BeerAlchemy was the first complete homebrewing software package that I tried. I first started using it in 2006 and was most impressed by the responsiveness of the developer, Kent Place Software. I have had a few conversations over the years with Steve Flack who appears to run Kent Place Software.
BeerAlchemy underwent a major revision in 2012. BeerAlchemy 2 offered an integrated desktop and iOS experience with Wi-Fi syncing across devices. As of this writing, BeerAlchemy 2 is available for the Mac as well as a Universal iOS app.
Posts on the Kent Place Software blog have slowed down considerably in the last year. Steve Flack is quite active on Twitter, however. According to the Mac App Store both the desktop and iOS versions were last updated in January 2014, as of this writing. Currently the desktop version costs $29.99, and the iOS version costs $19.99 (covers both an iPhone and iPad version). These are, theoretically, one-time costs and are not cheap compared to pencil and paper equivalents. But for 50 bucks you can get quite a lot of functionality.
BeerAlchemy 2 for Mac and iOS
BeerAlchemy offers recipe creation, inventory management, mash profile creation, shopping list creation, and a host of calculators.
Of all the homebrewing software packages I’ve seen, BeerAlchemy excels in one clear way: aesthetics. The icons in the left side drawer are clear, colorful and eye-popping. There is almost no need to read the labels next to them to know what you’re dealing with.
Both the Mac and iOS versions use the same design (not surprising since they are native Mac developed applications). The layout of the desktop version is well-maintained in the iOS version. The mouse and touch navigation feel seamless with the MacOS and iOS interface. Nothing is too clunky here.
BeerAlchemy uses a Recipe/Batch system that allows you to create (or import) a recipe. When brew day comes around you take your recipe and generate a “batch” from it. The batch specifics can be changed without affecting the parent recipe. Recipes and batches are grouped together in a hierarchical relationship so you can find all your batches for any given recipe. If you’ve tweaked a recipe enough over several batches that your latest batch really represents a whole new recipe, you can “promote” that batch to a recipe if you would like.
The “Suggest-a-beer” feature is pretty neat. This feature scans your inventory and your recipes and determines what beers you can brew with your current inventory. If you don’t have all the ingredients for a recipe, it tells you what you need to brew it. This is kinda cool if you’ve got a bunch of ingredients sitting around and don’t know what you want to do with them.
I applaud BeerAlchemy’s attempt at syncing, and WiFi syncing is certainly better than nothing. Realtime syncing (i.e. via iCloud) frees the home brewer to use a laptop for recipe formulation, and a tablet or phone during the brew day to take notes and record measurements. Without realtime syncing there is always the question of where you did your last update. If it wasn’t on the device you’re currently using, it may or may not be convenient to get those updates on your current available device.
Also I like the ability to create “orders” and mark them as “placed” or “delivered,” but the current BeerAlchemy method for doing this is a bit awkward to use and you can easily end up with incorrect inventory.
Scaling recipes is possible, but convoluted in BeerAlchemy. If you create a profile for a 5-gallon setup, and create a recipe with it, you can scale it up to, for instance, a 10-gallon setup by creating a profile for a 10-gallon setup and changing the recipe to use that. It’s not clear at first that this scales the recipe, but it does. This may be a case of the functionality being so simple, it’s easy to overlook.
As much as the brew day instructions from BeerAlchemy are good, there are no builtin brew day timers like there are in other software packages.
In addition you can’t export batches as beerXML files for display and I can’t understand why that is. You can export batches as PDFs and HTML, but not as portable beerXML files.
Finally, there is no builtin recipe search like in other software packages. You can search recipes in your library, but not a central shared repository. You can import both ProMash and beerXML files as recipes.
Got a question about BeerAlchemy? Leave it in the comments below!