Beer lovers could soon be one step closer to pouring their own freshly made brews from the comfort of their own homes.
Drinkworks, a partnership established in 2017 between AB InBev and Keurig Dr Pepper, is partnering with Los Angeles-based Golden Road Brewing to offer four of its wheat brews — Mango Wheat, Blood Orange Wheat, Pineapple Apricot Wheat and Strawberry Guava Wheat — that consumers can brew at home. The consumer takes a pod, similar to the way coffee is made today using a K-cup, and inserts it into a single-serve Drinkworks machine.
Even before AB InBev and Keurig Dr Pepper struck the partnership, the beer giant was looking to find "novel technologies that would reinvent beer and the potential way in which people could enjoy it," Nathaniel Davis, Drinkworks' CEO, told Food Dive.
AB InBev and other brewers have struggled with declining sales of signature brews such as Budweiser, Bud Light and Coors Light. Beer volume slipped 2.3% in 2019, its fourth straight year of declines, led by a 3.6% drop in domestic brews, IWSR said. Beer makers have been trying to reenergize growth through craft beer, other alcohols such as hard coffee, kombucha and spiked seltzers and new drinking experiences like Drinkworks.
The partnership with Golden Road, which AB InBev acquired in 2015, is the first pilot for Drinkworks. Golden Road creates the beers using traditional brewing techniques. Water is then removed through a proprietary freeze-distillation process and Drinkworks Pods are filled with the concentrated brew.
Once the pods are inserted into the machine, the concentrate is blended with carbonation from a CO2 cylinder and cold water before it is dispensed into a pint class to create a beverage "that looks and acts and feels like a fresh draft beer," according to Davis.
Drinkworks launched its first products in November 2018, which focused predominantly on cocktails such as an Old Fashioned, White Russian, Long Island Iced Tea and a mojito, though consumers also could make their own Stella Artois Cidre. The addition of Golden Road expands the use of the Drinkworks system to give consumers another alcohol option
Unlike the cocktail mixes that are focused on helping a person make drinks when they may not have the materials or knowledge of how to make them, the Golden Road beer is about the fresh draft experience and allowing a person to be involved in the process like a bartender, Davis noted. As the beer is coming out, the individual is encouraged to tilt their glass to control the foam.
"The feedback we've gotten so far from users is that the experience is really fun because everybody always wanted to be on the other side of the bar," Davis said. "The other piece is that they feel like they participated in this creation somehow. I mean, it wasn't in that format and in draft format until they got involved."
The beers, specially made for the $299 Drinkworks system, will be initially available to residents in Orange County, California. A four-count variety pack that produces 14-ounce Golden Road beers will be sold for $12.99 at retailers including Total Wine & More and Kroger's Ralphs banner.
Victor Novak, Golden Road's brewmaster who created the brews for the Drinkworks system, compared the cost for the experience to the $25 price tag for a growler, the equivalent of four pints of beer.
"It's the idea. The mystique, just the idea of freshness right at your fingertips. That's kind of the same idea here," Novak told Food Dive. "They really are willing to pay a little bit more for that draft experience ... as opposed to just opening a can."
The Drinkworks system is now available for purchase in seven states and pre-order in another six states, Davis said, with the company expanding its footprint "as quickly as we can build capacity and capability."
The company plans to spend most of 2020 collecting feedback from early adapters about what they like or think should be changed about brewing the Golden Road beers in the system before determining whether to roll them out more broadly or to add other beers to the platform.
"We've got lots of great opportunities to open up the system and do some really interesting things," Davis said. "But at this moment, we love working with Golden Road. It's a cutting-edge innovative group that is just a perfect fit for walking this path together."
Novak said getting Golden Road, which only has a few national brands out of an estimated 100 beers it produces annually, into the Drinkworks system could expand the reach of the craft brewer that predominantly thrives off of its regional presence in the Golden State.
"We love people to come into our pubs and drink our beer fresh at the pub," he said. "[Drinkworks] kind of gives people that same experience, whether they're in Des Moines, Iowa, or down in Jacksonville, Florida, to experience a Golden Road beer effectively right off the tap, as if they're coming into one of our pubs."