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Mobile App Helps Bars Manage Changing Beer Selections

Mobile App Helps Bars Manage Changing Beer Selections
Draft coverage: Taplister's Kerry Finsand.
Image credit: Photography by Toni Greaves

With more bars than Leavenworth prison and about 50 breweries within city limits, Portland, Ore., sits at the center of the craft beer revolution. But promoting brews in Beervana can be a challenge. Consider EastBurn, a popular gastropub that doesn't label its 16 taps, each of which can pour a different kind of beer at any time. "We rotate our beers out daily," says owner Mike Bender, "never buying more than one keg of any one kind of beer at a time."

For customers (and bartenders), keeping up with the changes can be a headache. But with the Taplister mobile app, EastBurn's staff and tech-savvy customers know what's being poured before they walk in the door. Launched in October 2012, the app and website connect bars and drinkers with a trove of data from RateBeer.com, a popular crowdsourced forum for craft beer reviews and information. By signing up with Taplister, bars can use RateBeer descriptions and rankings to promote their offerings through a web-based list-management system.

Meanwhile, bar-goers can use the free app to learn more about local pubs and the brews they serve.

Kerry Finsand, CEO of Portland-based Taplister, says the goal is to elevate the public's beer knowledge--and to sell more beer. "If we can convert people from a Coors Light to a Blue Moon, then to a Pliny the Elder by Russian River, we're really excited," he says.

Taplister offers three tiers of service: the free, web-based interface that lets pubs list their beers on the site and app; a $49 monthly plan that provides an enhanced listing, e-mail support, automatic posts of beer listings to Twitter, Facebook and an embeddable website widget and more; and the $99 monthly package, which adds Taplister's Digital Beer Board, software that displays the current brews on offer on a bar's Smart TV in an array of graphical themes.

EastBurn has two Digital Beer Boards and plans to add more. Before incorporating the software, the bar's staff was constantly updating chalkboards as kegs blew out, having to look up details like ingredients, alcohol by volume percentage and international bittering units. Now they just key in the beer's name, and they're done. Between that and Taplister's automatic social media integration, Bender says his staff saves at least 30 minutes a day.

More than 8,000 users have downloaded Taplister's iPhone app. The startup is setting up its technology in several New York City-area Buffalo Wild Wings locations and, after recently opening a Chicago sales office, will begin a concerted push into the Midwest.

If there's any downside to Taplister, it's that barflies will have even more reason to stare at their smartphones and ignore their friends--another bar trend that appears to be here to stay.

Portland, Ore.-based writer John Patrick Pullen has covered travel, business and tech for publications including Entrepreneur, Fortune, The Magazine, and Wired. Find him at www.jppullen.com.

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This article was originally published in the March 2013 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Flow Chart.

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