I'm going to start this entire post by saying something that might cause you to stop reading: I'm not a big beer drinker. In fact, I rarely drink the stuff. But, what I am is someone who buys a ton of apps for my iPhone, and this isn't really so much a story about beer as it is about a website trying to help beer drinkers who have a smart phone find cheap beer close by. And that's something I can certainly get behind.
I will admit that, at first, I was confused by SaveOnBrew.com's approach to its mobile website. There's no ad that says the word "app," but everything from the graphics to the text appear to indicate an app is available. After searching the Apple App Store and doing a closer look at the website, I realized that this is just an optimized version of their regular website that looks like an app.
My first thought was, "This thing looks a LOT like an app. Why not just build one instead of doing all this work for a mobile version of your website?" Frankly, with this interface, it would be kind of crazy not to eventually create an app, because the mobile site looks and acts just like one. Cost was likely an issue as developing apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, etc. are complicated procedures, never mind submitting them to the stores that sell them.
But, setting aside the app-versus-mobile-website argument for a moment, what they have created is certainly easy to use and will help users find brew on the cheap.
"People have been asking for a mobile version since the site went live back in 2010," said Greg Thibodeaux, founder and CEO in a press release. "Especially college students. That's why we've opted to give away the mobile version free of charge. These are tough times and hopefully everyone can save some money on one of the world's most popular adult beverages."
Entering the mobile site (after a verification of your legal drinking age status via a big button and a winking keg clutching a mug of brew and a fistful of dollars, which feels more like a "you're old enough, riiiiiight" wink-wink pitch than a real age check), you can log in using your Facebook credentials or simply enter the site as a guest. The site asks if it can find your location and then enters that into a form to start the search. You can also opt out of that and just enter your zip code.
Remarkably, a list of beer prices came up quickly with the ability to sort by price or brand. From there, users can apply filters for store names, brands, prices and price per can (a handy way to check value). Taking it a step farther, there are pull-down menus for brands, store names, beer types, containers and quantity. On each listing, a time frame for the deal is given so you know how long you have to get what you are looking for at the price listed. For registered users, there are additional options for storing favorites.
Admittedly, there are some limitations. The stores are limited to big-name retailers and the brands appear to be fairly limited as well. A quick check for local brand St. Arnold came up with only one deal at Randall's for a six-pack with no mention of the variety. And while there is a choice of "Craft/Micro/Cider," what is available is, again, limited.
But such is the way of things with sites like SaveOnBrew.com. Much of their data is culled from ads, which are, for the most part, run by large corporate grocery and drug stores. Any other information is no doubt crowd-sourced, which is often unreliable. The result is a nicely functional but narrowly focused website.
For real beer lovers, this mobile site would likely fall flat with these limitations. I'm sure any craft brewer would thumb his nose in disgust. But if you are looking to fill your fridge for a party and want to save some cash, plus find out what the store near you actually has, this would be a good option.
Just don't go looking for it in the app store.