Not done fermenting

Not done fermenting – Beer brewing, Hobbies and Small business, is a project that looks into how hobbies could be turned into small businesses and what type of technology could support this process, specifically focusing on beer brewing.

The brief was to look at subcultures that could use DIY technology to help achieve their ambitions but are currently not doing so. We started looking at various crafts such as tile making, handmade furniture and beer brewing.

Beer brewing was the most interesting to us because we were able to interact with people who home-brewed few bottles weekly as a hobby to the people who made big by opening microbreweries and brewpubs.  There are many regulatory challenges for turning the brewing hobby in a small business. There are conflicts in philosophies and the process affects the quality to a great extent.

There are some unique features of this group that we observed :

1. “Just-out-of reach” resources : The primary challenge for home brewers trying to transition their hobbies to small businesses is that equipment and capital required to meet regulatory requirements are just-out-of-reach.

2. Innovation through regulatory work arounds : A significant proportion of home brewers are interested in commercializing what they make and an increasing number are finding ways around regulations, like “phantom brewing” – where a home brewer borrows/rents a brewing facility to brew a batch of beer. The beer could be sold to the brewery or bottled and distributed by the brewer himself. It serves as a workaround for the regulations where the brewer gets to use a certified facility without high investment.

3. Culture of sharing recipes, resources etc. makes community more not less diverse : The commercial climate of brewing contrasts nicely with a lively home brewing community, which is made up of enthusiasts who brew their own beers, share them with friends, and freely distribute recipes. Th is community is largely self-organized and uses recipe logging sites and forums to stay connected.

Based on these we envisioned few scenarios where these features are nurtured and some of the issues are solved. This included formation of a spaces called “Brew Space”. Brew Space provides the physical space, equipment, legal overhead, distribution, and other resources to members. We have envisioned several organizational models for these spaces: cooperatives, corporate owned “labs” and hybrid school-rental facilities.

Model 1 – Cooperatives

Cooperatively owned Brew Spaces are grassroots initiatives where individuals pool resources to make just-out-of-reach commercial brewing resources just-within-reach. Members of a cooperatives can develop and maintain their own brands while enjoying coordinated distribution. Limited resources require computation to automate tasks that support the core activity of brewing like accounting, inventory and community management, etc.

Model 2 – Corporate owned “labs”

Corporate Brew Labs off er participating brewers resources similar to those of cooperatives, but individuals apply to create sub brands of the larger corporate brand instead of maintaining their own brands. In this way, there is a higher emphasis on quality control measures in this model.

The resulting relationship between small-scale brewers and large corporate brewers is mutually beneficial: the little guys get a place to brew and potentially sell their beer while the big guys can capitalize on authentic craft brewing, the only growing beer market in the world.

Information technology is required to support integrating the lab’s fruits into the existing supply chain, access control, consistency management, analytics to gauge comparative success of beers, and a feedback system for consumers.

Model 3 – hybrid school-rental facilities

A similar resource offering to cooperative and corporate owned Brew Spaces, but with the addition of classrooms and bulk material retail. The driving idea for this model is twofold:

i. Provide classrooms where students produce beer on-demand for real customers, gaining both experience and a credential

ii. provide facilities for brewers who have gained this credential can rent space and production equipment.

This model requires computation for parts of the curriculum, inventory management, and managing orders.