When did homebrewing become so hard that people still want to do it but are looking for ways around the actual work of the brewing? First there was Brewbot: An Automated Homebrewing Machine, by an Australian designer, and now comes WilliamsWarn: The Personal Brewery, this time from New Zealand. Is it perhaps the folks down under who are getting lazy? (And thanks to brewer Andrew Mason for the hat tip.)
So brewmaster Ian Williams and food technologist (not sure what that is) Anders Warn worked for two years to develop the WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery, which looks as much like a fancy coffee machine as anything else.
Here’s their “story” from the website:
The WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery is the miracle that beer drinkers have been praying for. After 5000 years of brewing, the technology finally exists to allow you to brew the perfect beer. Your Personal Brewery is a breakthrough created by our brewmasters through a combination of their deep love of beer and their extensive knowledge of brewing.
In 2004, whilst Ian was working out of Denmark as an international brewing consultant and professional beer taster, he was challenged by his Uncle (a frustrated homebrewer) to invent the worlds first personal brewery. After 2 years part-time research he returned to New Zealand in 2006 and started fulltime research and development with help from his friend, Anders Warn. Finally in 2011, after several rounds of serious investment, after 100 brews and blind tastings and after many industrial prototypes, the first units and the ingredients to be used in them are ready for sale.
So after 5 years of intense development, the result is cold, perfectly carbonated, clear, commercial quality beer made in 7 days, like a modern brewery. All 78 official beer styles can be made as well as the option to develop your own.
I have to say I’m skeptical, especially watching them pour the malt syrup into the contraption. And it’s not exactly cheap, either, at $5,666 NZD (which is roughly $4,436 in American dollars). It seems like it would take quite a few 23 litre batches (about 6 gallons) before it would pay for itself. And the ingredients to make one batch is $49-52 NZD ($50 = $39 USD). So after purchasing the machine, it costs $39 per batch, getting you roughly 6 gallons of beer, or the equivalent of 2 2/3 cases of 12 oz. bottles or roughly 10 six-packs with a few bottles extra). Not including the price of the machine, the cost would be about $4 per six-pack, saving you maybe $2 for a macro brew and $4-5 per craft beer sixer. Let’s call it $4 savings per six-pack ($40 per batch) and it would take you 110 batches before you broke even.
Ian Williams and Anders Warn with their Personal Brewery.
Watch the video to get a better idea of what it’s all about and how it works. What do you think? Am I crazy, or are these contraptions a bad idea that subvert the very idea of what it means to be a homebrewer? Throughout the press materials for the Personal Brewery, they talk about how it was just too hard to homebrew and the founder’s uncle wanted a simpler way to keep making beer at home. But I can’t help but wonder. Maybe his uncle should have given up and just bought beer from professionals. Does making beer using a machine that does all the work still constitute homebrewing? Certainly many of the bigger brewery’s systems are automated at various stages in the process. But I tend to think of homebrewing as a learning experience, where you learn to be a better brewer by doing, by putting in the time and the hard work. These homebrewing systems seem designed for a lazy person who wants to call themselves a “homebrewer” but without putting in any of the effort. An automatic personal brewery seems less like a hobby and more like having yet another kitchen gadget just to impress your friends. Though it’s hard not to be impressed with the engineering of it, and it is a beautiful looking machine. What do you think?