Image credit: Flickr user Chris_Parfitt under creative commons license

When Bill Mitchell spoke at last year’s Smart Kitchen Summit, he discussed his company’s vision of creating a publishing system for beer makers to allow them to monetize their creations through what he called an “app store for beer”. Today PicoBrew unveiled the platform for making this happen: the PicoBrew Network. The announcement was made in conjunction with the launch of the new PicoBrew Z modular beer brewing system I wrote about last week.

So how does PicoBrew’s new beer publishing system work?

Aspiring publishers will use the PicoBrew Z or the PicoBrew Zymatic (the first generation appliance from PicoBrew) to create beer recipes using loose grains and hops. Unlike traditional home beer brewing gear, the PicoBrew gear allows beer brewers to craft recipes using software that connects directly to the brewing appliance and allows for precise recipe tweaks.

Once a brewer fine-tunes a recipe they want to submit, they can upload it to the PicoBrew Network (PBN) portal. PicoBrew will review the recipe and if things looks good, will create a test PicoPak (the “brewing pods” used by the PicoBrew Pico, the lower-cost, more automated brewing appliances for home users) to send to the recipe creator to verify whether the PicoPak-brewed-beer tastes like they intended.

Once the brewer and PicoBrew find the right mix of grains and hops to replicate the brewer’s recipe, PicoBrew will manufacture PicoPaks with this recipe and make them available to other PicoBrew appliance owners via the company’s BrewMarketplace. For each PicoPak sold, the crafter of the recipe of gets a royalty payment.

What’s interesting about PicoBrew’s new beer publishing system is it essentially offers a new way to monetize beer brewing that separates itself from the actual physical production of beer in the long run, making them not unlike a book author publishing their creation through a publishing house or on the Kindle bookstore.

While I think it’s an interesting new way for small beer makers to make money from their creations, some brewing traditionalists may not feel this way. Over on Reddit, one commenter wrote, “Selling recipes? For real? That goes against the very spirit of our hobby but I guess making an appliance for people who can’t brew is how you capture people that are willing to pay for app storeified brewing.”

My guess is that while some old-schoolers who paid the price and learned how to brew in their garage and embrace the DIY culture of traditional homebrewing may eschew digital approaches, others may see a new pathway to monetizing their love of beer-making. According to PicoBrew, they already have 800 home beer brewers who have applied to be a part of the PBN.

Mitchell believes the strong early interest in their beer publishing platform is partly because it allows the aspiring beer entrepreneur to sidestep the traditional costs of starting a craft beer brewery. “While we have all probably dreamed of quitting our day jobs and opening a brewery, startup costs and a competitive landscape make this option unworkable for most homebrewers,” Mitchell said in the announcement. “The PicoBrew Network (PBN) gives homebrewers the opportunity to distribute the beers they create and earn royalties, while PicoBrew does all the work of marketing, manufacturing and fulfilling the Paks.”

Part of the reason PicoBrew is launching the PBN now is they finally have the hardware for aspiring recipe creators to do both recipe crafting and PicoPak testing within one appliance. The original Zymatic allowed brewers to craft recipes, but because the appliance predates the creation of the Pico and its PicoPak brewing pods, a Zymatic owner needed to buy a separate Pico to try their creations out. The PicoBrew Z can brew beer from both PicoPaks as well as from loose grains and hops.