The rules of the beer industry are about to be rewritten by three little letters, and they’re not PBR. Craft brewing has led a resurgence in the consumption of specialty beers, often imported from all corners of the globe. But until the IoT arrived, there was a great deal of guessing involved in making sure the product you received was delivered at the quality level intended.
Funky beer, you say? Perhaps no, perhaps yes — the answer is more likely something in between. The process of transporting beer is a delicate one, and the complex craft brews popular with barley aficionados at the moment are particularly sensitive to transport conditions. Freshness and preservation are so important they’ve even motivated some craft breweries, like Sierra Nevada, to open entirely new brewing locations.
For some brewers, however, opening a dedicated brewing facility isn’t an option. For example, if a small operation in Belgium wants to sell their beer in the United States, they have to export it. This means “tanking” huge volumes of beer — about 14,000 gallons in one tank. Beers can undergo re-fermentation, which spoils the beer, while in transport, but until the IoT, brewers had no way to know if they had.
New technologies, like the Ovinto beer tank monitoring system, are changing all that. Ovinto fits IoT sensors, which use satellites to communicate, inside beer tanks. The sensors monitor crucial aspects of the beer’s chemical makeup and alert the shipper if the beer has gone bad.
Systems like Ovinto are expected to become a standard for breweries who regularly ship their goods, which in turn raises the level of quality of the average pint you order. By sharing the data from the Ovinto system with consumers, brewers show transparency and demonstrate their commitment to quality.
Changing the Way We Brew
IoT integration also promises to deliver more accurate numbers about beer consumption and when it’s time to order more beer. Maybe you didn’t know this was a problem, but there’s little to no science involved with the way resellers currently decide to re-up on kegs. If demand is high and stock is low, they order more — but humans make mistakes.
Those mistakes are costlier than you know. A beer drinker looking for their favorite pint will consume about 33% less if it’s not on draught when they arrive, and brewers who believe they’re doing a good job of serving their public could be facing an angry, thirsty throng without even knowing it. It’s not their fault.
Systems like SteadyServ, which uses IoT tags on bar kegs to monitor when beer is low, aim to eliminate this issue. The SteadyServ interface works on a smartphone, and there’s the possibility that with some development, the system will even offer features like warning a bartender if one patron is getting a little too carried away.
There’s another advantage to this efficiency, as well. If you’re a brewer, there’s a cost involved in stop-and-go production. Those costs are minimized when you can maintain a steady routine, for example, by keeping compressors running between 50-75% of their rated capacity. That means the bottling line that relies on these compressors can’t ever slow down or speed up a great deal.
SteadyServ and IoT products like it make that a possibility, and the consumer wins because, as any beer geek will tell you, the best beer is the freshest beer. If resellers don’t understand demand, there’s a possibility you could be drinking the extra kegs they ordered last month without needing to.
The Internet of Thirst
Beer has proven to be the motivation for some real technological advances lately. Who’d have thought? It’s not just the commercial brewer who benefits from the IoT, though — even craft brew lovers can benefit from new levels of interconnectivity at home.
For example, the Coopers BrewArt system is a network-aware home-brewing solution that takes the pain out of what used to be a messy process. Just follow the “BrewPrint” for one of the many recipes available and you’re off and running, without enormous wort pots and Frankenstein coolers.
It all goes to show: there’s never been a better time to be a beer drinker. Bottoms up!
Image by Adam Wilson