The long-suffering of friends and loved ones who sit across the table while someone removes themselves from a conversation and hurriedly “checks in” their beer on the Untappd app? These people possess the patience of saints. I know, because I used to be one of the people ignoring conversation for an app. Eventually, my friends—and I know they’re true friends because they chimed in—started saying, “Hey, what the fuck?”
As I approached my 1,000th unique beer, something happened. I didn’t get a rush of excitement from achieving this manufactured goal of the gamified life—I felt gutted. This was suddenly high on my list of life’s most meaningless pursuits.
That’s not to say that you can't derive joy from cataloging, recalling, sharing, and otherwise analyzing one’s habits. There’s a multi-billion dollar industry built on that insight into human nature, and it’s used to motivate us to go jogging, play games, spend money, and any other activity we aren’t naturally motivated to perform without a carrot and stick. And all too often, we don’t give it real purpose beyond the tick, tick, tick.
Untappd persists, however. And in many ways, it remains valuable to a large number of users for different reasons. For others, like myself, it’s an embarrassing memory of an early beer geek’s naive adventure. In each case, it probably says more about the person than the app.
Ross O’Neill: “I am a recovering Untappdaholic. I quit using it about 6 months ago. I didn’t like the drinker it turned me into. I became too focused on new beer check-ins and started ignoring my old standbys. I only use it now to check in my homebrews, and am a much happier beer snob.”
Dom Cook: “I quit Untappd two years ago and never looked back. I started off doing it for the rush of adding to my tally of beers I drank, couldn’t wait to hit 1K! Then it turned into just keeping track of beers I had minus the hype, but it got boring and became a hassle and I got to a point where I just wanted to enjoy my beers and not spend the time checking them in, so I deleted it and haven’t thought twice about it after."
Rob Scott: “I used Untappd for a while, but stopped last year when I considered I’d never once looked back at the 500 beers I’d recorded."
Zack Rothman: “I am an avid Untappd user, supporter, and moderator. I use it as a type of social media as well as a tool to both review beers and keep track of the beers I’ve had. Untappd provides an easy way to see what both you and others thought about a beer, which often helps guide my purchasing decisions. It’s a great way to virtually share beers with others, though I try to do so after the real drinking experience. I mostly check in my beers after the fact so that I’m not distracted when I’m actually tasting the beer."
C. Sean West: “I use Untapped mostly for the social aspects and often forget to check in beers myself. I almost only check in beers I've had before if they are truly seasonal releases where I'm expecting a possible difference. I do, however, really like that homebrewers can create a brewery account and add their beers. I create, print, and place QR codes on my kegerator for friends and family to check in beers that I've made. I usually get better feedback that way.”
Alex Marino: “I use Untappd mostly for first-time logins and to see what beers my friends really like. I trust the tastes of all of you that I'm friends with, so if I see one of you highly rate something that's available in my area, I'll seek it out.“
Jake Rajewsky: “I treat it more like social media than a never-ending checklist. Unless you're a crazy person, you only post highlights or important things on Facebook and Instagram. I do the same with Untappd.”
Lana Svitankova: “I'm a person who runs our brewery account [which means I] get to track all the feedback and it frustrates me to no end. The problem is that the local craft beer scene is very inexperienced, beer-wise and drinkers-wise as well. So we've got like 0.5 for DIPA with comments like 'too bitter' or 'artificial and too alcoholic' for Imperial Stout with loads of fresh raspberries. I understand that most ratings on Untappd are 'I like/I don't like,' but it really hurts when a beer is rated low just because a person doesn't like sours in general, for example. This is why I never use Untappd as a reference for purchasing beer.”
Chase Brooks: “Speaking from the standpoint of a producer, Untappd promotes some consumer behavior that is the antithesis of the culture we’re trying to promote. I mentioned earlier that I think Untappd incentivizes its users to treat beer (and cider) as the equivalent of catching Pokemon, and I stand by that. We’re over here trying to make consistent products that are a go-to for our fans, create messages they can align with, and throw events they enjoy being a part of. But Untappd is saying, 'You have already had that, no rewards for you!' It’s literally developed a gamification strategy that is telling its user base that it’s better to not return to steadfast producers—they should always search for the new thing. Otherwise, no rewards.”
Daniel Pavey: “From a bar perspective, it has not been as effective in drawing new business as expected (at least in the UK). I would be super interested to here how the Untappd for Business and verified venue program has worked for taprooms and bars in U.S. Does more check-ins and unique users equate to more footfall and greater spend per head?”
Suzanne Schalow: “I don’t use Untappd. I signed up for an account a few years back, after the initial push for it, and thought I might use it, but I never did. The more popular it became, the more it started to bug me. Users checking in Double IPA’s and giving a beer a poor rating because 'it’s too hoppy' or scoring a Wheat beer negatively because 'I don’t like wheat in my beers!' There are positives and negatives to most things—Untappd is no different. It seems to me that if it didn’t have the rating feature, it would be better. People could check and catalogue their beers and leave a comment, but without the rating, that is sometimes extremely skewed. Venues could still use it and other users could see what people are saying without the rating, meaning 'this is the actual quality of this beer.' This part of Untappd makes brewers and breweries crazy. I can’t say that I blame them.”
Miles Liebtag: “But seriously, I haven’t logged a beer in probably five years and don’t really know anyone in the industry who uses it any more. Avid Untappd users tend to be some of my least favorite beer people, especially at events and tastings. Sip, tick, talk shit, and repeat. It’s as compulsive and unhealthy as any other social media game. FarmVille by any other name.”
Threefrenchs: “I use Untappd as my personal log, and that’s primarily it. I try to log in as many new beers as I can. Occasionally I will add a comment, but mostly just a rating. It works for me. A number of times I go to log in a new beer just to realize I had it a few years back. At that point, it’s interesting to see if my opinion of the beer changed.
To the breweries who don’t like it: everything is rated. Movies, music, restaurants, wine, contractors, and beer. However, unless the beer has hundreds of ratings, I don’t think Untappd is a good reference. I also don’t think most people buy beer based on the Untappd rating.”
Mike McCarty: “I understand the frustrations with it, but I love using Untappd. I mainly use it as a log, and almost never check into a beer a second time. But I also make good use of the location features to scout out beer lists at my favorite bars and to find bars in areas I'm not familiar with. I try not to look at reviews of a beer before checking in so that it doesn't push my own reaction in either way. Finally, I have a few friends scattered around the country who also the app and it's fun to see what they're drinking!”
Ryan Wilson: “My first goal when going out for a beer is to have something I have not had before. I don't look at others ratings or comments as I want to come to my own conclusions, only whether or not I have had it before and if I liked it then or not. Note to brewers/breweries: Nothing is more frustrating to me then looking up a beer and finding no description or details. And I'm not talking about some whimsical fantasy story that your marketing/taproom manager dreamed up over a bowl last night, I want to know what the brewer's vision was for this beer and if I can taste or detect what they were trying to accomplish.”
John Conner: “ I don't pay much attention to what the ratings are from everyone else, and I almost never check Untapped before I have a beer to see how high or low their UT score is. Not only is everyone's palate different, but I find that it also can affect my judgement of the beer as well.
Nick Naretto: “I turned to using it more as a personal beer log. I keep my friend list to a minimum so that I don’t get bogged down with a million beers that I will never even see in my lifetime. Most are IRL friends that live in my area and it shows me what they drank and where they got it. There are a few breweries and bars in my area that use the verified venue feature of Untappd and it has come in handy. I have often scoped out a tap list before visiting and even get notifications from the places I frequent.
I think that a lot of Untappd haters are confused. The app can amplify certain aspects of beer and its culture that they don’t like so it is easiest for them to just blame Untappd. I see it as part social media and part beer enthusiast tool. Tickers are going to tick, sippers are going to sip, and pounders are going to pound with or without an app.”
Willie Lee: “I use Untappd as a beer log and venue marker. I don't rate beers anymore, because how dependable is a drunk rating? But because of Untappd, I did purchase my own pocket beer journal, to jot down detailed notes that matter to me.”
Nick Yoder: “I literally check in to every beer I drink on Untappd. I like to be able to look back on all that data and observe trends in my beer drinking habits. It's also a great way to remember how much I liked a certain beer and to see how my tastes have changed. I love that I can now add serving style. I put a lot more weight into how I rated a full pour versus a taster or a sip from someone else's beer.
I'll admit that it does incentivize me to try new things, but I've gotten better at finding favorites and drinking them again and again. (Analyzing all those check-ins proves it.) And the badges are actually really good at encouraging me to drink styles I may not have otherwise.
The social aspect can't be overlooked either. I enjoy seeing what my friends and family are drinking, especially when they go on trips. It's helped me gain a better appreciation for their preferences, which helps me recommend beers to try or places to visit because I'm often the one they turn to for that.
Ultimately it is what you make of it. For me it's an invaluable source of information.”
One subscriber took a big step back and tried to chart the trajectory of an Untappd user. It may not follow your own, but surely we can all recognize ourselves in some stage of this journey.
Wayne Pelletier: “The Seven Stages of Untappd Usage:
1. Pleasure: “Caps for all my faves, weeeee!”
2. Euphoria: “IPA Level 30 Badge? YAS!”
3. Jealousy: “What is that she’s drinking, and where can I get it?”
4. Frustration: “You gave my favorite IPA only 3 caps?!”
5. Anger: “If you hate sours, don’t try a $30 version and 1 cap it, you @%$#&@!”
6. Resentment: “Most of these reviews are from tasteless tools so I’m not reviewing or capping anymore.”
7. Resignation: “I just toast what my BFFs check in and build my wishlist.”
Are you still using Untappd? What do you do with it? How does it affect the way you consume and order beer? Let us know on social media! Or, better yet, join the Fervent Few to have this discussion with the best beer community on the internet!