Boutique on a Budget: PicoBrew Z Keeps New Beers and Traffic Flowing

For your customers, more beer is good. And a greater diversity of great beer choices? Even better!

Beer fans are thirsting for a variety of beers ranging from barleywines to lagers, hazy IPAs to sours, and all styles in between. More than 6,000 independent breweries have brought an incredible array of beers to market, and another 1,200 breweries are in still in the early stages of development.

The consumer demand for a variety of different beer options is there, and the supply keeps growing correspondingly.

With an increasing amount of new beer companies producing competing products, however, brewery owners must think strategically about the variety of offerings being poured in their taprooms to ensure that drinkers keep coming back for more. The logistics and management of weekly beer releases to attract and retain customers can be particularly challenging. But with the right equipment, a frequently rotating selection of one-of-a-kind, small-batch beers is quite possible to create and put on tap.

The cost of R&D

Here’s the challenge: Every brewer ideally wants to be able to pilot new ideas, but labor demand, materials costs, and your valuable time as a brewmaster prohibit you from spending time on the prototyping of new beers.f

How does the old joke go… “I’ve got a 15-barrel piloting system”?

In other words, the market’s moving fast, and your large brewing system is often what gets put to use for experimental batches. Those are the beers that keep your taproom business moving, but they are also costly to brew.

But before spending big on commercial-sized batches, it makes sense to test small. And it makes sense to automate your own quality control program without the added financial pressure of hiring and training more labor.

An automated piloting system lends consistency to the process, keeping temperature and pressure consistent while you adjust for different variables, such as mash temperatures and hops combinations. You can also run cost-effective experiments using new hops, grains, and yeast varieties.

Fresh beers, fresh business

Imagine being able to sample hops aroma, flavor, alpha acid differences, and assess oxidation concerns. To understand flavor variations in crystal and specialty malts and which ones work best in your beer sensory profiles. To measure malt conversion rates and body/mouthfeel qualities, all by brewing 2.5-gallon sample batches.

With these big brewing goals in mind, PicoBrew recently launched a series of tools aimed at tightening the piloting process and scaling the best results. The Z Series, a family of pro-grade, modular solutions, helps brewers produce batch sizes from 1–10 gallons to meet their needs, and features upgraded components suitable for professional use in high-duty-cycle environments.

Manipulate grain bills, mash temperature and time, hops combinations, and addition schedules to create beer recipes with perfectly balanced aromas, flavors, and mouthfeel. Quickly design recipe profiles using the online Recipe Crafter software, load your ingredients, then let the automated system run unattended while it collects time and temperature data, which you can reference when doing your sensory reviews.

The time-saving possibilities are endless. With a Z4, for example, you can create four 2.5-gallon batches of identical wort and ferment using different yeast strains, determining the best flavor profile before buying a $600 yeast pitch. Or, alternately, you could brew four completely different recipe variations in parallel. Don’t tie up fermenter and brite tank space needlessly: leverage the power of Z to make your experiments count.

PicoBrew Network partners view the Z models as perfect tools to test boutique batches for brewing in greater volume.

“I’m super excited about the Z Series,” said Barry Chan, the co-founder, and brewmaster at Seattle’s Lucky Envelope Brewing. “It has the flexibility to let me brew pilot batches up to 10 gallons with the potential to sell them in my tasting room.”

Maui Brewing Company is on board as well.

“We’re stoked to work with PicoBrew to bring homebrewers our recipe kits to enjoy fresh Maui Brewing Co. craft beer brewed at home, especially where our beer is unavailable,” said founder Garrett Marrero. “Our team is especially excited to be a part of the Pico Z Series, as it is sure to prove an invaluable tool in brewing experimental beers to keep the innovation on the cutting edge.”

Every penny counts in a smaller craft brewery, and in the current competitive market, you cannot afford to produce less-than-stellar beer. Automating the process can free you up to play with boutique recipes and perfect your flagships while keeping costs low. The Z Series, starting at $1,499, is currently available for pre-order at through Friday, March 16.

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