Does Technology Make Drinking More Social?

Copyright MacKinnon Photography

I consider myself a bit of a technology nerd, so I admit to being on my phone a little *too* much. Between Twitter, Facebook, Gowalla, Foursquare, Untappd, and a few others there’s a lot to keep track of. Sure, my fiancée and friends give me grief about it, but I’m using my smartphone to keep more connected with friends… right? At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a ‘get off your phone’ rant. I’d be lying if I told you I was going to quit my ‘Check-In’ addiction. Instead, I’m going to talk about how I’ve managed mine. With more and more location-based services launching every month ( just launched this week), it’s important to reanalyze what you’re using and why you use it. So here goes, my current list of apps I use when I go out (in order of necessity):


I know Foursquare has more users and more ‘deals’ and blah, blah, blah… spare me. I have never actually found a good Foursquare deal and having less users on the service means less fake or duplicate spots for me to have to sort through. Yes, I have a Foursquare account but I never open the app. This is one of the many reasons I love Gowalla. Gowalla integrates data from Foursquare and Facebook Places to create an extremely well-designed activity feed of your friends.  It also lets you push your check-ins to Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, and even Tumblr (for those of us who blog about drinking).

But, beyond integrating other services, I’ve always felt that Gowalla was more social than any of its competitors.  Two examples of this are ‘Notes’ and ‘Highlights’.  Notes enable you to leave a message for a friend at a spot that they will receive on their next check-in, which can come in handy as a nice food/drink recommendation tool.  Highlights, on the other hand, allow users to mark spots that have meaning to them.  For instance, the ‘Pint of Advice’ highlight is a great one to add to your favorite craft beer bar.


Untappd is to beer as Gowalla is to places. Basically, Untappd allows you to check-in to the beer (no liquor/wine, sorry) you’re drinking. Just this week, Untappd swallowed up former competitor RedPint (blog post here) to become the heavyweight in the beer check-in sphere.  Perhaps the best use of this app that I can think of is tracking beers at large beer festivals, like the GABF.  If you’ve ever been to the Great American Beer Fest, you know that you try A LOT of beer.  Besides the short term memory loss that can often accompany drinking large quantities of alcohol, it becomes very hard to remember which beers you loved and which were just ok.  By using Untappd, you are able to log the beers you’ve tried (which you can review at a later date either on the web or on the mobile web app (, as well as rate them from 1-5 stars.  Untappd also has the ability to connect to Gowalla and Foursquare so you can tell your friends where you’re tipping back that Great Divide Titan IPA.

A few months ago, Nick Nunns posted an article (“Oh Untappd…“) where he discussed his position on beer check-in services like Untappd.  Since this is the only app I tend to use while I am inside the bar/pub/restaurant, I don’t see an issue because I can usually whip out my phone, check-in to the beer I’m enjoying, and holster my phone (I don’t actually wear a cell phone holster, just an expression) within a matter of seconds.


I’m not even going to begin talking about the benefits of Twitter… if you’re not on it you’re doing something wrong.  Now everyone has their Twitter client that they love, mine is TweetDeck.  Yes, they were just bought out by Twitter, but they are still head-and-shoulders above any other client I’ve tried.  My favorite feature is the seamless integration between the mobile app and their desktop/Chrome app.  And… what better way to keep up with Denver off the Wagon?

So there you have it, my favorite apps to stay connected without getting the death-stare from across the table.  What apps do you use when you’re out?  Do you think there’s a place for the smartphone next to your pint glass, or does it belong in your pocket?

About Sean Buchan

Sean is a Physical Therapist and Photographer living in (and loving) Denver, Colorado. He enjoys shooting just about anything but his true passion is capturing the craft beer culture here in Denver. If you enjoy his photographs check out Beertographer.

  • Kyle

    Good post. I use almost the same set with the exception of Gowalla. I have a couple friends who use it and love the popup notification when someone checks in somewhere – if I’m in the neighborhood I’ll pop in to join them.

    I’ve been keeping an eye on Pintley as an alternative to Untappd. They’re missing some features (friend finder, ability to add beers), but they seem to be adding them fast. They want to be the Pandora of beer (actually their model is more like, and that kind of recommendation would be really welcome to my drinking regime.

    • Sean Buchan

      Regarding Gowalla vs. Foursquare again, I really don’t see any benefit to Foursquare. I can see all of my friends check-ins on Gowalla, regardless of what service they use (Facebook, Foursquare, or Gowalla). As for Pintley, I’ve checked it out a few times but it’s never really clicked for me. I still have the app on my phone, but it just doesn’t seem as user friendly as Untappd. I do like that it is a native app unlike the web app of Untappd, which can be painfully slow at peak drinking times/days.

  • Kyle

    Proofread fail: I use Foursquare instead of Gowalla.