ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!
ʼʼ

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tapping into Untappd

Generally I'm one of those 'early adopter' types.

I was singing the praises of strong, uncompromisingly-hopped American Pale Ales back in the 1990s when most people simply refused to believe that Yank beer could be anything other than bland pisswater.

I learned how to pronounce 'quinoa' and quickly dismissed it as a viable food option long before it became a staple of the dining table in fucking Highgate.

And this Winter I'm bringing back possets. Trust me, I'm way ahead of the curve on this one. At some point in the next couple of weeks I'll share my Insane Clown Posset recipe which will blow your ballsacks away.

But it's impossible to be bleeding-edge all the time.

For the past few weeks I've been using Untappd to keep track of my beer drinking, and while it's extremely useful and quite addictive, it does feel like I'm very, very late to the party, like some guy that only joined Facebook last month and still hasn't worked out that sending Frontier Crushville Candy Saga requests to everybody every 20 minutes makes him a cunt.


Beers, badges, beers and beers

Untappd's database of beers is impressive, both in size, accuracy and ease of look-up. Certainly for checking the details of a currently available beer, it's better than Ratebeer and Beermad, which I've used for years.

The app, or at least the Windows Phone version that I use, is shockingly well designed and a pleasure to use. Clearly people who actually understand User eXperience work on the project, and it's better quality than any other free niche app I've ever seen on any platform.

I keep it in my pocket, when I have a beer it's recorded in a few clicks on Untappd, and I seamlessly carry on drinking (with Sid James and Barbara Windsor!)

The UI is clean, the database comprehensive
No pen and paper, no clumsily making notes on a notepad app, no ambiguity around who brews it or what the ABV is. It's great.

The problem, though, with being so late to the Untappd party, is that it's only tracked my beers for the last couple of months - and that with a few gaps as I didn't enter absolutely everything when I was first checking out the app.

Sadly there's no option to import your beer history, and that means some very retarded things happen. I had a pint of Thornbridge 'Jaipur' the other night, and Untappd cheerfully told me without a trace of irony that 'this is your first time drinking this beer'!

It's not the apps fault - it only knows what it has been told -  but it does make people like me who have been ticking beers for many years look like n00bs compared to early adopters of Untappd who may actually have far less experience with a glass in their hand. But who have tried Jaipur, ooh, I don't know, twice?!?

There are other downsides to Untappd too:

It doesn't allow you to easily differentiate between different versions of beer with the same name - often the cask, bottled, kegged and canned versions are very different products.

You also can't easily export from the app into your own master records - note to developers, this would really be a killer feature - and while the ability for ordinary users to add new beers to the database is, on balance a good thing, there is always the chance that some well-intentioned but underclued twazzock will be the first person to add a beer, spelling the name incorrectly or getting the style wrong.

Also it does tend to post your 'badges' all over Twitter a little too readily, though this can be sorted out by tightening up the permissions you give the app. Even so, getting yet another level of  'God Save the Queen' after every five pints of British beer does become a bit tiresome. The achievements could perhaps be spaced out once you advance beyond the lower levels.

But here's the thing, I've been coming up with a list of valid, brutal criticisms of Untappd... and yet, I really don't fucking care. It's still a great app. I bloody love it.

If you've never really been into beer ticking, the highly gameified UI of untappd will draw you in, and for seasoned tickers, it's highly unlikely to replace your existing system or records, but will certainly complement it nicely.

Great work, Untappd guys, great work!

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