Beer is getting smarter, there’s no denying it. First commercial taprooms introduced network-aware tap systems, then came pour-your-own tasting bars that charge by the ounce.
Now, Budweiser brewmasters Anheuser-Busch are rumored to be joining teams with the king of deluxe in-home coffee systems, Keurig, to create the world’s most convenient beer-dispensing countertop wonder.
“But I already have a Kegerator!” Yes, it probably compliments your granite countertops wonderfully and blends right in.
Keurig’s new brew contraption should provide a more low-profile beer-dispensing solution, and word has it the gizmo doesn’t just do beer — it’ll make cocktails too. Just don’t go looking for the Mickey Fin K-cups — those are off-limits.
A New Twist on a KOLD Idea
Keurig hasn’t got much to lose on this venture because most of the hardware has already been created. The KOLD was a Keurig attempt at a soda-making K-cup appliance, but it didn’t sell well enough to justify the cost of production. What else can you make with a compact refrigerated drink-dispensing machine? Adult beverages, that’s what.
The concept of a beer-dispensing Keurig isn’t that new either. In fact, some folks have even tried it with a normal Keurig. We’re betting the purpose-built number will fare slightly better in tests.
Competition From Craft Brew
There are other means of pouring draft beer in the comfort of your own kitchen, but for the most part, they involve buying proprietary refills of beer not much fresher than you might get at a supermarket at high prices.
One competitor, the PicoBrew Pico, could be Anheuser and Keurig’s biggest competition. The standalone home-brewing unit uses pre-packaged ingredient cartridges to take most of the guesswork out of brewing, but it still requires some hands-on involvement, and it also costs around $800. That’s about twice as much as Keurig’s KOLD originally retailed for. It’s a big enough price difference to make folks take notice.
If you’re willing to give up on craft brew, or at least to be limited to beers in the Anheuser-Bush repertoire, the Keurig solution offers some neat tricks. The assumption is that beers will be “brewed” using water stored in the appliance and some form of ingredients cartridge similar to a Keurig K-cup. The classic ingredient list for beer is just barley, yeast, hops and water, and they would all be combined for you right there on the spot.
Presumably, placing a different cartridge in the machine would lead you to a vodka soda, whiskey sour or Moscow mule. A feat that has, not surprisingly, been accomplished with a normal Keurig as well. Anheuser has hinted that the machine will likely also offer the ability to brew up their proprietary SpikedSelzer sparkling drink. Clearly, the KOLD’s carbonation technology is being used to full advantage.
While an alcohol dispenser for the home might not sound that far-flung, there are a few questions that need answering before this new appliance hits store shelves. What will replacement cartridges cost, and how will they be regulated?
The FDA watches alcoholic beverages with a keen eye, so something that resembles a K-cup will need loud labeling to keep store owners from selling to minors. What would happen if someone just drank the ingredient cartridge itself?
No one is better equipped to answer these types of questions than an industry leader like Anheuser-Busch, but the company isn’t enjoying the cornered market of twenty years ago. Craft brew has put a sizable dent in AB-InBev’s market share, and they can’t afford to get things wrong.
The true test of the system will be in tasting the brew it puts out. Even with the PicoBrew, there is a fermentation period required. This is a normal part of brewing beer that can last months with certain craft brews or just days in the case of the Pico. Can Anheuser and Keurig crack the secret of quality beer on demand? If so, it’ll be the freshest pint around!
Image by vedanti