Friday, September 14, 2007

Beer Wikis

I am a Wikipedia fanatic and I don't care who knows it. Yes, there is sometimes incorrect information inherent to a site that can be edited by literally anyone, especially when you don't even need to sign in to edit a page.

But there is a certain brilliance to collecting knowledge from all over the world and funneling it into one place. The site originally began as a project with well-known scholars adding articles in their fields of expertise -- known as Nupedia -- before the founders decided to let any ol' person add information. This makes perfect sense, since nearly everyone in the world is an expert on something.

The guys over at Hop Talk have been discovered that there are several beer "wikis" out there, any of which could ostensibly act as some sort of repository for beer lovers to add and edit information about beers --especially new ones -- in real time. (By the way, the term "wiki" generally refers to a site which anyone can edit as an open-source document. Am I stealing this idea from Hop Talk? Possibly. You make the call. Please go visit them at any rate.)

A couple problems arise, of course, when it comes to beer. You don't want to make a beer wiki site that only has reviews of beers. They already have great sites like that such as Ratebeer and BeerAdvocate. These two sites are pretty much the standard for English-speaking beer drinkers, so there's really no need for another review site.

Likewise, simply having information about each beer in question (style, alcohol by volume, ingredients) probably isn't flashy or "sexy" enough for most readers to get really excited about. In other words, the entire concept might be flawed to begin with.

Still, if we're gonna start this concept, let's do it the right way. So I looked at all the beer wikis I could get my hands on (including the ones that the Hop Talk guys reviewed) in the quest to find out which one is the one we should embrace. Once we pick one, folks, there's no going back!


  • Brewerpedia appears to intend to be a resource for homebrewers and those who make wine, mead, spirits and soft drinks. There are no actual "articles" that I could find, which means right now the site has little value other than being a start-up, but if enough people could be made aware of it, they might actually be able to get some information up there. The key to wikis is volume and breadth of information, and right now this site has none of either. The site has been up for weeks and has approximately 6 pages total. If some tech-savvy homebrewers could get wind of this site, it could be a remarkable tool, much like yours truly.

  • Beer @ Wikia seems like it would be the best bet for a beer wiki. Wikia is a project set up by Jimbo Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, that hosts wikis of different interests. It hosts sites such as Wookieepedia and the absurdly brilliant Uncyclopedia. Unlike Wikipedia, Wikia sites contain advertisements, which help fund the project. This particulara wiki is actually much more developed than many of the other specialty wikis out there, although the information at this point could be considered bare-bones. Right now it doesn't have all that much, although its philosophy of being the one go-to stop for all beer-related matters is encouraging. It needs a lot more content, but has its heart in the right place.

  • BeerOpedia at this point appears to be almost a file directory of as many beers as can possibly be added. There is not really any content on any of the pages, but rather links to commercial sites. There isn't a lot of insight, and it doesn't appear to be very discriminating (look at the site for the category of American Beer). Acts as a categorization site and not much more. Interestingly, it seems to make a point of adding YouTube clips of beer commercials from around the world. Allllll right then.

  • BeerIpedia looks like a free-for-all of anything remotely to do with beer. It's another upstart, although I wasn't really that encouraged when I saw that the beer trivia article on this site ended with "LOL PWNED." This looks like more of a bulletin board than any kind of real resource. [Update: This site has actually improved dramatically in the last few weeks. It now has a "most wanted articles" page, which is the best way to get new articles put up, in my opinion. Don't count out this little wiki that could just yet. Our writer Willie Moe will be happy to know that this site does have a semi-comprehesive article on Tsingtao Brewery.]

  • BeerWiki at n9jing.com just started and has almost no information on it, but the brother who started it has the smarts to set up a PayPal account so you can buy him a beer. I'll reserve my donation until it's got a little more to work with here. The header says that this site "aim[s] to become the biggest database of beers on the planet." It's going to have to get one single post up. Several clicks on "Random Page" brought up the Main Page every time; not a good sign. Looks like this site hasn't moved for several weeks, and is just a ploy for some guy to get internet friends to buy him a beer via PayPal.
  • Real Good Beer Wiki is another upstart that doesn't seem to really have much actual content yet. It appears that someone decided to just start a wiki and hasn't gotten much feedback yet. Pity. Brewiki suffers from the same ailments.

I'm not 100% sure that the world needs a beer wiki, but if I had to pick one, I'd probably go with the Wikia site (beer.wikia.com). It seems to have the most potential and at least has formed a philosophy. If that site became the wiki of choice, and all net savvy beer enthusiasts added only their local content, it could become a huge reservoir of information, but I'm still not convinced it wouldn't be a BeerAdvocate.com clone.

It may benefit from a variety of perspectives, such as disparate reviews of the same beer, or differing thoughts on styles (such as the difference between stouts and porters). As such, it will need to have a lot more information than Wikipedia provides on the subject of beer (and Wikipedia has a lot); and it should be beer-centric above all else. Informative, but also not afraid to delve into minutiae.

Perhaps the greatest use for a beer wiki would be as a catalogue of vital stats for a beer. For example: calories, what kinds of hops were used (which could likewise be linked to other beers with the same hops), when they were first brewed, whether it's stylistically very similar to another beer. A beer wiki, like all wikis, should be about connections from one to another. Wikis' lifeblood is based on links, which is why linking is so much easier than HTML, and they should highlight those beers that have a common thread. Can this be accomplished? I'm not sure. But I do know that a Wiki is virtually useless unless all the sources of articles agree on one unified forum.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Big thanks to the commenter who gave the tip of the Homebrewing Wiki. This page is up and running and has tons of info for the homebrewer. It's a logical extension of the Homebrew Talk message boards and essentially serves as a one-stop site for all the elements of homebrewing. If you want to know about malt, they've got it. Interested in hops or hop varieties? Look no further. In fact, I learned more about hops from this site than any other I've been on. The Homebrewing Wiki isn't just for homebrewers; it's for anyone who wants to learn more about beer from the ground up.

5 comments:

Bob said...

Nutritional values of about 1,200 beers/calories/carbs/abv

http://beerinfood.wordpress.com/booze-nutritional-info/

Bill said...

Thank you Robert!

Chris said...

Don't forget the Home Brewing Wiki, at:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/

A good amount of basic beer brewing information, plus something on wine, mead, and cider making as well.

Bill said...

Thank you Chris for the comment. Please see my update, and please visit the Homebrewing Wiki. It has got a wealth of knowledge. Great tip.

al said...

I have it on good authority that there is a new sysop over at beer.wikia.com and that he's adding content at a breakneck pace.

Why not head over there and help out?