Although craft and microbreweries are currently trendy, you would really like to do more than grab the wildest looking IPA label in the store.
Before you start crying in your beer in despair, I have news for you: you have several choices and they even might be affordable. You can skip over the microbrews entirely and make a nano-beer — almost all by yourself. Here are three options to think about.
SodaStream has carved out a niche for itself by providing easy soft drinks for the home consumer. Instead of lugging heavy bottles home from the supermarket and then adding these empty bottles into the global waste steam, you can get smaller bottles of concentrate and do the carbonation yourself at home.
Now SodaStream is ready to help you do the same thing with beer. With the Sodastream Beer Bar, you can get a liter of Pilsner-style beer concentrate and then all you need to do is add two-thirds carbonated water for a freshly mixed beer. While making beer from concentrate may seem horribly non-traditional, especially for a historic beverage such as beer, it is a known phenomenon. In brewing circles, it is called high-density brewing and it enables brewers to make more beer with limited equipment.
SodaStream’s Beer Bar has not been launched globally, so you have to be in the right country to find and buy it. “So far we’re selling the beer concentrate just in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy,” emailed their brand manager Martin Plothe to me. “Additional countries are not planned at the moment. Also not additional flavors.”
For American consumers wanting a SodaStream approach to their beer, they might want to look into the Colorado-based Pat’s Backcountry Beverages.
Fizzics is a little device that uses sound waves to give beer a smoother head. And, it is a great example of how to use crowdsourcing and social media to move from idea to well-marketed reality.
First the device itself. The Fizzics device lets you place a beer inside it – either can, bottle, or growler – then pull the tap for a modified beverage to appear. The judicious use of sound waves produces a beer head with smaller, longer lasting bubbles. This also creates a positive change in the taste of the beer itself and increases the length of time that the head remains.
Overall, comments on Amazon and social media over Fizzics are quite positive. The few negative voices have sounded off over the negative taste impact on extremely hoppy beers and some gripes over the manufacturing quality of the device.
Fizzics is marketed as a way to make craft beer even better. The product was launched via a Kickstarter campaign and the company has kept a razor-sharp edge to its social media presence. Their video channel has them visiting microbreweries and just talking with the brewmasters about … beer.
For the US consumer, getting a Fizzics is as easy as a trip to their company website, Amazon, and a few other locations. In Europe – at least for the Czech and German markets – the Fizzics is a bit harder and more expensive to acquire. While their customer service stated “We ship internationally via Fizzics.com” to me, there are additional charges. The good news is that these additional charges are still much less than the one Fizzics machine on sale at Amazon.de for about 960 Euro.
Competition for equipping the man cave is going to get hot – even for a cool beer. This January, the world’s biggest brewer – AB InBev – announced the formation of a joint venture with Keurig Green Mountain. Keurig is best known for coffee machines, but last year it launched the Keurig Kold for making carbonated beverages — similar to SodaStream. However, Keurig Kold was a marketplace flop, perhaps due to its stiff $350 price tag.
But that flop was last year. The new joint venture is a sign that someone now sees more potential in home-mixed alcoholic beverages than in soft drinks. Or, as Ina Verstl, the international editor of Brauwelt, pointed out in her book The Beer Monopoly, the next logical step in the global consolidation of the drinks industry would be for AB InBev to acquire a company such as Coke or Pepsi. Alternatively, maybe just sell a machine that can produce either beer or soft drinks for the home consumer.
But whatever the global aspirations for AB InBev, Fizzics, or SodaStream – these companies have got you off the hook. There are reasonable and affordable options what might produce a unique beer without the operational headaches. The choice is yours.