BEER AND NOW
An Inside Look @ BeerChooser.com
By Jeff Hammett Jeff Hammett
Jeff first noticed craft beer early in college when a friend introduced him to Stone Brewing Co.’s Pale Ale. After graduating from UCSD with a degree in Philoso- phy, he moved to Santa Cruz where he frequented Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and Seabright Brewery. Jeff would journey up to San Francisco to visit Magnolia and Toronado every chance he got. He started blogging about beer in early 2009 while living in Durango, Colorado. For a town of only 20,000 people Durango boasts an impressive four breweries. Jeff quickly became a part of the brewing scene and in January 2010 was invited to work with Ska Brewing Co.’s Head Brewer Thomas Larsen to formulate a recipe and brew on Ska’s pilot system. In addition to his love of craft beer, Mr. Hammett is an avid cyclist and can be seen riding on the road or trails most weekends.
ou probably know someone that can recommend a beer to anyone based on other food and drinks they like (even to those that say they don’t like beer), and the chances are pretty good that they’ll like it. Since you’re reading West Coaster, you might even be this person for your friends. That’s the position Laura Skelton found herself in a few years ago when she decided to create the website BeerChoos- er. Similar to the way Netflix recommends movies based on how you rate other mov- ies, BeerChooser uses the same concept for beer. According to Laura the algorithm used is super secret, but essentially it rec- ommends beers based on others’ similar likes and dislikes.
Laura, whose day job is making wal- lets and necklaces out of mostly recycled materials, co-created BeerChooser with her boyfriend Jacob McKean, Social Media Coordinator for Stone Brewing Co. One might assume McKean, the man behind the social media accounts for the largest brewery in San Diego, would be the technical guru behind BeerChooser, but it was Laura who did all the program- ming. Even more impressive, she taught herself the code while developing the website and iPhone app – no small feat. Jacob relates it to teaching oneself Greek and then writing a novel in the newly learned language.
BeerChooser is simple to use. Sign up for an account on the mobile website or use the iPhone app to start rating beers you’ve had. The rating system goes from one to five mugs, with one meaning “hated it” and five being “loved it.” The more beers you rate, the better the recommenda- tions should become.
According to Laura, it is while travel- ling when BeerChooser really excels, as there are a lot of regional differences in beer availability. Someone heavily involved with craft beer in Southern California might not know a thing about most of the beers available in New York. “It’s almost like having beer friends with you wherever you go, to tell you what you might like,” Laura says. Beer in different cities is one thing she should know well. In the last few years Laura has lived in five different cities, but she seems pretty happy here: “San Diego is the place for beer in the US. It’s so exciting for us to be living here instead of just visiting.” BeerChooser works pretty well in my experience. I spent about an hour rating just over a hundred beers and then took a look at what beers it was recommending. Many of the recommended beers were of the same style as beers I had rated highly, but other recommendations, while offbeat, were still accurate. I spent some time go- ing through various recommended beers and found most to be within one mug (on a scale of one mugs to five) of what I
Laura Skelton of BeerChooser.com
, with plenty to choose from @ Toronado in North Park
would have rated it. You can also search for specific beers and BeerChooser will show the predicted rating, something convenient to do with the iPhone app before picking up a $10 six-pack of a
beer you’ve never heard of before.
Jeff writes for San Diego Beer Blog at sandiegobeerblog.com
, and you can also follow him on twitter @ SDBeer
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