This App Knows Your Taste in Beer

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Written by David Ranii for

Beer Prophet is an app for the iPhone and iPad that sells for 99 cents and was created by a quartet of Triangle entrepreneurs. What it does is recommend beers you’re likely to enjoy based on your past preferences. And you can continuously update your taste profile by making entries about your likes and dislikes in a personal beer journal as you give new brews a try.

“The more you use it, the better it becomes for you,” said John Federal, who has worked on Beer Prophet. Federal’s day job is manager of American Brewmaster, a Raleigh store that caters to people who make beer and wine at home.

Beer Prophet grew out of a conversation that Pete Pagano, owner of Tir Na Nog Irish pub in downtown Raleigh, had with a friend. They were discussing how to best serve customers seeking suggestions of what beers they would like based on the brews they already know they like.

Pagano and his buddy recruited two tech-savvy friends and formed Zooqini, the company behind Beer Prophet. Each of them is an equal partner in the business, but for now the others prefer not to be named, Pagano said.

Their cash investment has been minimal – a few thousand dollars – but they’ve put a lot of sweat equity into the venture, said Pagano. He calls the business “an after-hours passion for everybody.”

Beer Prophet has more than 5,000 beers from more than 100 brewers across the country in its database. In addition to recommending beers, you also can query Beer Prophet whether you will like a particular beer, and it will rate the probability from zero to 100.

Julie Johnson, editor of All About Beer magazine, sees Beer Prophet as a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, she can see it as a valuable tool that can help people avoid spending good money on a six-pack of beer that they subsequently discover is anathema to their palate.

But she also frets that people who rely solely on Beer Prophet to guide their selections will miss out on the sweet serendipity of sampling a brew that’s vastly different from anything they’ve ever tasted before.

Beer Prophet isn’t the first beer app with Triangle roots. Earlier this year, a pair of Raleigh Web developers launched Brewery Map, which allows users nationwide to locate sources of locally brewed beer.

The first version of Beer Prophet was launched with minimal fanfare during the summer.

“We wanted to be very slow and very quiet with this,” Pagano said. “We didn’t want to come out with a big launch party until we fixed a lot of glitches.”

Beer Prophet has recorded more than 2,000 sales.

But Pagano and his partners are hoping that a more sophisticated version that they expect to introduce in mid-January will do significantly better. Toward that end, they plan to rev up their marketing effort by teaming with breweries, retail stores and others across the country.

They’re also working on recruiting retailers that could sell, via Beer Prophet, the beers that the app recommends. Getting a cut of those sales also will be another source of revenue.

So far they’ve signed up a Raleigh retailer, Bottle Revolution, for the program.

“As a retailer, you’re looking for every avenue to promote your business as much as possible,” said Ted Gross, the owner of Beer Revolution. He also likes the fact that selling locally brewed beers through Beer Prophet could help spread the word about some great North Carolina beers to people who live elsewhere and don’t have easy access to them.

Pagano and his partners also are planning a Beer Prophet app for Android smartphones as well as several other beer-oriented apps.

Next up is “Brews With A View,” a free advertising-supported app that will let users share pictures of their favorite beers that they’ve taken in locations that are exotic, fun or just plain fascinating.

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