We all have that one beer. You know, your favorite brew from your hometown, or that IPA you had once on vacation, that no matter how hard you search you can’t find it at any of your local bottle shops. For me, its an IPA called High Roller made by Big Boss Brewing in Raleigh, North Carolina. I used to joke that I was made up of 50% High Roller, which may or may have not been accurate. Unfortunately for me, High Roller is only available in NC, so since my move to the West Coast four years ago I’ve had to resort to precariously filling my suitcase with bottles for the trip home, or persuading friends to send me a care package.
Sure, beer trades and bottles wrapped in socks in your checked bags work, but then you run into the trouble of freshness. Most brews aren’t meant to be hoarded for months and months, so you either need to drink your precious cargo soon, or run the risk that it’s going to be not quite as good down the line.
Now there’s another solution: Make it yourself.
At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, one company, PicoBrew, was showing off its solution for beer nerds everywhere: a small homebrewing system capable of making a number of popular brews right on your countertop, and fast.
You may remember PicoBrew from Kickstarter. The company designed a small countertop homebrewing system that essentially replaced your other, much larger, homebrewing setup. We reviewed the machine, called the Zymatic, late last year. The company’s newest version is a bit different. While you can certainly create and brew your own recipes with it, the company also sells PicoPaks you can use to brew specific beers. Think of them as sort of like a Kuerig cup, except instead of coffee grounds inside you’re getting just the right grain, malt and hops to make the perfect beer. Even better, you’re able to buy them in the exact combination to make that unicorn beer you’re desperately in search of.
But wait, won’t breweries be upset that you’re brewing their beer on your own rather than buying that bottle? Actually, no.
PicoBrew is working with a number of breweries to make their brews available in an online marketplace of sorts. Sort of like an App Store for beer. The marketplace is used by both professional brewers and homebrewing enthusiasts, and allows them to sell that pack of ingredients to anyone on the planet. The brewery earns a royalty of the sale, and you get your beer. Big names in craft beer such as Rogue, 21st Amendment, and Abita have already signed up.
For a brewery hat has a limited distribution area, they’re allowing a fan to buy their brew who otherwise might not have the opportunity. It’s just a little DIY. Since they’re not shipping alcohol, only ingredients, the process also allows them to get around distribution laws and make that IPA available to anyone on the planet who wants it. Pretty cool.
PicoBrew is currently accepting preorders, with plans to ship some of its first orders in May. The device retails for $699. We plan on getting our hands on one and doing a little side-by-side taste testing between PicoBrews and the real thing soon.
What hard-to-find beers do you wish you could brew at home?