I came across a quote the other day that I think bears repeating…and then hanging on the wall:
“It is essential to the livelihood of craft beer that more and more people get turned on to it, and this can only happen with a more welcoming, inclusive attitude from those who claim to be most enthusiastic about the stuff.”
(-mentioned here, by Tammy Tuck and Bruce Falconer, who write the Lagerheads column for Washington City Paper)
Not that this is a novel idea or anything … collaboration is fundamental the craft beer world. Craft breweries have been teaming up for decades—to foster creativity, to help each other out, and to help get more people interested in the craft. Just think of any beer festival, beer and food pairing dinner, or the increasingly common collaborative brewing effort (take this beer, or this one, for example). It’s pretty obvious that brewers need little reminder that comaraderie is an essential element of the craft.
But what about beer enthusiasts? Can we humble beer drinkers help ensure the livelihood of the craft beer world? Sure, we can gladly spend our hard-earned dough on a pint, but can we really help foster the craft in the long run? We at Drink the Craft think the answer is yes, and we think we’ve decided how: keep up the conversation.
We’ve all had the conversation. That gushing enthusiasm over a pint—“wow, this is so…grapefruity!”—or that excitement about a new release: “I just picked up a bottle of 13th anniversary!” But how often do we have that conversation with someone other than our regular drinking buddies? Think about the last time you were excited about a beer—were you sitting around a familiar table? looking at familiar faces? Um, we were.
Enthusiasm among friends is great, but one of the primary goals of Drink the Craft is to take that conversation and run with it—move it forward, dig it deeper, and have it with more and more people. So, from time to time, you’ll see us chatting it up with other enthusiasts in the beer scene—and sharing the conversation with you.
Last week we caught up with Jeff Gordon, who runs the San Diego-based website Taphunter.com with his wife Melani. Talk about beer enthusiasts who are willing to share—Taphunter is an amazing resource for any craft beer fan. The premise is simple—the website is a constantly updating source of which beers are where at any given moment. You want to see if Sculpin is still around? Boom—it’s at Hamiltons. Have been meaning to try Green Flash’s Fizzy Yellow Beer? Looks like you can head to Toronado. You can search by bar, brewery, or beer; can pull up the website on your phone; and can even sign up for an rss feed of beer-related events. It is eminently useful, increasingly addicting, and a boon to any craft beer enthusiast living in or visiting San Diego.
So we were curious. Who are the craft beer lovers behind this website and why are they working so hard to help us drink good beer? We couldn’t help but ask a few questions. Here’s what we found out:
Drink the Craft (DtC): Can you tell me a bit about how the listings work? How are they updated?
TapHunter (TH): It really works a number of different ways: a location will keep their list updated on their website; or we’ll work with a location to give them access to edit their tap list directly in our system, we’ve built a pretty cool management console for locations; or we work with the website users to keep the list updated.
DtC: It looks like you have over 900 beers in your database. How did you compile them initially? How often do you add to the list and how do you decide what gets included?
TH: The beers are added as we track them. Our database is only built out by the beers that locations have had on tap, an amazingly diverse selection, huh?
DtC: What’s been your favorite part of running the website so far?
TH: Being able to connect with the people who use the site. The people are as passionate about great beer as we are and I love that.
DtC: What challenges do you face in trying to maintain up to date listings?
TH: If there’s anything we’ve learned it’s that having an accurate and updated tap list is great marketing for a location. Putting a great new beer on tap and pushing that information out there is going to drive business. The challenge of fresh data really stems from bar owners/managers not realizing this. We take an educational approach to the problem, most locations are very interested in marketing their businesses any way they can and with a little education about [our website] they “get it.”
DtC: What can craft beer fans do to help contribute to the site?
TH: If we don’t track the taps at your favorite bar, tell them about us! Did you visit a location because you saw they had a specific beer on tap? Tell them about us! Word of mouth marketing is a powerful thing!
DtC: What are the best ways for beer fans to access taphunter on the go? Are any phone apps existing or in the works?
We have an iphone application that’s in the Apple approval process (as of 8/28) and should be released soon. The app is not an exact clone of the website and we built a few extra features into the application that really play well with the mobile nature of it. We’re excited for its release! The site is also compatible with mobile phone browsers, so if you have a blackberry, android, palm pre, or other smart phone you can access all the site features while on the go.
DtC: What are your future plans for taphunter? it looks like you are going to eventually expand into other cities—is there anything else you plan to roll out for San Diego?
TH: Yes, soon we’ll be expanding into other markets that have thriving craft beer communities. We’re also working hard to build more user interactivity to the site.
DtC: Have you had any beer discoveries since starting the site—new bars or beers or breweries you hadn’t know about before?
Th: For sure! That’s one of the best parts of running the site. There are so many new places that are embracing the craft beer movement it’s hard to keep up. The users of the site have been great at letting us know when new places start serving great beer.
DtC: I love the “Beer for Books” concept. What made you decide to include “giving back” as part of the TapHunter model?
TH: Giving back has always been part of our plan. We both really value and recognize how fortunate we are. In the fall of 2008 we went on a trip to Costa Rica with Melani’s parents. It was our second time to Costa Rica so this time we decided to do something a little outside the tourist realm. We connected with a couple in South-Eastern Costa Rica who run an organization that provides education, food, and microloans to the indigenous families in their area. We brought a few large boxes supplies down for them and got to meet a few of the families. We also got to hike into the jungle to visit their home. It was an amazing experience and it really motivated to include “giving back” in all endeavors.
Beers for Books is a fundraising concept that supports Room to Read. It’s a great program because it benefits everyone; the attendees get to drink great beer, the bar donates $1 per beer purchased and gets a tax write-off, and that $1 equals a local language book for a child. Room to Read is an amazing organization and we’re very happy to be able to contribute.
The next Beers for Books is going to be at Anthology on 9/16, the event page is here. We encourage everyone who can to come out and have a beer!
DtC: What are you drinking these days? have you found your tastes expanded or changed since running the site?
TH: Well, we’re both pretty big hop heads so IPAs and double IPAs are always in the rotation. Lately I have been following a lot of the local breweries and trying more traditional styles, especially Belgian styles like sours. Right now? I’ve got a Hopnotic in my hand, SD Brewing Co just put a fresh batch on tap today! Melani’s favorite is the Port Hop 15.
DtC: I know you started TapHunter in San Diego because you live here, but what do you think makes San Diego so unique when it comes to beer? what do you like best about the area?
TH: I don’t know that San Diego is necessarily unique. I think what’s really unique is the passion that the craft beer community has as a whole. It’s an amazing and diverse group of people. I really see San Diego as a concentration of those craft beer brewers and fans, just like many other cities: Portland, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Austin, etc! Now, I’m not impartial, so I do think San Diego has some of the best breweries in the US; and being a hop head there’s really not a better place than California.
DtC: Is there anything you’d like to see happen in San Diego when it comes to our beer scene?
TH: I’m looking forward to SD Beer Week. I think marketing San Diego as a beer destination, with the beer week being the opportune time to visit, is a great concept. I’ve seen that other cities are already successfully executing on this idea and it’s exciting. Some of the events during that week that have already been announced sound amazing.