The homebrew wars are heating up.
South Korean appliance giant LG will debut a home beer brewing appliance called the LG HomeBrew at CES in January 2019. The appliance, rumored for some time, will utilize capsules that include malt, yeast, hop oil and flavoring to produce 5 liters of beer.
LG’s unique capsule-based system brings revolutionary simplicity to the art of brewing with one-touch activation. With a set of single-use capsules – which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavoring – and the press of a button, users can relax as LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation, carbonation and aging to serving and cleaning. A free companion app (for Android and iOS devices) lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time, anywhere.
While the press release describes the HomeBrew as a sort of Keurig for beer, it also mentions the stubborn reality of fermented drinks: each 5 liter serving of the beer will take 2-3 weeks before it is ready to drink. This puts the HomeBrew in the same time-to-drink ballpark as the PicoBrew, and the LG HomeBrew also makes roughly the same amount of beer per brew cycle as the Pico with 5 liters. This translates to about 14 or so standard size 12-ounce servings of beer, the same output of a typical PicoPak.
It’s an interesting move for LG, although not altogether surprising given the company’s history of interesting products. It’s also the first move for the appliance giant into the “food delivery” space (yes, beer is food, ok?), and could be a sign that the company – like many big appliance makers – see a future beyond simply bending metal.
It’s also big news for the home brewing appliance marketplace, a space that has mostly been the domain of startups like PicoBrew and Brewie. Sure, there’s the BrewArt extract brewer from Coopers, but that hasn’t caught on. And while AB InBev and Keurig have announced their plans to get into the game, as far as I can tell the “beer” from Drinkworks machine will be limited to single-serve beverages made from some form of extract/concentrate rather than a fresh homebrewed beer.
The biggest question mark for the HomeBrew is how many consumers will see the value in a turnkey home brewing appliance that still forces them to wait a couple of weeks while their beer ferments? The motivation for many homebrewers is the craft of it all, and most will gladly wait a little time to taste the product of their own hard work. But what happens if you take the work out of the brewing process by making it more convenient, yet still force thirsty brewers to wait two weeks for a cold one?
In short, I have to wonder if is LG creating a product that appeals neither to the serious craft brewers nor to the convenience-seeking, homebrew curious beer lover?
Ultimately, the success of the HomeBrew could depend on pricing. Ideally, LG’s beer brewer would come in well below $500, potentially at $199 to make things really interesting. As for the brew capsules – which the company created in partnership with Muntons from Britain – my hope would be those are priced between $5-$10.
Anything over that and I – and probably most other beer lovers – would just go get one of my favorite craft brews at the grocery store and drink it that night.