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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

February 9, 2015 at 12:01 AM

PicoBrew brews another product, KegSmarts

The team of mostly ex Microsoft brewing fanatics at Seattle startup PicoBrew are releasing their second product today.

keg2

Called KegSmarts, it’s a Wi-Fi enabled keg monitoring system that attaches to a standard kegerator beer fridge. It includes a display, sensors and a satisfyingly stout knurled control knob.

Once it’s mounted on a three-inch diameter kegerator tap tower, the gadget can be used to keep track of how much beer is left in kegs and how many servings have been dispensed. It also controls the fridge’s temperature and will display information about beers being served (such as the “I-Pete-A” that PicoBrew created for its Super Bowl party and was still in the kegerator shown above last week).

Accessories include plate-shaped scales that measure how much beer is left, down to the ounce. Owners can check on their supply remotely via phone, tablet or browser — and see if anyone’s been drinking their beer. They can also relay tweets reporting what they’ve got available on tap.

Another accessory is a neoprene keg jacket with a heating element that can hold a keg of homebrew at the proper temperature during fermentation. It’s designed to work inside a kegerator, so you can have one keg serving while another one’s fermenting.

Co-founder Bill Mitchell (pictured) said KegSmarts is another step toward the company’s broader goal of making it easier for people to create and consume great beer.

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“We knew that we wanted to improve the craft beer experience and get it into the home,” he said last week.

PicoBrew’s first product is the $1,699 Zymatic brewing system that it unveiled in 2013. After a few challenges getting production up to speed last summer, the company has now filled all of its Zymatic pre-orders and has boosted production to about 200 units per month.

KegSmarts syncs with a Zymatic and shares the same recipe and brewing community software platform, but KegSmarts works as a standalone product. PicoBrew is working with craft brewers to upload details of their beers to the platform, so that KegSmarts will display ingredients and characteristics of their beers.

The company also is leasing a building adjacent to its current Fremont offices. Mitchell said it’s likely to grow its headcount from 24 to 100 over the next year, particularly as it steps up software development.

Although it has plenty of funds on tap, the company is releasing KegSmarts first through Kickstarter to gauge the market. The standalone KegSmarts unit will initially sell for $200 and include both the head unit and a “tail” unit, with electronics, that mounts on the back of a kegerator.

The company also is releasing complete kegerators outfitted with a KegSmarts unit. They’ll range from $800 to $1,100, depending on when they’re ordered and whether they have one or two taps.

Here’s the KegSmarts interface that displays in a browser, perhaps on the smart TV in a man cave:

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Comments | Topics: food, Internet of Things, Microsoft

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