A bevy of apps are entering the market, and they’re designed to help ale aficionados seek out their ideal suds.
Craft beer is rapidly growing in popularity. In 2012, 415m pints of independently-brewed beer were consumed in the UK - up from 22.3m.
That figure comes from the Society of Independent Brewers who, after 21 years of campaigning, saw the progressive beer duty introduced in 2002.
The system gave smaller breweries a chance, allowing them to pay less tax on their products. Now, app developers are jumping on the craft beer bandwagon.
Craft Check is a newly-launched US-based app that tells you the truth about a craft beer - i.e. whether it really is one. It gives consumers the opportunity to scan a beer’s barcode, checking a database of 3,500 entries to provide details about the brewer and whether they fit the craft definition.
Definitions of microbreweries differ, but generally cover those that produce limited quantities of beer. In the US there's a specific number - it’s 6m barrels or less a year.
There are plenty of beers that sound, and even taste, like craft beers, but which are owned by much larger breweries than consumers might think, or even global giants. White beer Blue Moon, for example, is part of Tenth and Blake, owned by SABMiller/MillerCoors.
The app offers information such as:
Careful! What you've got there is an imitation craft brew from one of the big guys. It's got all the soul of a spreadsheet. Crafty, but not Craft.
Despite the shadow of prohibition, America, like Britain, has seen a craft beer renaissance since the 1970s, with breweries eating into the dominant market share held by Big Beer. While we have over 1,000 microbreweries, 2,300 consider themselves craft brewers in the states.
That said, the Big Beer companies have gone out to acquire craft breweries, along with coming up with their own brands. And for obvious reasons: according to the US’ Brewers Association, craft breweries had 7.8 per cent of total sales last year, but make almost double that by revenue share.
When it comes to established apps helpful closer to home, Craft Beer London, developed by Blue Crow Media, provides maps, lists, ratings and photos of pubs and shops selling craft beer in the city.
There are also apps emerging from regional British brewers who sell craft ales. Three years ago, “St Austell Brewery in My Pocket” went live, and Sussex-based Dark Star Brewing Company has created an app to help people find its beer.
More widely, there’s the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) Good Beer Guide app, CaskFinder and Cask Marque’s app to help customers nose out quality cask ale.