Polka music cranked through the speakers as people went from pop up tent to pop up tent filling up their little plastic beer mugs behind Colorado Plus last weekend.
Most vendors at the Backyard Barbecue Brew-Fest in Wheat Ridge had highly trained beer transfer technicians getting the beer from the keg to your cup. Denver based brewery Alpine Dog had another tactic.
“What’s up girl, you want some robot beer?”
Chris Hanks is the Director of Consumption for Alpine Dog, and he’s offering up a rare opportunity.
“It’s a robot that pours beer,” Chris said.
He teamed up with his friend and automation engineer Mitchell Conn. Mitch works to get automation (AKA robots) into various industries in and around Colorado. One day he brought the robot into the brewery and the two figured out a way to get the robot to pour beer.
Essentially, the user sets waypoints on a touchscreen controller. The waypoints tell the robot when, where, and how to move on its 'six axis’. They’ve set configurations to make the long cylindrical apply the correct amount of pressure to the tap for the right amount of time to get the perfect amount of beer into a cup. Mitch said it’s a pretty simple system.
“It can take less than an hour to teach someone how to use it,” he explained. “I’ve had middle schoolers program an actual manufacturing program within about an hour.”
Some people at Alpine Dog’s booth expressed concerns that the robot is just going to take jobs away from people. Chris said that isn’t the case at all.
“My job is not to pour the beer," he said. "It’s to inform and educate about the beer.”
Chris said he believes systems like this will make him more accessible to his customers.
These guys see operating taps at a brew-fest as research and development for a much bigger concept.
“The long-term goal,” says Chris, “is to create large-scale venue systems.”
They envision an app based ordering system for weddings, concerts, pretty much any event where people are enjoying liquid libations.
Customers would be able to place their order through an app and get a notification when their drink has been poured by the robot.
It’s a big idea, but for Chris, the reward of this system is much simpler.
“That smile,” he said after a woman is pleasantly surprised when seeing the robot in action. “That smile is my favorite part.”