For discriminating beer drinkers, it’s the best of all times.
Once limited to watery, mass production lagers, suds swallowers can now choose from thousands of fresh craft beers made at local breweries across the country.
And if tap rooms are your thing, a seven-year-old company out of Seattle is taking the micro-brewery concept to the ultimate conclusion. PicoBrew, founded by brothers Bill and Jim Mitchell, have developed a high-tech tabletop appliance — the Pico — that allows users to brew their own in about two hours and enjoy the fruits of their labor in as little as a week.
The device itself is a sleek, stainless steel contraption about the size of a large microwave oven, with a knob-controlled digital display, Wi-Fi connectivity and an attachment that lets it double as a sous-vide cooker. The complete system sells for around $800, including kegs for brewing and serving, and produces 5 liters of impossibly fresh beer per cycle.
But here’s the real kicker: most of the ingredients (grains and hops) are pre-packaged in biodegradable, ready-to-brew PicoPaks, based on recipes that are licensed from more than 150 breweries worldwide.
Customers purchase the PicoPaks separately (prices average about $25 per pack) or can concoct their own beers via an online BrewCrafter, which will create a Freestyle mix of grain and hops to match the desired taste profile.
Additional customization is afforded through the appliance, which allows users to adjust the bitterness and alcohol content during the brewing cycle.
To develop the system the Mitchell brothers leveraged their respective backgrounds: Bill, the CEO, holds a Ph.D. in computer science and is a former Microsoft corporate VP, while Jim is a food chemist and physicist.
Chief technology officer Avi Geiger, an engineer by trade; master brewer Annie Johnson; and sales and marketing VP Donald Brewer (that’s right, Brewer) complete the senior management team.
Pico went on to cop CES Innovation Awards in 2016 (Home Appliances honoree), and last January (Eco-Design and Sustainable Technologies honoree).
The company achieved another milestone this month when it raised more than $360,000 in just over seven hours to crowdfund initial production of the Pico Model C — a new, simplified and, at a suggested retail of $549, more affordable version of the original unit — placing it among the Top 12 most funded Kickstarter food campaigns of all time.
“We’ve spent a significant amount of time listening to our customers who were early adopters of the initial Pico to identify areas where we could streamline and simplify the use of the appliance even further,” Bill Mitchell said. “By making improvements to our hardware with a sleeker design and easier-to-use and clean brewing keg, and by offering a more accessible price point, brewing fresh craft beer at home can be a reality for an even larger number of craft beer enthusiasts.”
Other new additions to the PicoBrew lineup include BrewUnlimited, a PicoPak subscription service that allows customers to brew up as many packs as they want for $59 a month (including shipping), and Brew- Pulse, a mobile app for monitoring the brewing cycle, tracking fermentation and carbonation, and ordering additional PicoPaks.
The company expects the Model C to hit the retail channel this fall, but it could face stiff competition from Whirlpool, which last year launched its own home-brewing system, called Vessi, via Indiegogo.