I frequently look on the iPhone for interesting new applications to add to my iPhone. I always search the applications with the terms “beer” or “wine” in hopes of finding something better than a virtual glass of beer. Every now and then I find something cool.
I was quite surprised to find a homebrew recipe formulation program for the iPhone.
When you first run Brew Pal, you can’t help but be impressed with the user interface. It’s easy to navigate and it looks professional. The interface is simplier than any brewing software for the personal computer, but there are far fewer features. For a iPhone application, this is perfect. You really only want the features you really need.
Ease of use
The program does not come with instructions (most iPhone apps do not), but it’s very easy to figure out. The buttons at the bottom of the screen help you through the steps of creating a recipe. Each step must be filled in the order of the buttons at the bottom of the screen.
The screen is fairly intuitive. It uses standard icons from the iPhone, so you can make good guesses how to use the application. One feature I thought was nice was the edit button on each ingredient line. In other applications, you need select the edit icon to trigger an edit. In Brew Pal you can select the line (the ingredient name) to trigger an edit, although for some odd reason it is difficult to press the actual edit button. If it is a design choice, I prefer the way Brew Pal works.
You can save recipes for later use too. I find this feature useful, because I can enter my most often used recipes and use the iPhone as a quick reference while brewing. There are several other nice features like timers, carbonation calculators, a BJCP style reference, and a flavor wheel. The program can even “guess” what style you are making based on the ingredients you enter. I thought it was pretty cool. Brew Pal did guess an Oktoberfest/Märzen or a Scottish/Irish ale based on my recipe.
The application is not without minor issues. You can skip ahead to other steps, but the program will not let you enter information until enough information is entered in a previous step. For example if you do not enter a grain or extract, you cannot calculate your water amounts or temperatures for your mash. The program will not let you set a mash temperature. I’m not sure why you can’t enter information in the order you want.
There are also a few ingredients missing. When testing out the application, I was making a Märzen. When I started adding ingredients, I immediately ran into issues. The first problem I encountered was I could not find CaraMunich malt. The list of malts is not complete.
I also ran into issues adding the malts I could find. I was trying to add 2 ounces of a specialty malt. The program only allowed pounds of grain, so I needed to convert ounces to pounds. This is 0.125 pounds. The problem is the edits only allow for 2 decimal places. It would be nice if the program allowed you to enter ounces. I’m currently switching to metric (which I’ll write about later), and the problem exists in metric as well. If you need to enter 55 grams of grain… well you can’t. You can only enter two decimals worth of kilograms.
There is an email feature which is very nice. You can email the current recipe to any email address. I emailed my Märzen to myself, but the program had troubles with the ä. The recipe looked great as it was formatted for HTML, but it failed to understand the umlaut, and used garbage characters in the name.
Overall I think the application is great for playing around with recipes, or using it as a reference while brewing. For $0.99 you really cannot go wrong with the application. I’d recommend the program and hopefully the minor issues will eventually be fixed in time. Really the biggest issues for me were the missing grains and decimal places. Definately worth $0.99!
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