Beer Startups: What’s Hot on Kickstarter

by Billy Broas

kickstarter-logoThe beer industry has latched onto Kickstarter in a major way.

The fundraising platform with its social nature and quirky promo videos is the perfect fit for a new brewery looking to raise some cash. A search for “brewery” brings up 137 results.

Now we’re seeing all sorts of beery ventures, beyond just breweries. Here are some cool ones I’ve been following:

The Drink Tanks Growler

Drink Tanks Growler
Growlers are great, but they have their drawbacks. The major one is that after you open the growler, the beer quickly loses its carbonation and goes flat.

This growler solves that problem by essentially turning the growler into a mini keg. It has a lid with a built-in tap system. You can dispense the beer from a hosed picnic tap and inject CO2 with a standard CO2 cartridge. This keeps the beer carbonated until the growler is empty.

It’s a very innovative product and they have blown past their fundraising goal of $30,000 by raking in a whopping $176,000 as of this post going up. All signs indicate that they’ll sell a ton of these, even with a $65 price tag which is a good deal higher than the $10-$20 most growlers cost.

Check it out

The TapIt Cap

Looks like there’s some competition in the growler market! TapIt Growler for Beer

The TapIt Cap is similar to Drink Tanks, except this is a cap and not an entire growler. It fits on the standard threaded growlers that are very popular. Like Drink Tanks, it uses a picnic tap and CO2 cartridge for recharging.

I like the flexibility offered by the TapIt Cap. While not as sexy as the Drink Tanks, you can move it between growlers and it is cheaper (website says under $50). Bonus points for being made in Denver.

They have also exceeded their fundraising goal of $80,000.

Check it out

The eDrometer Digital Hydrometer

Get ready to drool homebrewers – it’s a digital hydrometer. No more wasting ~ 6 oz. of beer to take a hydrometer sample and then squinting to read the gravity. Just send a few drops into it and the digital display will give an accurate readout.
dDrometer Digital Hydrometer
One thing you won’t drool over is the price. $500! I love the concept, but I just don’t see many homebrewers putting down $500 for a digital hydrometer. Personally, taking a gravity reading the old-fashioned way isn’t that big a hassle. Yes I hated reading the tiny lines on the glass hydrometer, but for $20 I picked up a precision hydrometer which solved the problem. With 7 days left and $15,000 of the $35,000 goal funded, it’s going to be a stretch to make it. I hope they stick with the idea and are able to make it cheaper.

A similar product with more bells and whistles is the BeerBug. It sits on top of your fermenter and can send the gravity in real-time to your computer or smart phone. Bad ass, and it looks like it will be available for $200.

Check it out

Modern Times Brewery

Despite all of the beer gadgets, Kickstarter still has a strong presence of new breweries. One in particular that I want to highlight is Modern Times. It stands out as being one of the best brewery Kickstarter campaigns I’ve seen.
Modern Times Beer Logo
Aside from the great video and rewards, what sets it apart is the work that’s already been done in launching the brewery. They have done a ton prior to coming to Kickstarter: they have a rock star team of employees, a location, and fantastic branding. Rather than tweaking their beers as they go, they hired homebrewerer extraordinaire Mike Tonsmeire to develop and brew the test batches. As a consumer, I appreciate this.

I think many breweries put the cart before the horse and come to Kickstarter too early. Personally, I’m more likely to give money to a startup that has already done some heavy lifting and has skin in the game.

Check it out

I don’t know what role Kickstarter will play a year or two from now. Will it continue to be a major platform for funding breweries, or is it a fad that will disappear? There are already grumblings out there from consumers getting tired of new breweries hitting them up for money. It’s understandable in areas already becoming saturated with breweries, but my guess is that cities or neighborhoods without many craft breweries will still show strong support for new entrants.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

jeremy April 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I am not sure I would buy any of these things… Do you which of the new breweries around Denver used kickstarter? I am curious how much it helped them out. Yeah, I would get tired of being hit up by a bunch of people trying to start up a brewery.

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Billy Broas April 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I’m actually not aware of any Denver breweries that have used Kickstarter. Not sure why, but I guess they’ve been pretty successful raising money through banks and/or private investors.

Here’s a good read: http://www.topfermented.com/2012/05/23/how-to-open-a-brewery-using-kickstarter/

I think some breweries believe you can raise all the money you need using Kickstarter. Maybe some can, but as he points out, the $44k he raised was only a small portion of the $500k he spent. “It doesn’t even pay for kegs” as he put it lol.

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pa_jeff April 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I saw the beerbug a few months ago. I love the idea, I just don’t see myself spending that much coin for it. Interface that with a temp controller though and some logic, and lagering becomes a breeze.

I like the hydrometer, but that price is insane. I had to convince myself that $50 for a refractometer was worth it – to me, the hydrometer would have to be price competitive with refractometers before I’d consider it.

I also like the drink tank growler, but again, $95 for a growler/tap is more that I’d care to spend on a 64 oz mini-keg. In my mind, I’d prefer if it was a gallon – carbonating 3-4 beers is fine, but “more is better”. :-)

Good finds – interesting projects.

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Billy Broas April 3, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Thanks for the comment Jeff. I’m with you on the growler. I’m really not a big growler guy myself because I’m too promiscuous a beer drinker. It’s a lot of money but if you buy growlers consistently I can see it having value.

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Brian July 18, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Check out the BrewBit Model-T. It is the first step towards what you are looking for. It is the advanced temperature controller. The next step, and we are currently working on it, is the specific gravity sensor that will integrate in fully with the temp controller. It is all open source and made by homebrewers for homebrewers. Get it here: http://kck.st/13kN3yG

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Sheppy April 5, 2013 at 11:06 am

I am with everyone else. All these are cool gadgets, but I don’t really see myself spending the money for any of them.

The possible exception for me is the The TapIt Cap. I don’t fill a lot of growlers (promiscuous a beer drinker like Billy) unless I know I am going to share it and drink it within one or two sittings. But, the price point is such that I can see the cost/benefit ratio within an almost acceptable range. There is nothing worse than having your beer go flat before you drink it.

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JoshE May 30, 2013 at 12:03 pm

There’s loads of reasons why Modern Times succeeded-like the fact that they partnered up with local businesses beforehand. I interviewed McKean about it here: http://cwhighlights.com/modern-times-beer-kickstarter/#axzz2UbWBttJz

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Billy Broas May 30, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Hey Josh, I just read your post. Very good. You hit on the key success factors for Modern Times in their Kickstarter campaign. On that I didn’t fully appreciate was the partnership with local businesses. I wasn’t aware that many of them contributed to the campaign. Very smart.

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JoshE June 7, 2013 at 9:33 am

It’s interesting that here in Austin, most breweries have funded themselves the traditional way- and as far as I’m aware none of them are retired financial types or from super-moneyed families (ala Stone Brewing)

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