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We Tasted Smart-Brewed Beer at CES, Until It Was Shut Down

iGulu has made home brewing simpler. We got to see the new model at CES.

David Watsky Senior Editor / Home and Kitchen
David lives in Brooklyn where he's spent more than a decade covering all things edible, including meal kit services, food subscriptions, kitchen tools and cooking tips. Since earning a BA in English from Northeastern in Boston, he's toiled in nearly every aspect of the food business, including as a line cook in Rhode Island where he once made a steak sandwich for Lamar Odom. Right now, he's likely somewhere stress-testing a blender or researching the best way to make bacon. Anything with sesame is his all-time favorite food this week.
Expertise Kitchen tools, appliances, food science, subscriptions and meal kits.
David Watsky
2 min read
 beer being poured

iGulu has designed its small home-brewing appliance to be as simple as possible, with alerts that guide users through every step.

David Watsky/CNET

At CES 2024, I expected to see a host of new automated and AI-assisted kitchen technologies, and the show didn't disappoint -- an AI steak toaster, an indoor meat smoker and a new type of microwave were only a few of the cutting-edge cooking products on display.

What I didn't expect, however, was furtively chugging a small beer before a home-brewing demo was shut down by the authorities. And yet, there I was, sneaking a tiny sip (or two) of brew poured fresh from the tap at iGulu's F1 smart beer automated home brew appliance on the Las Vegas show floor before the convention cops stopped service. 

A spokesperson cryptically told the thirsty crowds, "They're shutting us down, we can't serve anymore." At first, we thought iGulu may not have locked down a booze license, but it turns out they didn't have the proper sanitation equipment on hand. Eventually, they got back up and running.

home brewer

iGulu launched a simple home brewing system at CES this year.

David Watsky/CNET

While I had better luck -- and many more tastes -- with the Keurig-style ColdSnap ice cream maker, the illegal gulps of iGulu F1 brew were enough to wet my whistle. It had a nice, balanced flavor, and a hoppy finish and was perfectly chilled, if not a tad under-carbonated for my liking. 

Considering the low level of skill needed for making a batch -- a monkey really could do it -- I'd say iGulu has something figured out that its predecessor, the now-defunct PicoBrew, didn't. 

That's a good start for this startup that's attempting to break through to beer drinkers who want to make their suds at home but lack the beer-making skills required of a typical brew.

screen on beer brewer.

The iGulu keeps you updated on the status of your current brew.

David Watsky/CNET

I asked iGulu marketing manager Joseph Truex how it plans to succeed where PicoBrew failed. He told me that people like the idea of making beer at home, but PicoBrew's machines required a few too many steps and a bit too much brewing know-how for the average sud-sipper.

In contrast, iGulu requires you only to add water in the top and scan a barcode to let the machine know which type you're making. iGulu pings your device exactly when it's time to add each ingredient, which comes prepackaged and ready to go. 

igulu

All the ingredients to make a batch of beer in the iGulu home brewer. 

David Watsky/CNET

That's it.

The beer brews in full in about two weeks. It's then housed in a self-cooling keg from which you can pour a frosty pint anytime you like. The machine itself is $599 but is available at a CES-special price of $420. Packs of ingredients for IPA, stout, wheat beer and ambers cost around $20 and make about 4 liters of ale or lager.

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Correction: A previous version of this story stated that a single iGulu kit costs $35 and produces 40 liters of beer. Kits cost $20 and produce 4 liters.