The smartphone revolution has invaded every facet of modern life, even the sanctity of the saloon. But there are some useful applications that can take your beer-hunting into the digital realm. Apart from the all-purpose apps like Yelp and the social networks, here are a pair of useful options for your iPhone or Android device that can help you find places to drink, discover new beers, and even remember what was in last night's ill-advised flight of imperial stouts.
TapHunter is an app that can help you find those elusive brews that you've been hunting. Participating bars and restaurants can upload and update their tap lists to the service, and you can use the smartphone app (iOS or Android) to search for a particular beer or check in on what's pouring at your local haunts. TapHunter also provides details on events happening around town. You can add your regular watering holes to a favorites list, and TapHunter's website makes configuring your account simple.
To help prevent you from being led astray -- or at least led to a bar where the taps have changed before the app is updated -- there is a "freshness" rating for each menu that lets you know how long it's been since the last update.
Untappd (for iOS and Android) has become a popular way for beer fans to keep a record of the brews they try. Once you've sidled up to the bar and decided on a pint you can use Untappd to "check in" to the beers you're drinking, and you can rate each beer, record your tasting notes, and post a picture with just a few swipes of the screen. Once you've logged a brew, the app will provide suggestions for other similar beers to try, and there is a built-in wish list feature to keep track of all the new beers that you want to try.
Like popular location check-in app Foursquare, Untappd can optionally link to your Facebook and Twitter so you can (selectively) broadcast what and where you're drinking to your social networks. You can collect a group of beer-fan friends on the service and "toast" or comment on their check-ins, and the app also features a discovery service that shows you what beers are pouring at bars and restaurants near your current location.
Untappd also awards users Foursquare-like "badges" for such things as drinking a certain number of different beers, or having a pint where other Untappd users are also drinking. This gamification of the app is just enough incentive to keep pulling out the smartphone and logging your beers while at the bar.
Once you've tracked down and checked in to your beer, let's just all agree to not spend too long staring at those screens. After all, beer is a social beverage, taverns are social places, and smartphones already demand too much of our attention.