Brewing craft beer at home can be complicated, time-consuming, and expensive enough to be a major buzzkill. But PicoBrew automates the process with a countertop-brewing appliance called the Pico. Insert a ready-made ingredient cartridge, fire up your computer to transmit instructions, and—voilà!—in two to three hours you’ll have a 5-liter mini-keg. You can even skip the environmental hangover: Ingredients arrive with limited shipping and no refrigeration costs, and the cartridges are compostable.
Of course, there’s still fermentation time and a carbonation process, but each batch can be ready to drink within a week. Plan ahead and you can have nearly any brew you want on tap. Major breweries see Pico as a new way to reach customers: Since the product’s launch in early 2016, more than 150, including Rogue, have signed on. Dozens of local and regional brewers are also on board. Cofounder and CEO Bill Mitchell, a former Microsoft VP, built trust—and even improved some recipes—several years ago with PicoBrew’s first invention, the Zymatic, which allowed microbreweries to test and refine carefully calibrated recipes on a small-batch scale.
The appliance goes for about $800, with packs selling as high as $30, which is still less than the price of a typical six-pack. PicoBrew has developed a cult following and counts Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, and Amazon among online retailers. In early 2017, the company hopes to turn loyalists into extreme hobbyists with BrewCrafter, an online recipe builder with a predictive flavor profile system that lets users design their own cartridge-based libations. In short, Mitchell has created a booze-based app store. Pretty soon anyone with a Pico should be able to mimic their favorite beer—or invent a new one.