making-a-mergerMany folks who enjoy craft beer have been loving Untappd for years—and if they haven’t heard of the brew-logging and rating app, they will soon.
Over five years ago, two friends on opposite sides of the country met via Twitter to develop what they hope is “the best possible beer-based social platform available,” according to their website. With nearly 3,000,000 users worldwide, CEO Tim Mather and CTO Greg Avola manufactured a simple, user-friendly space for beer enthusiasts to unite in their love for frothy beverages. Consumers can log, rate, photograph and provide a description for each craft beer they drink—also noting the location they enjoyed it and sharing with other Untappd friends. According to the Brewers Association, there were 3,418 craft breweries in America by the end of 2014—and the number grows every day. That’s a lot of beverages to try, and Untappd allows its users to keep track of them all.

Meanwhile, in Wilmington in 2012, a young local businessman founded Next Glass, an app using science to help consumers select the best beer and wine for their palates. Founder Kurt Taylor and his team use a state-of-the-art laboratory to test different beverages and break them down into over 20,000 molecular compounds to create the most accurate analysis for each sample. Then, based on what Next Glass users have already rated as their most and least favorite drinks, the app can suggest ratings for other beverages. The user simply scans the label and a hand-picked number will pop up, offering the percentage for which the user may like that drink.

On Friday, January 15, Next Glass and Untappd revealed the two companies have merged, wherein Untappd will become a subsidiary of Next Glass. Untappd will remain an independent entity while Mather and Avola will join the Next Glass leadership team. The merger will allow the Untappd founders to work on the app full time, as they previously developed the tool together in their spare time (across different time zones, at that), and hire more staff. Next Glass will gain access to Untappd’s millions of users, while Untappd will be able to speed up new feature development and international distribution.

In a press release, Taylor shared, “Our focus has always been on leveraging our science and machine learning to build amazing tools for consumers, breweries, retailers and bars. Together with Untappd, we have created a powerful combination that will provide millions of consumers and businesses around the world with an unprecedented experience when it comes to sharing, socializing and learning about all things beer.”

The Untappd founders shared the news on their blog, NextGlass_AppFullViewnoting that Mather and Avola will continue to “steer the vision of the project.” The message states, “You will get new updates, cool features, and even more badges, faster. There will be no rebranding, name changing, or abrupt pivots. We will continue just as we have, building a world class social community for beer drinkers—only at a much quicker pace.”

We at Wilmington Ale Trail were curious what the merger will mean for the Wilmington beer community, which like many others, relies heavily on word-of-mouth business through spaces like Untappd. Caleb Churchwell, an owner of Bombers Beverage Company bottleshop downtown, believes the merger only will bring more good attention to Wilmington’s rightful spot on the beer-lover’s map. “As an avid user of Untappd for over five years, I’m very excited about the merger,” he touts. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Next Glass and meeting Greg Avola, and both are great people and companies—and their missions align. Everyone will be looking at Wilmington because Next Glass is based here, and it will bring more attention and awareness to our fast-growing craft beer community.”

Churchwell added that in the past Untappd and Next Glass have had differing effects on his business that will now connect and coordinate. “Untappd has provided a resource for customers to utilize in selecting beers that they haven’t checked into and by providing social media awareness for our business by customers checking into Bombers Beverage Company,” he tells. “We have seen Next Glass grow and have worked closely with them to enhance their database and software from a business and consumer standpoint. They have helped us get all of the data or inventory of our shop out to the public by streamlining that information into our website and social media outlets.”

Untappd_AppAt Wilmington Brewing Company, Michelle and John Savard note that Untappd brings the social side to a “log book”-style app, while Next Glass uses a more scientific method to guide users toward flavors they will like. “These two together may help bring both these elements into an easy to use and fun app. The Wilmington beer community continues to grow, so these apps can help make local beer more accessible—and maybe give you a recommendation on where you can grab your next local pint.”

Steve Gibbs, owner of the Ogden-area bottle shop Fermental, harps on the usefulness of both apps in the beer world. “Although we don’t see much in-store usage on the Next Glass app, I do know some customers use it to discover new items and look up ratings on various products. Both apps offer customers the opportunity to engage and educate themselves within the drinking community. No more drinking alone!” he muses. “It’s a great way to connect with fellow beer folks as well as see ratings that are more accurate and real time than Rate Beer/Beer Advocate. Personally, I use Untappd to see what locals are drinking and enjoying or not enjoying. It’s also a good way to look at other areas in town and out of town to see what is selling and what people are rating beers elsewhere. Both apps are a bit addictive like most social media. And beer. So all in all; a great addition to our coastal community.”

Gibbs is hopeful the merger will bring more beer jobs to the area as well as continue to push Wilmington further into the growing beer scene. “Recent national polls show the Port City as one of the top ten beer towns in the US. Not Raleigh, not Charlotte. Wilmington,” he adds. “Asheville’s on the list but we’re right behind them. It’s the beach and beers. My hope is we keep pushing forward and continue to develop ourselves as a major place for all things beer-related: breweries, bottles shops, and beyond. Download the apps, drink and have fun. Let’s make Wilmington number one.”

Acknowledging the addition of several breweries and bottle shops in recent years, Taylor offers his own opinion of how the acquisition will make waves in the Port City. “Having Untappd in Wilmington will help advance the city’s effort in making this a beer town,” he offers. “We have awesome breweries, the friendliest bottle shops, and now we can add one more feather to the cap. Untappd has millions of fiercely loyal users across the US, including tens of thousands here in Eastern NC. We’ve already seen a tremendous amount of excitement and support out of this group, and I think the fun is just getting started. We have a lot of exciting things ahead that will continue to build on and strengthen the incredible community, and we can’t wait to get the Untappd brand and (badges!) further involved in the Wilmington beer scene.”