The human memory can only effectively hold a limited amount of information, which is why the human memory fails us so often by systematically forgetting appointments and marring names. With these limitations, we are forced to resort to databasing the things we know - calendars, contact lists, reminders, post-its covering the walls. My mother has a three-ring binder that included every author and book she’s ever read. I keep even the oldest Moleskin in fear I’ll need to recall a past triviality.
The other issue with memory is that it tends to become stunted with the addition of alcohol, which means as hard as it might be to remember appointments and names, it’s even harder to remember the various beers we’ve consumed, especially when you’re focused on variety and small-batch specialties. So there’s a need to write it down. There’s a need to create more lists.
The traditional way to do this is through a notebook. These notebooks can be simple spiral books or special beer-only tasting guides, each filled with taste notes and head quality and the number of legs or whatever it is you need to do to be taken seriously as a connoisseur. Of course, this requires you to always have your book by the ready, and it lends to the unfortunate combination of drinking beer and handwriting, which, the last I checked, gets progressively worse as the night’s tasting schedule winds toward close.
Thanks to the wonders of technology, this can be avoided. You may not have a notebook or scrap of paper or even a working pen, but I’m willing to guess you’ll have your phone. You’re already on there checking in to the bar or scanning Facebook while you pretend to listen to your friend or frantically trying to find the answer to some bar quiz question before time runs out - why not make that beer an official entry into the pub annals?
There are several apps out there - Beer Buddy, Next Pint, the hopefully-soon-to-be-released Tavern - but I’ve been partial to Untappd, which gives you everything you’d expect - tracking beers, the locations of those beers, badges, photo uploads, ratings, comments and wish list - without requiring you to go deeper. You can add as much or as little as you like. You can rate them any way you desire. You can pass on ratings altogether, if you want to go totally crazy.
In Sioux Falls, beer culture has expanded to the point that there’s an actual community feel to Untappd. Whether I jump on to preview which beer the hosts of the Off Sale Podcast are planning for the week or to get a glimpse at new beers in the area, I am connected without really being connected. Spend enough time on there and the breweries will start giving you a few virtual fist bumps. When asked by the Crow Peak corporate about whether I liked their one-off Crow-conut Porter, I was able to be truthful (“Thought I was going to hate it, honestly. Loved it.”) while backing up my claim with a four-star rating.
It’s worth noting that you’re not able to dive into BeerAdvocate territory with Untappd - there’s no five-tier scoring system or standard deviation for user scores - so your ratings will tend to be fueled by situation and relativity. I tend to score high, which is either a testament to my ability to find good beer or the lead piece of evidence that my palate isn’t as honed as one might expect.
Then again, the ratings themselves don’t matter much on their own. Our notebooks would have been just as random, with each of us tasting different things and measuring different amounts of head and logging different interpretations of color. It’s just that now, we’re able to pull out our phone, snap a picture and collect our badge. As if we needed more incentive to drink great beer.