Americans have a big appetite for beer, and small brewers are playing an increasingly important role in sating it. Last year, craft breweries sold a record 24.1 billion barrels of beer, a 13 percent bump over the previous year—the eighth consecutive year of double-digit growth.
Not surprisingly, the country’s growing love for craft beer and small-batch brews has bred another trend: an uptick in home-brewing. For hobbyists and aspiring brewers alike, whipping up that first hoppy concoction can be a thrill, and several new startups are committed to making it easier.
Here’s a look at look at four innovative companies that will help transform your kitchen into a microbrewery.
In 2013, Seattle-based PicoBrew launched the Zymatic, the world’s first automatic all-grain beer brewing appliance. Microsoft veteran Bill Mitchell co-founded the business with his brother Jim, a food chemist, and engineer Avi Geiger. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that the device had software capabilities that allowed customers to browse an extensive recipe library and remotely monitor their concoctions from a smartphone, tablet or computer. The company funded the creation of the Zymatic by raising more than $660,000 on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
The company’s latest machine, Pico, which will go on sale later this Fall, is a microwave-sized twist on the original. The Keurig-style machine, one of the first of its kind, is a smaller, cheaper brewing solution.
“Leaving Microsoft in 2010 gave me the perfect opportunity to marry my love for engineering and [brewing] technology,” Mitchell said in a recent interview with FreeEnterprise. “The big dream was to come up with a technology that would allow easy brewing at home. That’s why our latest product is a consumer manifestation of our company mission: Get the world brewing.”
PicoBrew has already raised more than $15 million in funding from angel investors and crowdfunding campaigns.
Formerly launched under the name ArtBrew, Los Angeles-based startup iGulu has created an easy-to-use, technologically intuitive home brewing system for beer enthusiasts of all experience levels. Earlier this year, the company raised $919,00 through an Indiegogo campaign, some of which came from customers who are slated to receive a brewing system in December 2016.
The technology allows home brewers to either create custom recipes and ingredients or buy them in packages from the iGulu website. From there, the process involves little more than adding water, the chosen ingredients and starting the machine, although home brewers with more sophisticated palates can also adjust how heavy, hoppy and alcoholic their final product will be.
“We created iGulu for those who love craft beer and have the imagination for innovation,” explained iGulufounder Shu Zhang, who previously worked for Cisco and Motorola. “While other machines have their body, kegs and some variable components that require a steep learning curve, iGulu combines both the brewing tank and fermentation tank into one unique, structurally-advanced body.”
While working as a stock market analyst, Steve Young noticed that a majority of craft brewers worried about getting beer to their customers while it was still fresh. Young eventually decided to roll up his sleeves and try to solve the problem, investing $35,000 personally and later running a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $648,000 for a company now known as Synek.
The product that came out of that fundraising push is a countertop beer dispenser that functions like something between a growler and a full-fledged keg. The machine uses a carbon dioxide tank to prevent oxygen from coming into contact with beer, allowing it to remain fresh for more than 30 days. When asked about the name, Young said that Synek is “an ode to all the non-believers and cynics that didn’t believe our concept of a beer dispenser would ever become a reality.”
Here’s one for the more professional-grade crowd. Massachusetts-based Lyon Labs created BrewNanny to make it easier to monitor the brewing process. Unlike the iGulu and Pico, BrewNanny isn’t meant to replace the brewer, but rather to provide real-time data and monitoring to make home brewing more precise.
Designed to replace the air trap during the fermentation process, BrewNanny is built to measure carbon dioxide volume, which in turn helps calculate the amount of alcohol produced, the speed of fermentation, and the amount of sugar that still needs to be converted into alcohol. The data is then displayed on a digital dashboard.
Gary Lyons, a former/current IT professional, launched Lyon Labs via Kickstarter in the summer of 2014. He raised $44,669 in funding, and sold out his first batch of products almost immediately. The company is now working on beta-testing a new product.