‘A new distribution mechanism for craft beer:’ Pico lets beer fans recreate their favorite brands at home

By Hal Conick contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Pico will be released in 2016; will it cause an industry disruption?
The Pico will be released in 2016; will it cause an industry disruption?
A new device has been created that will allow people to brew their own craft brews at home.

Seattle-based PicoBrew has developed the Pico, something the company has dubbed “the 3D printer for craft beer.” The system will allow craft brewers to distribute their brands as ingredient kits, letting consumers brew their favorite brands at home.

For craft brewers, this means a possible new distribution method for beer, allowing customers to try flavors they otherwise have to travel hundreds of miles for. For consumers, it means a new way of brewing and drinking beer. 

The company was founded by former Microsoft executive Bill Mitchell in 2010 and initially created the PicoBrew Zymatic, a $2,000 machine that allows home brewers to come up with brewing concoctions with ease.

With PicoBrew, the company is aiming for the craft beer connoisseur crowd who want fresh craft beer at home. It is currently available on Kickstarter for $499​, an early bird price, and will retail for $999.

How it works

Donald Brewer, PicoBrew’s vice president of sales and marketing, told BeverageDaily that the machine uses a wireless connection to download these recipes and automatically create a brew when a PicoPak, which features the prepackaged ingredients needed to make beer, is inserted.

“The way it works is very simply, a customer can purchase a PicoPak and insert it into one compartment that has grains and malt and another that has hops,”​ he explains. “It automatically optically detects and the recipe is downloaded through Wi-Fi to the machine. The only other thing the user has to do is fill the keg up with 1.75 gal of water”

Pico users can then personalize the alcohol percentage and bitterness units of the beer they are brewing. Then, the beer will brew over a two hour period where users can check on the brew cycle via an app on their phone.

After it is finished brewing, the yeast is thrown away and it will take five to seven days to completely ferment. Users then chill the keg and carbonate it with a provided CO2 package.

At that point, Brewer said it is ready to serve. The Pico will yield approximatey five liters of beer, or enough for 14 12oz bottles.

Partnering with the industry

Those who buy PicoBrew will have access to its BrewMarketplace, an online marketplace where recipes will be posted by breweries and homebrewers alike. Thus far, the company has 100 beer varieties and 50 brewing partners, such as Rogue and Dogfish Head, post recipes on its marketplace. Plenty more are interested, Brewer.

In a craft brewing world that Brewer says is “ultra-regionalized,”​ the prospects of a product like Pico have been extremely exciting for craft brewers. Many of the 4,000 craft breweries in the US don’t have distribution outside of their own city or state, he said, so this will give them an opportunity to get their beer into the hands of consumers.

“A lot of the craft beers, these are beers brewed with national ingredients,”​ Brewer said. “That’s why they taste great. Beer is a food just like bread. It’s made with grain and yeast. No one like stale bread; the same applies to beer.”

“Especially for some of the smaller guy, many of these guys win awards at beer festivals but they don’t have canning facilities and distribution means. We almost provide a new distribution mechanism for craft beer.”

Professional use

PicoBrew has gained regard in the beer industry, as Brewer said many brewers, as well as yeast companies, use the Zymatic to test new recipes.

“Having a fully automatic beer brewing system that can do very quick 2 ½ gallon batches allows them to test these new hops and new grains and get a feel for the beer’s aroma,” he said. “They can do it without having to assign a brew master to a pilot system. They’ve seen it be very effective in knocking out a lot of recipes.”

This may even be a new path for home brewers to gain a following, as Brewer said the BrewMarketplace gives the ability for them to add their recipes and earn royalties. The only path to becoming a well-known brewer has been to “quit your job and start a brewery,” he said, but said the PicoPak could be a great way to showcase their recipes to the world.

The Kickstarter for the Pico has already more than doubled up on its original goal. It is currently at more than $500,000, whereas its original goal was set for $200,000.

Brewer said they are expected to start shipping the Pico in Q1 of 2016.

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1 comment

Yeast thrown away?

Posted by Doug S,

FYI, when a brewer says that yeast is "pitched", that doesn't mean it's thrown away, it means it's added to the brew. The yeast is, of course, required to accomplish that 5- to 7-day fermentation... or any fermentation, for that matter.

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