Editors' Note, January 6th, 2019: Originally published on December 10th, 2018, this piece has been updated with hands on pics and impressions from CES.
LG's latest venture is well outside the company's usual repertoire of phones, TVs, large appliances and the like. The electronics giant is stepping into the world of automated beer brewing with the LG HomeBrew.
The countertop beer bot will supposedly be able to produce over a gallon of beer from single-use capsules containing malt, yeast, hop oil and flavoring. Put in your capsule and hit start. The HomeBrew will have freshly made beer ready to drink after roughly two weeks depending on the specific capsule. You can monitor the machine while it works with an app. When it's done, you can then use the tap to serve yourself a glass and it will even clean itself to get ready for the next batch.
LG announced the HomeBrew Monday evening and will be showing off the gadget at CES in January. The company hasn't yet specified a price or a release date.
LG will offer capsules for five beer styles at launch:
- American IPA
- American Pale Ale
- English Stout
- Belgian Witbier
- Czech Pilsner
LG hasn't announced prices for the capsules yet either.
At CES, I got a chance to look at the capsules, and the flavorings come in small containers that do look a little like Keurig cups. The three small cups contain flavor, hop oil and yeast. The main ingredients come in a big canister of wort that slides into the left side of the machine. Apparently, LG gets their wort from British company Muntons, which specializes in malt extract.
You'll also need to put water in the right side of the machine. A digital display on the front lets you control it. It seems simple enough to use.
While malt, yeast and hops are the typical ingredients used to make beer, I'm skeptical of the extra "flavoring" included in each capsule. Using malt extract as a supplement to your malted grains is a common shortcut in home brewing, and perhaps that's what LG means by "flavoring." Nevertheless, I'm doubtful that ingredients shipped in a capsule can produce quality craft beers.
On the plus side, the LG HomeBrew will control the temperature and pressure of the batch while it ferments, which will help your batch of beer avoid infection (a common issue for new home brewers). The capsule also supposedly helps keep the mess contained which is why the machine can efficiently automate sanitized cleaning after the brew.
Still, unless the price is extremely reasonable, the HomeBrew will be a tough sell. It's not for home brewers or aspiring home brewers. You're not actually doing anything other than hitting a button, so it won't teach you about the process. If you're simply a fan of craft beer, those five options better taste great or be extremely cost effective to warrant skipping a trip to the store for a new, interesting six pack.
The LG HomeBrew certainly sounds like it will be much easier to use than automatic beer makers like the PicoBrew Pico Model C -- which still asks you to transfer the beer to different containers and keep everything sanitized. The Pico replicates an authentic process, though, so LG will need to prove it can cut corners and still produce craft beer that actually tastes well-crafted.