Friday, November 6, 2009

Mad Genius or Home Brew Blasphemer?

Came across a snippet today from 2007, about PopSci staff photographer John Carnett's all-in-one beer brewing machine, which "boils, ferments, chills, and pours home-crafted ale" and "can serve up to four kinds of beer at once while fermenting a fifth."

The Device

This seemed pretty awesome, so I googled the guy further and found an update from 2008, describing the metamorphosis of "The Device" into the "NanoBrewMaster," a high tech system being groomed for the retail market.


According to the Nano Brewing Tech website, the NBM (availability/cost pending) is completely computerized, handling every aspect from sanitizing to serving completely hands-free.

Upon further reflection, while this may be a pretty sweet setup for someone who enjoys drinking beer, it does sort of take the fun out of brewing beer, if it can be called that--not sure this qualifies as home brewing if all the "brewer" does is flip a switch. On the other hand, commercial breweries do a fair amount of automation by necessity, and no one would accuse them of faking it, so perhaps I'm being a home brew snob!

No doubt about it, the inventor does have mad skills to create such a device, and as an in-home bar, it's pretty cool. However, I would be curious to hear some thoughts from fellow home brewers as to whether this "counts" as home brew--seems like cheating to me (but I suppose with delicious results all the same). What do you think?


Rich said...

I wouldn't have a problem calling it home brewing. You choose all the starting ingredients. And, being computerized, the device gives you full automated control over all stages of the brewing process. The only thing that sets it apart from stove-top home brewing seems to be that, once you dump the ingredients, you don't see the beer until you serve it. (Though I assume there's probably the option of drawing samples along the way for testing.)

Assuming the self-sanitization works well, I think it would probably eliminate the chance of contamination of the beer. You'd probably be able to brew batches with much more consistent results than on a stove-top. I'm sure some would consider this a bad thing, though, as it could potentially eliminate a lot of serendipitous accidents.

According to the web site, it is able to brew up to 15 gallons at a time. This is a much larger batch than the typical home brewer is able to make. And the fact that you can have two different 7.5 gallon batches on tap at once (while presumably brewing a third batch) seems to me a huge selling point. (And no bottling! Though I wonder if there would be a way to bottle a batch, if you wanted to.)

Of course there's a huge question of price. I'm sure a fully featured version will be quite expensive -- far out of budget for the typical home brewer. But it would probably be well-suited for a restaurant that wants to dip its toe into craft-brewing. Multi-course gourmet dinners with beer pairings are becoming more common these days. I'm sure there are many beer-loving chefs out there whose mouths would water at the opportunity to make their own beer for such a dinner, rather than restricting themselves to commercial brands.

For the person with limitless funds, who likes to choose ingredients, times and temperatures, and get a finished product with a minimum of fuss, this seems to be a miraculous device. But if you like to get your hands dirty, and don't mind the labor and mess, and don’t want the average cost per glass of beer at home to be $5+, then the stove-top is the way to go. And of course, in the end, the most important question is, how does the beer taste?

Erin said...

All excellent points--especially about the restaurant/beer-pairing idea. It would be a cool option for restauranteurs who aren't brewers per se, but would like to offer high quality beer. Also, I suppose if you are devising the recipes, that does give you some cred, as that can be pretty complicated stuff.

As to determining if it qualifies as home brewing--given the presumed cost, I imagine most of us will be sticking with the old-fashioned way anyway. ;)