High-tech help makes sure you’ll get a beer

Five Barrel Brewing Phil O'Shea (left) and Binary Beer's Michael Burton have teamed up to trial a device that can track the location and temperature of beer kegs. Picture:  Robert Peet

Five Barrel Brewing Phil O'Shea (left) and Binary Beer's Michael Burton have teamed up to trial a device that can track the location and temperature of beer kegs. Picture: Robert Peet

A world-first invention from Wollongong could help brewers around the globe – and ensure bars never run out of beer.

Through his start-up Binary Beer, University of Wollongong graduate Michael Burton has developed a device that attaches to the outside of a beer keg and can send real-time information back about its location and temperature.

Mr Burton has started a trial involving Five Barrel Brewing and The Headlands Hotel, where a small number of kegs fitted with trackers have been sent out.

“We are in the early stages at the moment and we’ve just put out the very first kegs,” Mr Burton said.

“As far as we know it’s the first time in the world that a keg has been actively transmitting data about themselves over a long distance.”

The device is still being fine-tuned; Mr Burton said he was working on ways to get it to calculate how much beer is in the keg – from the outside.

It’s an idea that was inspired by his own experiences as a home brewer

“One of the biggest problems home brewers have when they keg their beer is having the kegs run out of beer when they least expect it,” Mr Burton said.

“You’ll have friends over to enjoy a good brew and then, the first beer you pour, it just runs out.

“Then you’ve got unhappy friends who aren’t getting any beer.”

Five Barrels’ owner Phil O’Shea had worked in the IT industry and was interested in the trial from a tech perspective.

Also, the possibility in the future it could tell him when a keg he sent to a bar had nearly run dry was quite appealing.

“If a keg’s running low on a Friday afternoon, then we can make sure that we get them a fresh keg so they don’t run out of beer, instead of getting a panicked call on a Saturday evening,” Mr O’Shea said.

“That does happen – on occasion I have ended up delivering beer late at night, so this would help steer people away from that.”

With the quality of beer being affected by temperature, the data from the device could also be helpful in working out where the fault may lie if a customer complains about a beer.

“If there was a reported problem then we’d have the data that would show how the keg had been treated up til that point,” Mr O’Shea said.

“If, for example, we sent a keg of IPA off to a bar and it sat warm for two months before they decided to tap it that would be indicative of poorly-handled product and not with the way that we’ve made that beer.”

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