If you’ve spent any time within the craft beer community, you’ve surely heard of Untappd -- the app designed to look up beer ratings, keep track of beers enjoyed, and connect with friends. And although I’ve been a member for seven years, racking up 1,227 unique beer posts and 597 unique badges in that time, my achievements are small potatoes compared to those of some superusers (and super beer drinkers) that have reached near mythic levels within the community.
I spoke to two such individuals: Nathan Miller, an NY-based software developer, and Sean Curry, a Chicago chiropractor. Each have consumed and ranked over 10,000 unique beers, becoming Untappd community managers in their respective local regions.
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Before Untappd, Miller was a bit more analog with his approach to beer tasting, relying on a notebook to document his brew journey. He learned of the app through a friend, as did Curry, whose pal let him know, “This is a new game -- like Foursquare for beer!” (You can probably tell this was awhile ago by the fact that apps were still being compared to Foursquare. The internet moves fast, don’t it?)
One of the more addictive goals of the “game” is to collect badges for drinking particular brews. Curry has a self-proclaimed “sick collector's mentality,” thoroughly enjoying hunting down unique beers to complete badge sets. At the time of this writing, he currently has 10,501 unique beer entries and 2,146 badges. He plans his vacations for maximum check-in opportunities, and has even traded beer for specific badges.
Meanwhile, Miller, a numbers guy, loves the data even more than the accolades. That hasn’t stopped him from gathering 1,868 of ‘em (and checking in to 11,820 unique beers, to boot). The note-taking and collaborative nature of the app speaks to Miller above all else.
Considering the number of breweries, bars, and taprooms that these connoisseurs have collectively visited, I wanted to know what they look for when visiting a new venue. Both agree that the key to a great location is a wide diversity of delicious beers with a knowledgeable staff. It’s an absolute must that the servers “know what they hell they are talking about,” Curry says.
Bars should also be clean -- especially their draft lines. Beer is a living product that needs to be handled as such, and delivering beer via dirty draft lines is nothing more than a waste of fine liquid.
Finally, Miller claims that he wants to be able to sit down at any bar he frequents. Having spent his college years standing at bars, he explains, he's now an adult who appreciates a good stool.
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But how about "the ideal beer"? Does either Untappd-er have a single favorite? They sure don’t. Miller is looking for beers brewed to style without any major flaws. Though he drinks hundreds of IPAs each year, he finds himself consistently returning to crisp, clean pilsners, the difficult-to-master marks of any true brewing professional. Curry, on the other hand, ultimately values uniqueness, and doesn’t believe that all beers must follow style guidelines if they’re well made. He likes it when brewers push boundaries and innovate.
If you’re looking for new friends on Untappd, you could do a lot worse than hitting up @seanchiro and @nathanmiller. Hell, they might even share some of their vast beer gossip and knowledge with you. And if you haven't joined yet, what are you waiting for? Untappd has helped build a digital beer community by encouraging us to head out into the real world and have a pint. Because while Curry might plan his vacations around new badges, even he’d admit that just drinking the beer is a damned good reward, too.