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  • Writer's pictureMike Hanna

5 Ways Software is Changing Beer

As March turns into April, Saint Patrick’s Day is in the rearview mirror. Even though it’s hard to surpass 13 million pints of Guinness alone in one day (enough to fill up two Olympic-sized swimming pools), consumers will still be enjoying beer the other 364 days a year.

Beer brewing is one of the world's oldest industries, dating back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. But as old as it is, the beverage industry (of the alcoholic, grain-based variety) is one of the most high-tech market sectors. Here are a few ways that software has changed beer brewing.

Apps are changing the social aspect of beer drinking.

Untappd is a social media app where users can rate their favorite beers and see what their connections are drinking. This data in turn creates suggestions in the form of quests and badges, somewhat gamifying consumer spending and drinking habits. From the B2C end of things, Untappd helps breweries, bars, and restaurants gain greater visibility, while also offering analytics and the ability to make contactless menus with QR codes. Untappd is part of a greater trend of social media platforms that are geared towards specific niche markets, which benefits not only the enthusiasts of these spaces (by connecting them with like-minded people) but also the business that can interface with customers and obtain useful grassroots data.

AI has the potential to change the brewing process.

Technology is changing the brewing process itself through new hardware and software. Beer connoisseurs will doubtlessly still pay for ale brewed by Belgian monks in five-gallon wooden barrels. But AI-driven startups like IntelligentX are changing the brewing game—making a shift from pushing standardized products to creating products that are responsive to consumer tastes...literally. IntelligentX subscribers will receive 10 beers and provide feedback, which is combined with like-minded users to brew customized beer at scale. Although IntelligentX is a unique proposition, it will be interesting to see how such technology is leveraged by breweries on a larger scale to incorporate customers into the feedback loop.

The Cloud can streamline and improve the product life-cycle.

As you can imagine, hardware and software are also involved in the management of the brewery and the packaging line. Solutions like BrewNinja are helping small brewery owners with cloud-based software to integrate all aspects of the production cycle for greater efficiency. There have already been several such partnerships in the works, including Sugar Creek Brewing Company with IBM and Carlsberg with Microsoft. But aside from Fortune500 software behemoths, dozens of startups specifically market their SaaS to craft breweries. This type of software can minimize lost inventory (e.g. missing kegs) while maximizing the engagement of human capital (e.g. the brewery and warehouse crew). All the pieces are brought together in a pocket-sized dashboard from a mobile phone.

Mobile payments are changing the delivery of beer to consumers.

Mobile payments are another very related tech space in terms of beer consumption. Gemalto (since acquired by Thales) is a pioneer in the contactless payment space. They have partnered with Guinness to facilitate contactless payments at Rugby games, decreasing the wait time in lines and maximizing game time in the stands. This RFID technology can be restricted to events in the form of wristbands, but in general mobile payments will also change the landscape of the food and beverage industry. For instance, QR code menus can decrease table turning time, improving the efficiency of the restaurant floor or bar service. Perhaps that's why more bar owners are starting to adopt QR technology.

Tech will improve the supply chain and make it more transparent.

Beer requires several ingredients to brew, and a few other materials to package. Malt, hops, yeast, flavoring, glass, and tin are just a few of the raw ingredients that go into your favorite brand of libation (those last two are for the packaging, in case you couldn't guess). Supply chains providing raw materials like these have become increasingly complicated over the years. Software has become a tool to manage these supply chains and ensure their maximum efficiency. But additionally, consumers have become increasingly interested in how ingredients are sourced. In 2020 AbInBev (the parent company behind Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois) introduced blockchain trails that allow customers to scan labels and see where the wheat behind the beer is coming from. This type of transparency is meeting new consumer demands and is facilitated by new types of software and technology, some of it the same tech behind cryptocurrency.

Has software and tech changed the face of beermaking?

Software and tech have seemed to change everything. Of course, some things about beer will never change—like the act of drinking beer itself. But next time you raise a glass, think about all the complex innovations in tech that are impacting the delivery of this libation to your lips.

They are new solutions to an old problem—how to make alcohol. In fact, some studies have suggested that the thirst for beer may have been the prime motivator for learning how to develop agriculture 13,000 years ago. And all this time you thought it was bread!

What do you think about these amazing innovations in the food and beverage industry? And what are your plans for the rest of 2023: the spring, summer, and fall quarters? Software is making waves in almost every industry you can think of, and the ripples won’t be going away soon. If you’re interested in changing roles or hiring new talent, reach out to me via email at Cheers!

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