Most of us don’t follow Kickstarter, because there are only so many “roomy” jeans pitches and crappy iPhone wallet designs you can see before your sanity starts slipping. But it’s a compelling site in many, many ways, and one of the most compelling is to see what trends are arriving. And there’s one in particular that beer geeks and people who like good beer should know about.
Namely, the beer robot. Two projects, the Picobrew Zymatic and the BrewBot, were recently funded, and essentially, it takes brewing out of the realm of fussy chemistry and makes it as simple as making bread. While the two devices have different designs and different principles, they both have the same aim; making it simple for you to brew beer.
Everything is computerized and monitored with sensors, from the very beginning. The process of adding hops, yeast, and other items is done automatically; all you have to do is measure it out. Essentially, if you’ve got one of these things, access to a homebrew shop (or catalog) and a hose, you can start making your own beer within minutes of unpacking this thing.
Which, OK, is pretty cool, but the first thing you might be wondering is just how much making your own beer costs. As any homebrewer can tell you, making beer can be a glorious thing, but also an expensive, agonizing and quixotic endeavor. It’s very easy for a batch of beer to go off-kilter, or get skunked, or just taste terrible. Taking those problems out of the equation will, for now, run you about $1300 to $3000. So, yeah, these are, on a personal level, pretty expensive and will be the province of rich people with massive kitchens and frat houses with chemistry majors for a while.
But, and here’s the important part, also well within the reach of restaurants and other places that serve delicious food. And that’s going to change how you drink beer in ways not even the people who designed these things can anticipate.
To understand why, it’s important to understand why more restaurants aren’t breweries. Leaving aside, for a moment, the fact that each state has bizarre and obnoxious liquor laws that make it difficult to start a brewery, let alone a brewpub, brewing on a mass production scale is even more fraught with problems and pitfalls. Craft beer is delicious, but it takes a lot of work to ensure each batch of each beer tastes exactly the same, every time. There’s a reason “brewmaster” is both a title and a full-time, stressful job.
These machines are designed to take that out of the equation, so that any restaurant can make its own beer. Furthermore, $1,300 to $3000 is nothing for your local high-end restaurant. They own stoves that cost more. And it’s a lot easier to experiment with beer when you only have to make a few gallons of it. The same is true of breweries; instead of having to spend a lot of time screwing around with a recipe that might not make sense to produce on a large-scale, they can use these beerbots to make a small batch, fiddle with it, and go from there.
This will have two effects. One, you’ll see a lot more “cooking beers” on menus within a year; while you can’t necessarily sell the beer you brew with these robots, nothing’s stopping you from cooking with it. And two, beer will, in places that allow it, get hyperlocal. It won’t just be that your city has a couple of breweries, beer gardens, and gastropubs; every restaurant interested in beer will have its own, small-batch beer production. In a year or so, there will be places where you can go around the block and try a few dozen different beers. New recipes and varieties of beer will be hitting the bars; formerly obscure beers will become easier to find; and more experimentation will find us new and exciting ideas in beer, or revive old ones.
In other words, you might want to start preparing your liver now, because there’s about to be an explosion of great beer for you to drink. Thanks, robots!
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