Remember the television show Futurama? It was the Simpsons’ Matt Groening’s other animated series that ran on Fox for four seasons beginning in 1999.
There was a robot — or perhaps more accurately a “foul mouthed, cigar smoking, booze drinking, shiny metal arsed, bending robot” — in the show whose name was Bender. Besides his name and the character’s predilection for going on one, you may be asking yourself what that has to do with beer? Well, even though the show was canceled, like many such shows it has a pretty good cult following. There are fans, of course, and then there are fans.
One such uber-fan, Simon Jansen, in New Zealand, if not an engineer by trade then one of the most impressive hobby engineers I’ve encountered. He’s also a sci-fi fan generally and it appears he started his website with the extremely impressive Star Wars Asciimation, which is the entire Star Wars movie done in Java using nothing but ASCII art. For those of you new to the web, ASCII art is pictures created using nothing but the characters that can be found on an ordinary keyboard, which were used in early e-mails before graphics became ubiquitous throughout the internet.
Those emoticons, like 😉 for example, are a simple, though enduring, form of ASCII art. But they can get extremely complicated and detailed, too. Check out the Great ASCII Art Library for hundreds, if not thousands of these.
Okay, so as usual I’m veering off on a tangent, back to the Bender. Last summer (his winter) Jansen was challenged by a friend to make an actual Bender robot. Jansen also took as inspiration a third season episode, The Route of All Evil, in which while the main plot was going on, there was a subplot involving the two characters, Fry and Leela, along with Bender himself where they undertook to “brew beer inside Bender, treating the robot like an expectant mother.” Jansen reasoned that “just having a Bender that doesn’t do anything would be a waste of time so mine shall be used for a practical purpose. One Bender himself would be proud of. I’ll use him to make beer!”
The Bender Brewer Project, as it’s known, took over six months to complete and yielded its first brew last week. The website includes four pages of detailed information showing every step of the way with copious photographs of the various stages along with diagrams and source code. But for my purposes, it gets really interesting in mid-December on page four when the brewhouse went online, so to speak.
Basically, it’s only a rudimentary homebrewing kit but you have to admire the sheer amount of work and effort to take this project from drawing board to actual robot that produces beer. His initial specific gravity was 1.034. In early January, the beer was ready to bottle and he had his first taste f it, describing it like this.
How odd and cool is that?
Bender with brewing system inside. Reminds me a bit of the Wizard of Oz’s Tinman, but this time he’s wishing for something different. “If I only had a beer!”
Bottled on January 2, the new robot-brewed Bendërbrau, with labels designed by Jen, one of Jansen’s friends.