App of the Week: Beer Prophet

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Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a weekly series in which MainStreet spotlights one new smartphone app that can help readers manage their money, shop better or improve their job search. Check back each week to find out how to make your smartphone even smarter!

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – The American craft beer scene has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, with revenue for the sector growing by 12% in 2010. That’s been a boon not only to enterprising brewers but also to beer lovers who no longer have to look to pricey imports to get quality beers.

If there’s a downside to this embarrassment of riches, it’s that beer drinkers are now confronted with a litany of choices in the beer aisle and at the bar, and it’s hard to know if the hundreds of beers are right for you.

Enter Beer Prophet, a beer discovery app that introduces you to new beers that you might like.

The company’s official website pulls a quote from a review that describes the app as “like Pandora for beers,” and the comparison to the music discovery service is apt. Upon downloading the app and registering an account, the app asks a few questions to get a general idea for what sort of beer you might be into – light or dark, hoppy or malty, floral or sweet. It then presents a list of beers that it recommends you try out.

Just as importantly, the app lets you search through a database of more than 3,500 beers to find some of the beers you already enjoy drinking, then find similar beers you might not have tried. A company spokesperson explains that the app finds similar beers using an algorithm that accounts for six different characteristics, including style, flavors and type of hops. As you identify beers you do or don’t like, the same algorithm is able to build a more complete profile of the types of beer you enjoy.

As you check more beers off your list, you can review them and scribble down some tasting notes for future reference. And if you’re into regional brews, you can specify that you’d like to see beers brewed in your state and even bring up a map that shows breweries in your area.

The app isn’t perfect for beer discovery: Most notably, you can’t see any kind of reviews for the beers it recommends, and we’d love to see the app integrate or link to reviews from such sites as Beer Advocate and RateBeer.com. But if you’re into craft beer and would like to expand your horizons a bit, this is a good primer in finding other beer that’s up your alley.

The app is available for the iPhone and iPad, and can be purchased from the Apple App Store for 99 cents.

Matt Brownell is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by email at matthew.brownell@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter @Brownellorama.

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