Overwhelming Beer and Wine Options Meet Their Match in Sophisticated Apps

Chances are that no matter where you live in the city, you’re never too far from a cavernous liquor shop. You know these booze behemoths, where aisles of bottles extend like row crops stacked tall with microbrewed beers, endless wine varietals and all manner of spirits. Choice is a great thing, until a quick run for tonight’s party becomes a befuddling chore.

But you have a smartphone. And you know what comes next: There’s an app for that.

Both the iOS and Android app ecosystems are overflowing with ways to tame the tumult of tippling. Sophisticated databases, search algorithms and even your own photos catalog the latest beers and wines, and what your imbibing friends are saying about them. Many apps feature wonderful photo capabilities that allow you to snap a picture and instantly see user reviews that can remove the risk of buying that beer you’ve never heard of. Or that beguilingly-labeled wine that was all design and not worth your two bucks, Chuck.

Because wine before beer, never fear, let’s first take a look at some apps to score that perfect vino.

Drync is one of the wine app genre’s most elegant entries. Use your phone’s camera to scan a label to get information, community ratings or add the picture to your wine wish list. You can also buy wine directly through the app and have it shipped to your home. As you build out your collection, Drync handily catalogs your titles, tasting notes, cost, and any information you might need should you want to buy again.

Vivino shares many of Drync’s capabilities but throws in a robust system for managing information about favorite wines. Think of it as a cloud-based cellar where the name, variety and tasting notes are waiting for you. It also has a recommendation feature that intuits your preferences and suggests wines to match.

WineGlass doesn’t solve a party problem as much as it handles something many of us can relate to: a restaurant wine menu that might as well be in Greek. That red may have smoky notes, but will it pair with what you’re hungry for? WineGlass tries to cut the guesswork by allowing you to take a picture of the menu and turning that list into interactive information about the wines, what others think and how they pair.

Now that you’re a smartphone sommelier, let’s turn you into a beer snob.

Suds meet social in an app called Untappd. The app connects with your friends to find what’s good and new. Ratings, a wish-list function and the app’s gorgeous design score high with users.

Picky Pint borrows a page from the wine apps by letting you take a photo of a beer menu, or labels at the store, to unleash a torrent of information about ratings, recommendations and tasting notes. Even the beer’s bitterness is scored so you know what you’re getting into. If you’re ready to overthink the way you buy beer, give Picky Pint a look.

Another app that can tell you everything about that obscure microbrew you’re about to buy is Beer Buddy. It’s arguably the most information-packed app, with a deep beer catalog that hooks into the well-regarded review site RateBeer.com. Scan barcodes for more information, bookmark favorite brews and rate your buys.

Now, here’s one more that’s neither wine nor beer. Highball (iOS only) is a brilliantly designed app that allows you to collect cocktail recipes and share them with friends. The app organizes recipes as cards, allowing you to collect others’ recipes and create your own. The app is delightfully designed and dead-simple to use. Some starter recipes offer a feel for how the cards are laid out, and it won’t be long before you’re creating personalized cards with your own twists on popular cocktails.