We’re currently living in a golden age of brewing and drinking. It seems like every week there’s a new a brewery opening, or another special release coming out, or another multi-tap bar pouring its first pint. There can be information overload. Luckily, we’re also living in a golden age of information aggregation and crowd sourcing!
I want to give some love to tools that have helped me in my exploits in brewing and drinking from helping me formulate recipes to helping me find bars I want to go to after moving to Chicago. This is by no means exhaustive, and it is not in any order. It’s just a collection of useful and/or interesting online beer resources.
The Beer Recipator – This delightfully Web 1.0 tool is where we created our first beer recipe. While this might not be the prettiest website to look at, it can help you put together a really solid recipe. While there are a limited number of grains and some of the newer hop varieties are missing, you can modify the parameters of each to match your ingredients or even add completely custom ingredients. I’ve used this website for extract, partial mash and all grain recipes, and it provides a really easy, free way to get an idea of what your beer will be like.
BeerMenus.com – Currently this is only available for New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco. It is a curated list of beers and bars. The cool thing is that it is indexed by both beer and bar. If you’re looking for a particular beer, you can not only see which bars are carrying it, but the serving style (tap, draft) and price. Want to get a feel for a bar? Just check out its page on BeerMenus. You get a list of featured beers, bottles and drafts. Right at the top it lets you know the last time it was updated, so you can tell about how up to date it is. Any registered user can go in and update a bars line up to reflect what they have on tap. Hopefully this site will expand to future cities, or at least create uncurated, beta sites.
- The Beer Mapping Project – If you don’t happen to love in one of the few, lucky cities that can utilize BeerMenus.com, the Beer Mapping Project is for you. This massive project provides an extensible platform to geocache bar and beer information across the United States and even some international locales. There’s some customization and even an API reference to automate or create your own apps (!) based on the data. A lot of cool potential here that is only beginning to be tapped (no pun intended).
- Pintley – A little over a year ago, my cousin and I were taking about making a social network-type thing that was like a last.fm for drinking beer. Basically you can say “I had Beer X at Venue Y and it was Z.” We never actually got around to putting it together, but props to the Pintley folks for actually having follow-through! It’s still kind of new and limited at this point, but if it can develop an intelligent recommendation engine (Amazon meets Recipator… if you can dream it, it can happen!) and keep up with new releases, it could be an amazing resource for finding new, interesting beers. I’ve gone on and rated a bunch of beers and added some more to my wishlist (chi_panel: “add” or “follow” me whatever it’s called). I’m interested to see where this goes.
- Beer Advocate & Rate Beer – Do these really need much explanation? They are the premiere places to go to see what your peers think about virtually every beer that is out there. Sign up, log in and participate.
- Complete List of Beer Bloggers – This list, featuring yours truly along with hundres of other blogs, is curated by organizes of the inaugural Beer Bloggers Conference. I’ve clicked through a lot of the blogs on the list, and ended quite a few to my Google Reader. There are a ton of great beer bloggers out there, and this is a great index to use as a jumping off point to find the blogs that you like the most.
- Beer Blog Search – Brought to you by the guys at Hop Talk and Google, this custom search indexes 600 different blogs at the time I’m writing this post. Al keeps it updated as more and more blogs jump onto the scene. Want to find out the zeitgeist on a particular beer? Search for it here and see dozens of independent’s bloggers’ opinions and ramblings.
- @USBeerBloggers – Apparently RSS is so 2008. If you want to stay on top on all the craft beer and homebrewing news, follow this twitter feed. There are a ton of interesting headlines that I find myself clicking through despite the fact that I have a lot of work to do. It’s a great aggregation tool that can help you find great blogs you otherwise would not have stumbled upon. It can get a bit duplicitous depending on who else you’re following, but it is very broad in scope and likely aggregates bloggers that you are not following on twitter.
- Home Brew Talk – I peruse Home Brew Talk all the time, especially when I’m trying to come up with a new recipe. Looking to use a new, crazy ingredient? Search for it here, and you’ll more likely than not find someone who has done it before. I got tips here that proved to be very helpful in the S’More Stout and the Chili Pepper Porter. We also found a workable partial mash method and Igloo cooler conversion tutorial that we’ve used here. And beyond the forum, there is also a wiki that has a lot of great information on different ingredients. If you’re serious about brewing, you definitely need to check out Home Brew Talk.
- Adventures in Homebrewing – This is sort of a plug for my favorite home brew store, but I do legitimately use this as a resource to come up with general price estimates for recipes or different pieces of equipment. You can order a lot of different things online, and I can personally vouch for how friendly and knowledgeable their staff is. We actually got a bad lid on a refurbished Corny keg. We were looking at new lids, and they just told us to bring it in and they’d either fix it or replace it for free. It’s a great site to order or your supplies, and it’s even better to drop in and pull your own grain and sample what they have in their kegerator.
This is by no way complete. Off the top of my head, I know of at least two or three other homebrewing forums. There’s also plenty of listservs and local (home)brewers guilds that often have great info. Is there anything that I am really missing out on? What are some of your favorite online resources for brewing and drinking?