The promise of an online Oktoberfest

Your new beer drinking buddy, technology, makes it easier for consumers to find, drink, track and rate beer

Beer has come a long way in the last few decades, and the Pacific Northwest has been at the center of the craft beer revolution. According to the Washington Beer Commission, the revenue generated by the state’s brewing industry totaled in excess of $6 billion in 2015 alone. The beverage has transcended all stereotypes to become a unifier, bringing together beer-loving communities made up of the young, old, single, families, women and people from a breadth of cultural backgrounds.

In Southwest Washington, the presence of craft beer has been strong, attracting national attention. Northbank Beer Week, made up of a guild of 27 craft breweries and cideries, from North Jetty Brewing in Seaview, through Vancouver and along the Columbia Gorge to Everybody’s Brewing in White Salmon, has served to solidify the love of quality craft beer in the region for longtime beer lovers and novices alike.

With the accessibility of craft beer increasingly on the rise, technology has stepped in to make it easier for beer consumers to find, drink, track and rate beer. Apps like TapHunter and Beer Advocate bring beer styles, beer listings, beer news and nearby beer events directly to your device, while the popular Untappd app allows users to log and rate their beer journey and connect to other users with similar beer tastes.

Technology has also expanded the size of the craft beer community by allowing beer lovers to connect and discuss all varieties of beer, get recommendations, send and receive beer from all over the world and ultimately establish friendships – often times with the unlikeliest of candidates.

I have personally been a beer lover for two decades and recently connected to the larger beer-o-sphere via Instagram. As a professional woman in my 40’s with a career and a family, I felt left out of the beer industry’s typical target audience, although I have the disposable income, inclination, knowledge and love for craft beer consumption. Hence, I started an Instagram feed found at @sheknowsbeer.

While my original intent was to create both a platform other women like me could identify with and allow me to showcase my professional knowledge of beer branding, I have been surprised at the the growth and outreach created by my social media endeavor. In less than three months, She Knows Beer has grown to over 3,500 followers, daily connecting me with passionate and kind beer drinkers from around the world, who regularly support and educate me, sometimes going as far as to mail me beer from their region of the world!

Consumers like me haven’t been the only beneficiaries of beer technology – breweries, tap houses, bars and restaurants have also been able to connect to a wider audience through technology’s reach. Platforms like Digital Pour and Untappd allow establishments to share exactly what beer is being served at their watering hole and even how much is left in a keg.

“Untappd is a great business tool for us as we’re able to populate our digital boards and subsequently our paper beer menus from their platform. We can also seamlessly incorporate our menus into our website and on our Facebook page, giving customers the ability to see what we are serving in real time,” said Kimberly Johnson, owner at Final Draft Taphouse in the Fircrest Neighborhood.

“We also leverage Untappd to review what craft-beer industry folks and craft-beer influencers say about various beers in order to better inform our beer-buying decisions. It’s an affordable and efficient way for us to connect with our ideal customers — craft-beer enthusiasts.”

Similarly, brewery owners have been able to utilize industry technology like business management software Ekos, to manage keg sales, inventory and on-premises sale of beer and merchandise at the POS.

“As our brewery grows, we are implementing more brewery specific technology that’s going help us streamline the business and scale with us, ultimately making it easier for our clients to get our beer,” said Matt Ellis, sales and distribution manager at Brothers Cascadia Brewing in Hazel Dell.

So what does the future hold? As technology becomes increasingly (and dare we say, creepily) intuitive, promoting products and services based on our search terms, social media interactions and audible discussions, I suspect the beer industry will keep up, eventually prompting our devices and making recommendations based on proximity to beer, beer establishments and other beer lovers. Ultimately, however, the good ol’ fashioned method of bellying up to a bar and engaging in conversation with other beer-loving human beings as a means of creating community and gaining knowledge, is a platform that will never become obsolete.

Ava Palmquist is Co-Owner and Brand Strategist at Ambient, a downtown Vancouver creative agency specializing in Branding, Web Design and Marketing Strategy. She is also an avid beer consumer whose journey and shenanigans can be followed on Instagram at @sheknowsbeer.