“What’s on tap?” just became easier to answer for craft beer lovers.
A recently launched Apple iPhone app from Taplister.com offers consumers the chance to browse local bars' menus or search for a specific beer before they hit the town.
The app uses information from both bars themselves and customers at locations where crowd-sourced information is enabled.
The app’s launch comes amid a 1.9 percent rise in overall beer shipments year to date. If this growth trend continues, the market would post the first year-over-year increase since 2008, according to the Beer Institute.
Craft beer sales are helping to fuel this rise. In 2011, craft industry sales in dollars grew by 15 percent, according to the Brewers Association. Consumers’ thirst for small-label beers has driven the total number of breweries to the highest level since the 1880s, the association reported.
Taplister CEO Kerry Finsand first thought of a virtual beer list in 2009 while brainstorming with some fellow craft beer lovers about a better way to know what was available at bars in Portland, Ore., where he lives.
“They call it Beervana — people are really into their beer here,” he said.
After working on the site as a side project for two years, Finsand was ready to ramp up production and relaunch the site using Foursquare technology to find additional new bars and restaurants.
“I wanted to see if I could take this to the next level and get some fresh blood into it,” he said.
In December, he bought out the company's last remaining partner and later quit his marketing job at Groupon several months later to begin working on the site full time.
Downloading the app is free for consumers, while businesses can choose from a range of plans that range from free to $99 per month depending on the optional features they select.
Since the company relaunched its website, the number of participating cities has grown from about 50 to more than 70, including New York City, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco.
While Finsand does not have exact demographics, he said the majority of his company’s customers are men.
“What I’ve found is a lot of tech-savvy men like craft beer, and they have their smartphones and everything so it makes sense,” he said.
The proliferation of smartphone usage has impacted the company’s business. Currently about 30 percent of Taplister users log on via their smartphones, Finsand said.
“The growth of location-aware services like Facebook and Foursquare have made it much more normal and socially acceptable to get out your phone and start posting when you’re out with friends — that goes for updating tap lists, too,” he said.
—By CNBC.com’s Katie Little; Follow Her on Twitter @katie_little Questions? Comments? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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