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Defining the Taproom of the Future

Ever since Braxton Brewing’s record-breaking Kickstarter campaign, they have talked about building the “Taproom of the Future.” In fact, that was the reason for the campaign – to fund a new vision for a beer-drinking experience since they had their operational brewery funding in place. I had an opportunity recently to look at what the Braxton Builders have helped assembled. It certainly offers unique features not found in conventional setups.

Physical Space

We’ve known for some time that technology would be a big part of the Braxton experience. However, the taproom itself is reminiscent of the garage. This is the place where the brewery and many other landmark inventions were first conceived. The space features lots of “unfinished” touches and textures; concrete, plywood, conduit, and well-worn couches.

It has an open and airy feel as you will sit only 15-20 feet from where the beer is made. However, it can also be closed off from the action much like a garage can be a place to shut out the rest of the world. Specifically, there is a large event space in the middle of the taproom that can be completed sealed off from the rest of the building to keep things private. The private room event features its own self-service taps to ensure there are minimal interruptions to creativity or celebration (or both). [pullquote-right]…it can also be closed off from the action much like a garage can be a place to shut out the rest of the world.[/pullquote-right]Here again, technology is embedded with an RFID system to track and transact the self-service beer pours. Waive your card in front of the tap and it is ready to record your commerce.

In a blending of technology and traditional craftsmanship, Braxton Builders will find a wall of laser engraved wood panels with every Builder’s name that is shaped to form the ever-present Braxton hop eagle. You will also see a melding of mediums with an enormous mural painted above the taps by Neltner Small Batch. In a similar fashion, the flight glass holders are wooden but have embedded with strong magnets to hold signs identifying the different pours.

Low tech and high tech is always blended into the utilitarian feel of the room. You will find lots of outlets with power adapters (leave your cords at home) for all the most common mobile devices to ensure you remain connected. There are a number of large screen TVs for conventional entertainment as well as one dedicated to social feeds. Anything you post with #LiftOneToLife or check-ins at the space will be shared on this screen. Untappd, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp etc. are all aggregated in one place to create a narcissistically fun digital experience. Let’s also not forget about their abundant gigabit WiFi made available with a special partnership with Cincinnati Bell.

Lastly, with the Braxton team being golf fans they also have a Golden Tee and Power Putt video game consoles to help you pass the time.  Or you can opt for the more traditional giant jenga.

(In)visible Digital

Most of the technology aspects I’ve mentioned so far have been pretty ho-hum. What is different are forces at work that you cannot see and in a new format that you can see.

Enough abstract nonsense – I’ll cut to the chase here. I’m talking about their mobile app and how it works in the taproom and beyond (you visual folks can scroll down for a gallery of images).

One of the coolest features of the mobile app (initially iOS only but Android and others are in the works) is the use of geofencing technology to provide detailed location-specific content in the app. [pullquote-left]Less guess work for you the thirsty consumer.[/pullquote-left]It displays a map or list of retail locations in your vicinity that currently have Braxton beers available using real-time inventory.  Not only that, but you can receive push notifications so that you know Braxton beers are available when you walk into a bar or restaurant.  Braxton CEO Jake Rouse told me this is one reason they signed with Stagnaro Distributing. Stagnaro has the inventory technology platform to allow them to access the most accurate information possible about their beers out in the wild. Less guess work for you the thirsty consumer.

In the future, they hope to enable super-specific location so you can sit in the taproom and order a beer and someone will bring it to your seat. Your specific seat can be isolated and your beer delivered and charged with no additional transaction. Now, how’s that for service?!

Other taproom features include:

  • Real-time taproom draft options and pricing information. When a keg gets changed, the lineup changes. Pricing for a taster, pint, or growler are always available.
  • Detailed beer information – you get a detailed description, ABV, IBU, SRM, and the Untapped rating information in the app.

Outside of the taproom, it is smartly setup to bring your craft beer world into a consolidated source. The homepage features a feed of local beer information from a variety of media sources, and not just Braxton news, but all local craft beer.

They have worked closely with the team at Untappd to directly integrate check-ins into their app. No need to jump out and search for the correct Braxton beer.  They are automatically linked to the correct profile so you can grab the next badge.

When you are ready to leave there is a direct link into Uber to ensure folks get home safe. Shameless plug: Don’t forget to use code BREWPROFESSOR15 to get you first ride free (up to $20). 

Finally, the app provides an opportunity to give direct feedback to Braxton. You can quickly and easily let them know your thoughts about your Braxton beer drinking experience.

Next Steps

I think they are just beginning to scratch the surface of the mobile connection to their fans. They tapped Chicago-based New Coast Ventures to develop the app with them. New Coast Ventures CEO Nick Cromydas felt the location-based services are the most unique. He says, “We brainstormed for hours and thought about how many times we can be at a bar or restaurant and not even know they carry our favorite beer. That will never happen with Braxton!”

When I asked the number of development hours put in so far, Cromydas responded, “We actually tracked by how many beers we consumed in the process. About 2 kegs and a pony keg worth of time I believe.” Well played sir, well played.  He further disclosed that Uber integration will continue to provider a richer experience directly from the app.

Overall, this is some really cool stuff!  The app has been submitted to the Apple App Store and should be ready for their grand opening. Speaking of which, don’t forget the grand opening party for Braxton Brewing will be this Friday at 5PM. Expect bands, food, and of course beer!  You can find additional information about the party on the Braxton site.

Mike Stuart

Craft beer enthusiast and hombrew dabbler. Part-time writer, sometimes funny.

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