It’s a pretty simple, tempting premise: Pay $9.99 per month and get one free beer a day from a participating bar or brewery.
PintHub, the creation of two University of Texas graduates, recently launched in Austin after a successful first run in Dallas. The membership-based app is similar to services like MoviePass and ClassPass, but instead of giving its members a free movie per day or access to fitness classes at any gym, PintHub is all about beer.
Co-founders and Austinites Drew Zerdecki and Joah Gonzalez launched PintHub so that people can explore the beer scene in their city, trying out new beers and breweries as often as they want. The Austin version of the app features a dozen participating venues so far, including Austin Beerworks, WhichCraft Bottle Shop & Tap Room, and Via 313 Pizza, as well as “an organically growing” membership base, according to Zerdecki.
“Craft beer can be daunting for people to discover because of the overwhelming number of options,” he said. “And that’s where PintHub comes in because it allows people to inexpensively try many of the great local craft beers.”
It also helps them to do it safely: PintHub’s limit of one free beer per day discourages bar-hopping.
The app is further appealing to craft-centric bars, restaurants and breweries interested in drawing in more customers, he said. They might be giving away a free beer — about a 40-cent cost each time — but are getting something in return, including the chance to convert visitors to their spaces into regulars. Plus, the participating venues don’t pay any fees to be featured on the app, and they choose which beers from their tap wall are free.
Zerdecki, who has been focusing full-time attention on PintHub after quitting his job as a patent litigator about a year ago, notes in pitches to potential PintHub bars and taprooms that, according to data, there’s a minimum 150 to 250 percent return to expect over the cost of the free pour.
“A lot of people buy food when they get a free beer, or they order more than one beer,” he said. “There is a risk for these venues of, ‘I gave away a free beer and then they left.’ So it's a bet. But it’s a good bet because people don't tend to just drink one. And they don’t drink alone.”
He and Gonzalez met in 2010 when they enrolled in the same masters program at UT, learning the ins and outs of building a strong, profitable company. They decided to try their hand at the PintHub app six years later, after noticing how much Austin’s brewing industry was flourishing. PintHub’s first employee, Daniel Estrada, was based in Dallas and able to get the app off the ground there swiftly, helping it debut last summer.
Now, about 40 Dallas bars and breweries offer free beers through PintHub. Zerdecki hopes the number of Austin venues will similarly increase as more users join the app and awareness about it spreads. Austin is a more promising market in certain ways, he said, because of its smaller size.
“Our Dallas partner bars and taprooms are a lot more spread out,” he said. “If you're a consumer, you want beer near your home and your work and your favorite places. Austin, on the other hand, depending on where you live, it's a $14 Uber ride to many of the entertainment districts — North Loop, Domain, Rainey, East Sixth, the Warehouse District — so people can hit up more of them regularly.”
So far, memberships are covering start-up costs, but Zerdecki and Gonzalez, who maintains an additional job at Lifesize, hope PintHub will become profitable. Unlike other subscription services like the ailing MoviePass, PintHub doesn’t pay the venues that choose to participate and has an easier path toward the co-founders’ financial goals.
They chose to develop an app around beer in part because of the community surrounding it, Zerdecki said. There’s also already a subscription service for mixed drinks, called Hooch, but nothing like PintHub existed for beer, despite myriad other apps related to the beverage.
“People love beer, sharing about it, talking about it, and there isn't that feeling for cocktails,” he said.
For more information, visit pinthub.com. PintHub is available for free download in both Apple and Android app stores.