A beer app for your smartfoam, er, phone

RALEIGH, N.C. — does it with books. Netflix does it with movies. Pandora does it with music.

Beer Prophet does it with beer.

Beer Prophet, an application for the iPhone and iPad, recommends beers you're likely to enjoy based on your past preferences. And you can continuously update your taste profile by making entries about your likes and dislikes in a personal beer journal as you give new brews a try.

"The more you use it, the better it becomes for you," said John Federal, who has worked on Beer Prophet. Federal's day job is manager of American Brewmaster, a Raleigh, N.C., store that caters to people who make beer and wine at home.

Beer Prophet, which sells for 99 cents, grew out of a conversation that Pete Pagano, owner of Tir Na Nog Irish pub in downtown Raleigh, had with a friend. They were discussing how to best serve customers seeking suggestions of what beers they would like.

Pagano and his buddy recruited two tech-savvy friends and formed Zooqini, the company behind Beer Prophet.

Their cash investment to date has been minimal — a few thousand dollars — but they've put a lot of sweat equity into the venture, said Pagano. He calls the business "an after-hours passion for everybody."

Beer Prophet has more than 5,000 beers from more than 100 brewers across the country in its database. Beer Prophet will rate the probability of your liking a beer from zero to 100.

Julie Johnson, editor of All About Beer magazine, sees Beer Prophet as a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, she can see it as a valuable tool that can help people avoid spending good money on a six-pack of beer they don't like. But she also frets that people who rely solely on Beer Prophet to guide their selections will miss out on the sweet serendipity of sampling a brew that's vastly different from anything they've ever tasted.

Beer Prophet isn't the first beer app, even in North Carolina. For instance, a pair of Raleigh Web developers last year launched Brewery Map, which allows users nationwide to locate sources of locally brewed beer.

More than 2,000 Beer Prophet apps have been sold since summer's launch, but Pagano and his partners are hoping that a more sophisticated version, which they expect to introduce in mid-January, will do significantly better. They plan to rev up their marketing effort by teaming with breweries, retail stores and others across the country, and they're recruiting retailers that could sell, via Beer Prophet, the beers that the app recommends for a cut of those sales.