Tomorrow sees the start of Oktoberfest, the two-and-a-half-week German beer festival that has become a global sensation. Bavarians will celebrate the 184th edition of their famed event at giant beer halls, clinking Steine and enjoying traditional music.
But while Oktoberfest is steeped in history, the beer industry is embracing technology at an ever-faster pace. Craft beer has become a global sensation, and entire breweries are being created on the back of skills learnt at the University Of YouTube. Here are some of the innovations you can expect to see changing the alcohol industry soon.
1. Brewing at the speed of sound
The brewing process is something that has been studied for thousands of years: the 1,750BC Code of Hammurabi even made reference to the bubbly drink that is the world’s third most popular beverage after water and tea. But as boutique breweries and big brands continue to tinker with the finer details of beer recipes, one academic team is exploring whether sound can make a big difference to the average pint.
Professor Andrew Jeffs, of New Zealand’s University of Auckland, is leading an investigation into whether different components of sounds, like pitch and volume, can beneficially alter the beer fermentation process. Jeffs, a marine biologist who has previously researched the effects of sound on the behaviour of crabs, lobsters and fish, has been awarded a $1 million grant from the country’s prestigious Endeavour Fund for his latest project, which will surely turn heads in the brewing industry.
2. Getting drunk on the Internet of Things
Is there an industry that IoT hasn’t disrupted (answer: no)? Bringing tech innovation to the beer industry is Binary Beer, the creation of Australian home brewer Michael Burton, who was tired of his keg running dry on a hot summer’s day.
Binary Beer is a “smart keg” that can sense when a beer barrel is running low on its hoppy contents, and which can tell a bartender, publican or brewer when they should switch up. The technology, which can run on ordinary batteries, is seen as a potential game-changer by Burton – and he’s been courted by some of the world’s biggest beer producers who want to streamline their process.
The sensor has already begun rolling out worldwide, and craft brewers are already taking notice. “In addition to knowing where our kegs are it will also give us the data to see whether they are being treated correctly, show us the temperature which is a good indication of quality and whether they are full to know when we should deliver more kegs to a venue,” Phillip O’Shea, of Woollongong’s Five Barrel company told ABC.
3. Becoming an armchair home brewer
There has never been a better time to become a home brewer. In years gone by, creating your own beer may have involved a bathtub, brewing kit and some frazzled nerves. These days there is no shortage of gadgets that can take the pain out of perfecting a pint.
Among the best on offer is Zymatic by PicoBrew, a company founded by brothers Bill and Jim Mitchell. At $2,000 it’s far from the cheapest product available. But the Wifi-enabled machine is an end-to-end home brewery that can create a wide array of flavors and recipes from scratch. You’ll need to ferment your beer outside the Zymatic. But it’s a contraption that is winning customers all over the world–and no shortage of admirers in the exploding craft ale industry.
On the other end of the home brewing scale is the BrewJacket Immersion Pro, a $350 sous vide immersion circulator that, while it won’t help you formulate winning recipes alone, will sit in your batch and make sure it ferments well – avoiding unwanted side-flavors and making sure that keg you’ve been making will get the game-day tailgate going, rather than having your friends and family heading for the bar.