How it all began.
"It began at Cole's, of all places." I don't know why I say it like that, because Cole's is a fun bar. Everyone in Buffalo, where we live, pretty much knows about it. It's centrally located on Elmwood Avenue, the street that, if asked "what's the best street in Buffalo?" most Buffalonians would answer. It's not far from – it's on the same block as – Buffalo State College, or coffee shops, or 24 hour Greek diners, or clothing boutiques, or grocery cooperatives, or other bars.
And it's been there forever. My dad references it in stories about the seventies. He'll say "Meier used to love Cole's." Meier is my dad's best friend, and no doubt when Meier would go to Cole's, my dad would often accompany him. It's a fun bar. People love it. Friends have their bachelor parties there. (We call them stags here.)
But you'll also hear something in my dad's intonation, the context, something in the story he is telling, that conveys he is indicting Meier for loving Cole's.
The night we thought up Brewtrakr, we were hanging out at Cole's. We were waiting on my cousin. He lives out of town now, but he was home for a weekend last October, and suggested we all meet for a drink. Cole's is the sort of place a family member who lives out of town can toss out as a meeting place. He knows it's still there. He knows everyone can agree on it. He knows it is in a cool (or what many would consider a cool) neighborhood.
And maybe that's the thing. That Cole's is so obvious. Even someone who didn't live in Buffalo anymore could suggest it. And that's why when people say, tell us about Brewtrakr, I say "It began at Cole's, of all places." Of all places.
So that night, we were waiting for my cousin, who was running late. My brother-in-law Eric, an app developer in his spare time, mentioned a scheme he was hatching.
A couple years ago he bought a URL called brewtrakr.com. He had been sitting on it, but had plans to turn it into a site (and a mobile app) that would enable users to keep track of every beer they'd ever tried. He had worked at Consumers Beverages, a local beer store, for years, and had become a novice beer aficionado. He had even tried brewing his own beer at home once or twice. Eric imagined Brewtrakr as an online checklist of brews.
We loved it, and began hashing it over. What if we made Brewtrakr social? What if instead of a checklist – or in addition to a checklist – we got people to tweet what they were drinking, and maybe say a word or two about that drink? The joke about Twitter had always been: what do I care about what you're having for lunch? But isn't the joke also part of the fun?
Don't we care – a little bit – about what the people we follow online are eating and drinking? Doesn't that tell a story, or part of a story about who they are? We thirst for stories. We seek them out, like we seek out our favorite drink at our favorite bar. Similarly, we share our own stories. And the internet, especially the social internet, enables the search and the sharing.
Brewtrakr. It was all so obvious. A social drinking site, of all things. At Cole's, of all places.