was skeptical of another beer social site, but I rapidly found myself using Beer Portfolio every chance I got. It’s simple. It’s navigable. It’s not focused on the social aspect or badges or turning good beer into a drinking game. It’s very elegant and allows the user to keep track of his/her beer history and look back to see how s/he rated each beer based on taste, style, and brewery. It allows the user to really log their experiences and look back for reference. Where I see Untappd as a more social, log every beer you drink type of site, Beer Portfolio is actually more useful. It’s more of an honest logbook of your beer snob experience.
Another thing I found very useful with the site is that it’s not “too big.” What I mean by that is the developer, Michael Jones, is very close to the project and takes feedback seriously and wants nothing other than to improve the site and the apps that complement it. It is not difficult to contact Jones directly, give your feedback, and have a fix implemented within (usually) a matter of days. This is important to me as a user. It shows that the developer really wants to improve their product based off the customer’s needs.
I mentioned the apps that accompany the site. It’s true. There is both a free version and a paid version. The paid version is $1.99, but in my experience, it’s worth every penny. The brewery locator alone is a very important aspect (that no other app has that I could find). And it’s important to note, I don’t typically pay for apps. I bought this one immediately. Just an awesome head’s up, the brewery locator is a simple button that you touch that lists the breweries nearest to you (sorted by distance). Once you get the list, you can actually click on “Navigate” and it will give you directions to the brewery using Google Maps. This is excellent for the traveler beer snob.
Recently, I was able to “sit down” with Michael Jones to ask him a few questions. Here is the result:
CR: What prompted you to create Beer Portfolio?
MJ: My family is the main reason I created Beer Portfolio. Every holiday, me and my siblings turn it into a beer tasting event. We all grab a few bottles and taste a whole lot of wonderful craft beer and discuss them. Unfortunately, we all do not live near each other and I would love to do these tasting discussions more often, so I figured I would create a website for us to discuss and learn about beer on.
CR: What is your primary intent of Beer Portfolio?
MJ: Walking into a bottle shop or standing in line at a beer tasting festival can be pretty intimidating at times. With the craft beer boom there are a whole lot of different styles and you most likely will not always know what you're drinking. I have been crafting the Beer Portfolio android app along these lines; to help be your guide and teacher when you have no idea what you're looking at in the bottle shop.
I believe you should never drink a beer blindly. You should always know what you're getting into. What I mean by this is each beer based on its style has a different personality. Beers should be rated to their style and amongst beers in their own styles. Using Beer Portfolio before you drink a beer you can click on the style and get a whole description of the style guidelines so you will know what to expect in the beer. I also allow users to tag beers with different taste tags. By allowing users to tag beers, we accomplish a few things. Prompting the users to tag a beer with a taste and amount of taste [a little, medium, a lot] get the drinker to stop for a minute and actually think about the beer. By recording your taste experiences with a beer, you can easily go back and recall what a certain beer tasted like and begin to see what you are able to pick out in certain styles. This all will help make you a better beer taster and will help you learn a lot more about the beer you are drinking. The other great part about tagging beer tastes is that it helps teach other craft beer enthusiasts. Say you are trying a beer and/or style you have never had before. You take a sip and you know it’s a pretty unique taste but just can't place a name or descriptor to it. You can look the beer up on Beer Portfolio and see what other users have tagged the beer tastes as. By looking at what other users have tagged the beer as, you will then be able to attach a descriptor to the taste you are experiencing for the first time. This is truly an amazing teaching tool if you want to become a better beer taster, and it becomes better each time users add, rate, and tag beer tastes on Beer Portfolio.
The last great thing about Beer Portfolio is exactly what the name of my website is. It’s a running Portfolio to keep track of every beer you have ever tried and see statistics based on your unique taste and style preferences. In a bottle shop and can't remember if you have tried a certain beer or not? Then just look it up in your portfolio real quick. It’s also great for recommendations in a bottle shop. Quickly look up a beer to see what others think of it!
CR: How long have you been working on this project?
MJ: I can't exactly remember when I started but I think it’s about a year, or just under a year. I really started it just for my family but it’s been starting to really take off recently and I love all the new users.
CR: What features does Beer Portfolio currently hold?
MJ: Beer Portfolio currently allows you to add beers to your portfolio in order to keep track of them.
Once a beer is added to your portfolio you can rate it and add taste tags to it as well. On the website and the app you can then get detailed statistics of what your favorite styles, tastes, and breweries are based on all your ratings. There are a couple extra graphs for analyzing your statistics while on the desktop website. On both the app and website you can get basic information about all the beers such as ABV [Alcohol by Volume], IBU [International Bitterness Unit], style descriptions, tastes profiles, and brewery info.
Beer Portfolio also allows you to explore the craft beer world. We group beers by brewery, style, and even tastes. This allows you to quickly see all the beers you have tried from a given brewery, style or taste and allows you to see the top beers as rated by others users in order to get recommendations from a brewery, style or taste.
On the desktop website there is a friends feature which is coming to the Android app in the near future. The friend feature allows you to compare you beer portfolio with your friends and see what they are drinking. This feature is in the process of gaining a lot more functionality in the near future. I want you to feel like you are drinking and discussing beer with your best friends even when they are in an entirely different country.
We also provide users with a brewery map on the desktop website which allows users to see a Google map of the world with a pin showing the location of every brewery you have ever tried beer from. In addition to seeing the location of every brewery you have tasted beer from you can also mark breweries as "visited" and can narrow the map down to only show you breweries that you have visited. Beer Portfolio is truly a portfolio keeping track of everything related to your craft beer experiences.
CR: What’s different in the paid version app versus the free version?
MJ: The first big difference between the paid version and the free version of the Android app is the free version has advertisements in it. Other than that, the Pro version has a button to locate any nearby breweries, so you can quickly get driving directions to a craft brewery to explore and the pro version allows you to search for beers by scanning a beer’s barcode.
I am one guy doing all the programming for Beer Portfolio and am trying to make a little money in order to cover the cost of hosting for the website and data.
CR: What features can we expect in both versions in the future? Separate by version.
MJ: In the near future, I plan on incorporating the friends feature which is available on the desktop
website, and I am in the process of adding tasting notes. So you can write a paragraph or so of your beer experience and not just record tastes.
As for the next stage of the apps, that’s a secret but we have some great things in store!
CR: Do you foresee yourself creating an iOS version?
MJ: Yes, and iOS is high on priority. My brother is actually the biggest reason why this will be happening soon. There are just a few hurdles I need to clear in order to accomplish this. First one is that you need an Apple computer to program for iOS which I just solved last month when I purchased a MacBook Air. The second is I would like to get a iPhone for testing purposes.
CR: How receptive are you to user feedback and what kind of feedback have you received?
MJ: I am very very receptive of user feedback. If I think others will benefit from your idea, I will code it up as soon as I can. I know I do not have every great idea stored away in my head and I love being [able] to help others out.
CR: How many users do you currently hold across the board, website and both versions of apps included?
MJ: This is information I am not publishing at the moment. I can tell you I have seen a huge jump in the number of users signing up in the past two months and the amount of activity on the website has greatly picked up. The more users, the more accurate the taste profiles become and the better recommendations become.
CR: How big (success) would you like to see Portfolio go and where do you see it going within the next year?
MJ: I would love to see Beer Portfolio become huge. I think it would be amazing to see big news outlets quoting Beer Portfolio ratings or using taste profiles created by our users at store or beer festivals!
I have to be honest. I tried making this article objective, but I am hooked on this app. Any fellow beer snob needs this. It’s the most useful app for beer review that I have found. While it doesn’t allow you to actually submit a review (yet), it does allow you to go back and easily find what you thought of a beer, what your friends thought of a beer, and even whether or not you’ve had the beer before. And again, the brewery locator is currently one of a kind. It is not an app for those who like the ‘fluff’. It is an app for true beer reviewers/snobs who want to keep track of what they thought. You can’t upload pictures. You can’t earn badges. You can’t mock your friends. It’s there for exactly what it’s called… a portfolio; a diary of your experience. And it does every bit of its job and more. I highly recommend it (if you couldn’t tell). Even if you’re not a fellow beer snob, but you want to keep track of what you have tried, it’s still the perfect app for that. Just click on “My Portfolio” and >BOOM< there is your beer history. I sincerely look forward to what comes in the future.
Here are some links to follow:
If nothing else, try the free website and the free Android app and give it a try! While I firmly believe in the pro version, the free version seriously offers all the necessary functions of the app and I would like to hear your feedback on this project. So sign up on the website, download the free app, and give your feedback here. And if you like it, spring the 2 bucks for the pro version. You won’t be sorry.