Q&A: Brewed Awakening Author Joshua Bernstein Talks His Craft Beer iPhone App and Beer Snobbery

Bernstein signs copies of Brewed Awakening at Brooklyn Pour earlier this year.

To put it simply, Joshua Bernstein loves his beer. Before penning his book Brewed Awakening, last year's insightful examination of the current craft-beer explosion across the country, he wrote about beer and bar culture in New York City for 12 years, contributing to publications like The New York Press and Time Out New York. Through his hard work, the 34-year-old has found himself as one of the major voices for the growing craft beer movement in America. Now, he's made an app for that.

Bernstein paired with Blue Crow Media to create Craft Beer New York, an iPhone application dedicated to meeting every beer head's need. He has curated a list of the best bars, breweries, and bottle shops in NYC. So if you find yourself in an unfamiliar neighborhood needing a Founders fix, just whip out the app and you'll know where to go. This week, Beer UP chats with Bernstein about the intersection of technology and beer, ale-litism, and what beers he's bringing to Thanksgiving dinner.

How did the app come to be?
I actually didn't come up with the idea for the app. I have the philosophy that you should always do the best job possible with every story idea and let your work carry you through. So about three months ago, my name got passed on to these app creators, Blue Crow Media. They came and had a chat with me, and it seemed like a good fit.

What was a good fit? Why make a beer app?
The larger story about why an app is necessary is because New York City is undergoing a crazy growth in craft beer right now. Five years ago, craft beer was tougher to come by. Now you're finding new bars and shops constantly popping up every week, every month. It's been crazy. When New York falls behind in something, it stops and looks at itself and tries to be the best in whatever category, if it's Korean fried chicken, or cocktail bars. Craft beer is this next thing that people are going gangbusters on. And there's been a lack of comprehensive coverage on the craft beer scene. So the app will give people, no matter where they're standing in New York City, an idea of where to go, and also have reviews of craft beer bars, if there's food, what to drink, and what to eat.

Yelp is a viable tool for people, but you're depending on crowd-sourced wisdom, and you don't really know if these are trusted sources. I've been covering this stuff for a really long time, so with this app you're going to get trusted opinions. Other writers are hopefully going to be coming on to write reviews, too, so it's going to be a trusted authority. We're going to keep the content rolling. As the craft beer scene evolves and develops, it's going to keep on getting more and more bars and breweries.

What factors get a bar into the app? What makes the cut?
Overall, education of craft beer. Not everyone is going to have a million events a week or be changing the taps so quickly, but people who have a focus on craft beer and where it's an integral part of their bar's program or identity. Not every place is going to be the cheapest place in town to get craft beer. Not everyone is going to the most comprehensive tap list on there. But I do try to be fair and make mention, for example, if prices are too high and give people the information they might be lacking. You're going to have the informed opinion to pick and choose where you want to go, based on locations, so you're never going to be left out in the dark.

People get stuck in comfort zones. They go to their favorite neighborhood local all the time, and then don't branch out as much as they should. I hope, in a way, the app gives people a reason to try and branch out and get their heads in new spots or realize there's a great local craft beer bar right outside their office.

Since craft beer is exploding so much, is a constantly evolving app the only way to keep up with coverage, versus a book?
I understand your question. Craft beer is changing by the day. But it really depends what your focus is with the topic of your book. What I focus on in Brewed Awakening is stories about people. Even if they change jobs in there, it's the stories and ideas that are really pushed through. It's more about the general feel and stories and tales. I look back through the book and I see, you know, what's out of date and what's not and I still think it holds its own as a viable document for what's happening right now. The book is something that's much more instructive and a document meant to be read and savored over time, but this app is very much information-based, where you'll get quick information to have a good times.

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