LG’s Beer Machine Actually Brews—But to What End?
The capsule-based machine is very much a true ‘Keurig for beer’—but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Homebrewing has reached a bit of a transitional moment. The legalization of homebrewing in the 1970s essentially birthed the modern craft beer movement, so we should never downplay its importance. But speaking of that movement, with over 7,000 breweries nationwide, Americans now have access to more styles of beer closer to home and fresher than ever before. As a result, homebrewing may not be as “necessary” as it was in the past. Instead, homebrewing is best suited for true DIYers who want to better understand the process of making beer and experiment with producing their own unique recipes. And yet, since excitement around craft beer has turned homebrewing into a mainstream hobby, plenty of companies have released homebrewing machines that offer the chance to brew at home without checking these all-important boxes.
South Korean electronics brand LG is the latest company to announce a foray into the homebrewing game. And though the LG HomeBrew, as the machine is called, isn’t set to officially debut until the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month, it’s poised to be one of the most interesting homebrewing machines yet released—for not quite the right reasons.
The phrase gets tossed around a lot, but LG HomeBrew appears to be a true “Keurig for homebrewing” because it’s a capsule-based, one-touch system that actually, literally, brews beer. That last part is extremely important: As you may remember, last month, Keurig itself revealed a machine, Drinkworks Home Bar, that “makes” beer (along with cocktails, cider, and other alcoholic beverages), but that silly gadget just adds water to a beer concentrate and carbonates it; meanwhile, LG Homebrew actually promises to ferment beer by mixing water with a capsule that contains malt, yeast, hop oil, and flavorings. The con to this system is that, since fermentation takes time, your “press of a button” beer can still take around two weeks until its ready to be served. The pro to this system is that, in theory, it’s actually doing something.
But unlike a homebrewing system like Pico that lets users work from pre-packed kits, but also lets them tinker with their own recipes, LG HomeBrew appears to offer minimal opportunities for customization. Yes, the machine promises to ferment and carbonate and age and self-clean, and it comes with an app so you can watch as one of your five capsules is turned into alcohol – either an American IPA, American Pale Ale, English Stout, Belgian-style Witbier, or Czech Pilsner – but what’s the benefit?
In the announcement, Dan Song – president of LG Electronics Home Appliance and Air Solutions Company – suggested barrier to entry was the big selling point. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew,” he said.
Okay, but if all users do is press a button, that’s like saying playing a basketball video game breaks the barrier of entry to playing the sport. Not really. So let’s look at the system’s other big pro: fresh beer. But setting aside the fact that you can get almost equally fresh beer poured at your local brewery, freshness is only one small factor in the quality of a beer. The recipe, ingredients, and process are far more important. So the question becomes, do you trust LG to produce a beer so equal to your favorite brewery that freshness becomes a deciding factor in choosing what to drink? And are you willing to wait a couple weeks for that to happen?
As a result, the LG HomeBrew system would seem to potentially have the odd distinction of being one of the most serious homebrewing machines to be completely unnecessary. A price has not yet been announced.