BrewFinder & the quest for better beer

If you haven't noticed, there are thousands of beers to choose from. Being a wannabe beer connoisseur, I'd love to try them all. But, perhaps like you, I stand in the beer aisle overwhelmed by the choices and far too often just grab a six of what I already know.

Existing beer apps do little to help folks like me. Knowing that someone earned the beer belly badge while gulping down a particular beer tells me nothing about whether or not I will like it. Most of these apps focus on post-drinking, social-sharing and not on discovery.

BrewFinder is my pet project to solve this challenge. It's a free app for iPhone and Android. Scan a UPC or type a name look up a brew and get basic details. Yes, you can share to Facebook and Twitter. But its primary purpose is to help you quickly decide whether you will like a beer.

Architecture

BrewFinder is a two-tier system. There's the app itself, as well as a Node.js-based backend service. Brew data is pulled from a commercial beer database.

I wrote the app using Appcelerator's Titanium SDK. Titanium is a JavaScript-based tool for developing cross-platform apps. I use the Alloy MVC framework as well as native modules for barcode scanning and select UI features.

I also wrote the backend service, which is hosted in Appcelerator's cloud services system. I use Appcelerator's modified Express framework to create the API consumed by the app. The API provides all the endpoints needed for retrieving beer data, posting reviews, and so forth. It also powers the simple brewfinderapp.com web site.

Data is pulled realtime from a commercial beer data service. My Node.js app acts as middleware: the app hits my API, which pulls from the data service, merges review and other data, and returns data to the app.

Challenges

I built the app as a solo side project in my spare time. This means that development has at times moved at a glacial pace. There are many more features I'd like to add to the app and server than there is time for me to do so.

Building BrewFinder as a side project also means that I have had little time and money to promote it. A couple of months after its release, very few people have downloaded the app. If I were trying to make a living off this, it would be a total failure.

Future plans

The app is free, and I have no plans to monetize it. However I see the app as a piece in the larger puzzle of beer discovery. I envision services to breweries, bars, and beer retailers. There are definite needs not being filled that BrewFinder and companion products could provide.

Whether I ever get to build and sell those services remains to be seen. I will need lots of help to make it a commercially viable product. In the meantime, BrewFinder will be my brew-finding companion helping me choose my next favorite beer.

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