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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Saturday, 27 March 2010

Cask Ale? There's an App for that.

Today sees a big drumroll for Cask Ale Week, which officially launches on Monday.

Two exciting things this morning:

Firstly, The Independent, the official media partner of Cask Ale Week, has published a cask ale supplement. I've written the intro and a piece on the history of beer, and there are also pieces by Protzy on the rise of microbreweries, Tim Hampson and Tom Stainer at the Kelham Island Tavern, none other than Al Murray rhapsodising about cask ale and British tradition, and Neil Morrissey on his life in beer. Follow the links by all means, but please do try and buy the paper as well - they need all the sales they can get!

Secondly, Cask Marque and Cyclops today launch Caskfinder, an iPhone app. Now I'll be honest: when you see Cask Marque's somewhat dated, cramped website, I didn't have the highest of hopes for this. But having just downloaded it I'm absolutely blown away by it. I can see it's going to be indispensable.

First, there's an encyclopedia of every beer rated using the Cyclops tasting notes - currently just over 1000 - searchable by beer name or brewer, with tasting notes and the opportunity for you to record your own rating of it.

Second, there's a directory of every one of Cask Marque's 6000-odd pubs. Let your iPhone know where you are and it flags up the nearest pubs to you - you can also download this onto your car Satnav. Googlemaps gives you the address of the pub, a link to their website if they've got one, and details of any beers on tap that have been tested by Cask Marque's assessors.

Then there's a directory of brewers - don't know how many bit I'd guess a couple of hundred. You can see all their beers, back search from here to find the pubs that serve them, link to the brewers' websites, and find the brewery in a map.

There's a directory of upcoming beer festivals with full details, locations, maps etc, a featured beer of a week, and and, er, an RSS feed to this blog! Looks like I'd better tone down the profanities from now on.

And it's absolutely free.

I know there are some people who are sneery about Cask Marque, and critical of Cyclops. Some breweries claim their own quality standards are higher, and people don't like the format of the Cyclops tasting notes. But in each case, while they may not be perfect, they are rapidly becoming national standards. This app shows the confidence and vision that cask ale as a beer style now has. For pubs and breweries that have not yet signed up, or feel they don't need it, I'd say it's worth signing up just be be on this app. The more pubs and beers it includes, the more indispensable it will be.

19 comments:

Lars Marius Garshol said...

The app does look good, but unfortunately it seems you need to be a UK iPhone user to get it.

It's only in the UK store, and while it's possible to change stores in iTunes (I just did), unfortunately the UK app store seems not to accept non-UK credit cards (at least it rejected my three).

Why the app store must have my credit card to let me download a free application is a bit of a mystery, but there you are.

Shame, because I'm going to London next week and this app looked like it could have been very useful.

Paul Pestille said...

Hi Pete
Thanks for the glowing praise for the CaskFinder app - we worked through quite a few iterations to get it as good as we could - and of course, there's always more we want to do but didn't have time - but they're coming in the next release :-)
During the course of the development I realised that there are many will-o-the-wisp beers that come and go, leaving only a local fleeting memory - and sadly those beers never get into the Cyclops database - but I would hope as Cyclops gets wider acceptance that brewers submit their beers so that it can become almost a national collection, so that even if a beer isn't revived for a couple of years, next time its brewed, there's part of the collective memory about it through Cyclops (and CaskFinder) - which, now I think about it, sounds like a Borg Hive - you will be assimilated - resistance is useless!
Cheers

Paul Pestille and all the code monkeys at Skycoders.com

ennislaw said...

Sadly the Cask Finder is not available for us across the pond, different Store. I can't believe Apple hasn't heard of international travel!

crownbrewerstu said...

I like the Cyclops scheme, but it is expensive for small brewers like me, around £50 per beer and that's with a SIBA members discount.
so Paul I'm afraid as much as it is a good idea I can't see small brewers (like me) putting all there one of/seasonal beers on the cyclops scheme.
Lars, it is a real shame foreign visitors can't down load the app because it be even more useful to them.

Paul Pestille said...

Apologies to all those kind people outside of the UK - we only released the app to the UK Apple store so that we didn't suffer exactly the criticisms we have ourselves about "international" apps - namely, here's another app that doesn't work in Boise, Idaho or Aarhus, Denmark.
Can I suggest you download the app when you are in the UK? Not sure if that will get round Apple's slightly weird app store policies or not....
Apologies again - you can please some of the people some of the time....the rest, you just piss off :-)
cheers

Paul Pestille

Eddie said...

If only it included Annabel Smith's phone number. That would be a proper app.

David Cantrell said...

Doesn't contain the very first brewer I searched for - Harveys, and they're not exactly small. Therefore useless. Deleted.

Pete Brown said...

Agreed, Harvey's seems like a glaring omission, but as far as I understand it, the only reason they wouldn't be included is that they have chosen not to sign up to the Cyclops tasting scheme - in other words, it's down to the brewery rather than the app.

But to say the whole app is "useless" just because one particular brewery isn't on it?

I swear, I will never be able to understand where the sheer depth and intensity of negativity and anger comes from with some of you people. Every time I post some news about some new development or initiative which, while not perfect, undoubtedly adds to the promotion or appreciation of quality craft beer rather than detracting from it, a large constituency of people seemingly can't wait to find fault with it or slag it off before they've tried it.

What's wrong with you guys? Cheer up!

(I'm not referring here to those people who can't download the app 'cos they're outside the UK - that is a shame.)

CarsmileSteve said...

Seems quite decent, even as an itouch rather than iPhone user. If the codemonkeys are still listening, somewhere to record yr own opinion rather than just rate would be nice for version 2.

Pete, there are annoying moaners everywhere, shame you've attracted some here...

crownbrewerstu said...

i do like the idea of the app i just wanted to explain to people why some brewers won't be on it.
I would very much like to use an app like that my self, but I have no iphone will this app be available for windows mobile?

Tyson said...

No problem with the Cyclops scheme but what about us non-iphone users!

Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

Windows Mobile version please?! ;-)

Pete Brown said...

No problem with your comments Stu.

I should stress that despite my blog being on there, I've had nothing to do with the development of the app, and am not being paid to consult on it in any way. However, Paul Pestille from the developers is reading and contributing to third thread so it does seem to be a good way of giving any feedback on it.

Wiindonws mobile version seems like a necessary mext step. Current solution for non-iPhone users is less than ideal, but there is a limited service for you mere mortals.

From the press release about the app launch: "Also available is a text messaging service whereby you enter CASK followed by a FULL STOP and your post code ie CASK.CO4 9HT and within 30 seconds you will be sent details of your 2 nearest pubs."

DJ said...

It may not be perfect but it surely is a darn sight better than it not being available?

crownbrewerstu said...

how much does the text thingy cost?

Annabel said...

The Cask Marque text messaging service costs 25p plus standard operator rate and for this you receive the names and addresses of the two nearest CM accredited pubs to the post code texted.

Stu - just a comment on costs of Cyclopsing beers. SIBA subsidize the cost substantially for their members which means that up to 5 beers can by 'Cyclopsed' for £100. After that each additional beer costs £20.

crownbrewerstu said...

just two more things,
1. what's the number i send the text too?
2. I'm not a siba member so how how much will cyclops cost me?

Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

I completely understand why Windows Mobile wouldn't be included - lack of demand. If three people on here want it that probably means 10 people with Android and 100 people with iphones come first, that's the way of the world. But if you can make one, it's a nice bonus for us idiots that tried be cool and different (!)

Paul Pestille said...

Thanks for all your interest - and commiserations to you WinMob users out there - like Mark says, its all about demand - next up is Android and way down the list is the rest - WinMob, RIM, Nokia etc. Sadly life (and software development) is always a compromise - a bit like beer I guess.
And yes, thanks for pointing out the obvious - we can only display data that Cyclops and Cask Marque hold - Harveys have so far resisted the benefits of a Cyclops listing (not as if they couldn't afford the £250 either) for reasons I know not.
I have been acting as an unpaid Cyclops volunteer, chasing up a number of brewers for their missing logos so that our lists wouldn't look too empty - and you wouldn't believe how apathetic many of them are, even when offered some free publicity - you can check who they are by looking for the "no pic" signs in the lists of beers - just another engaging feature brought to you by the code monkeys at Skycoders :-)