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Brew Master: This is why the Sharper Image is dying

The Brew Master does not impress despite it's beer-like facade.

It saddens me slightly that future generations won't be able to experience trips to The Sharper Image, the now defunct mall electronics store that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in late February.

Brew Master
Despite the name, the Brew Master does no actual brewing. CNET Networks

Yesterday one of its relics made its way into my hands as a gag gift from a friend, and it's opened up my eyes to one of the many reasons the retailer wasn't doing so hot in today's gadgets market. The device in question? The Brew Master, a self-appointed expert to beers from around the world.

Nevermind that such information could be contained in a biodegradable 150 page book. Somewhere along the line someone thought it would be a good idea to make it plastic, electronic--and shaped like a beer.

The Brew Master doesn't actually brew beer for you. Instead it features a four-way navigation system with nested folders that hold the secrets of the golden brew in text form.

Contained within its 2-inch grayscale display are more than 1,500 beer reviews and ratings (from where it doesn't say). It's also nice enough to include an estimated price and style of the beer, as well as what part of the world it's from. Sorely missing is a picture of the label or any other identifiable markings--which is an unfortunate limitation of dot matrix LCDs.

Besides beer ratings there are toasts in each language, bar related jokes, as well as pairing suggestions in case you feel like doing some culinary feng shui with your PBR. The real killer application, however, is the built-in directory of taxi companies in case you're out for a night on the town with your Brew Master and need a way to get home. One can only imagine bringing this out for a night on the town though. Bring a plastic bag, because this puppy isn't waterproof.