June 22, 2017

Thanks to America’s recent obsession with craft beer, making your own beer at home has also exploded in popularity. As a result, plenty of entrepreneurs are whipping up all sorts of kits to make “brewing” your own beer a breeze. But I put “brewing” in quotes here because how much actual brewing you do with some of these devices is up for debate. Case in point: Whym.

Whym is a new alcoholic-beverage system from ZX Ventures, a group backed by Anheuser-Busch, launching with a very limited run of $79.99 kits. In the brand’s promotional video, Whym’s hard sell sounds straightforward: “Whym beer takes 30 minutes to build and is ready to drink in 24 hours. Traditional homebrewing takes at least 4 weeks.” It’s a bold proclamation -- especially when any brewer, home or otherwise, will tell you brewing typically does take at least a week. But the placing the two processes next to each other also isn’t exactly a perfect comparison. Notice how Whym uses the word “build” for its product instead of “brew.”  That’s because with Whym, users aren’t really brewing anything.

Now, as I’ve written about twice this year, scientists are looking for ways to speed up the brewing process. We saw a team at UPenn working on this, as well as a group in Italy. But Whym doesn’t take advantage of any new technology, and even if it could, science has yet to speed up fermentation into a 24 hours process. Instead, Whym conveniently skips “brewing” all together. Instead, Whym beers are based around a “beer base” that resembles premade beer – at its full ABV and bitterness. (For example, the base for a pale ale is 16 ounces and comes in at 5.4 percent ABV and 30 IBUs.) What you see in Whym’s promotional video is the addition of flavorings.

That’s an important distinctions, because if you’re looking for a device that makes literally brewing beer from malts, hops, yeast and water easier, there are devices out there that do that – most notably, Pico. I can’t vouch for Pico or any of the other actual brewing appliances out there, I haven’t used them yet; I’m just saying they do exist. (For the record, I homebrew the old-fashioned way with equipment I cobbled together myself.)

However, if you want a kit that lets you quickly flavor your own beers – and maybe that’s what you want – Whym might be the product for you. Just don’t think you’ve found a straight-forward, easy replacement for homebrewing. As I mentioned above, it’s not quite that simple.

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