Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Growler + Kegerator = Synek?

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Have you heard about this new in-home draught beer dispenser called Synek? It started out as a Kickstarter project last year (in fact, 2,191 backers pledged $648,535 to help bring this project to life). It’s a way of having fresh draught beer in your home without having to buy kegs or a kegerator. The guys behind this invention are currently doing a nationwide tour showing it off at select bars, restaurants and breweries, and they stopped at Madison Pour House last night. I decided to check it out.

I really had no idea what this Synek thing was until I heard about the local demonstration. So I Googled it and checked out their website and this flashy, professionally-produced video certainly was interesting to watch (though it’s pretty corny):

All I could tell is that it is a small micro fridge with a faucet and tap handle that dispenses beer, but it doesn’t say how it works. At first I thought it was some kind of beer concentrate that you add water to (which is a thing, by the way). It wasn’t until I saw it in person that I learned it dispenses beer from a 1-gallon plastic bag. The bag is filled like a Camelbak bladder: you simply hold it up to a faucet; pour beer into it until it’s full; hook it up to the Synek’s own CO2 canister and tap line; then you pour it from the tap just like any other draught beer.

That certainly sounds pretty cool. After all, that means any beer that’s available on tap anywhere you could theoretically have on tap in your home. In fact, that’s the entire selling point of Synek (which, oddly enough, is pronounced “cynic”). It’s meant to be the next evolution in growlers. You might even call it the growler enthusiast’s fantasy come true. And considering how much money they raised crowd sourcing the prototype, there’s definitely an audience for Synek. When I was at MPH I saw several people carrying their brand new Syneks out the door with a smile.
But I’m not sold on this Synek thing just yet. Call me a Synek cynic, and here’s why:
  • The price starts at $299 (there’s also a bronze version for $399) and that does not include shipping (though you can come pick it up for free at events like this). For those prices you could buy a traditional kegerator (maybe not a great one).
  • You’re limited to only a single 1-gallon bag at a time with a Synek, but you could have a sixtel or a half barrel keg with a kegerator. Each Synek does come with five 1-gallon bags, so you could have five gallons of the same beer I suppose, but wouldn’t it be easier to just have a sixtel and a kegerator? Or, if you filled all five bags with five different beers, the four waiting on standby could go flat. Obviously you could re-carbonate them with the Synek’s CO2, but how long does it take to carbonate a flat bag? That doesn’t make it party-friendly whereas a keg is already carbonated and ready to go
    • Synek is marketed as being portable. In the above video they say wherever there’s an electrical outlet you can have draught beer. Sure, but couldn’t the same be said about a mini fridge? They’re about the same size and weight, but a mini fridge is not something generally considered to be portable. Are people really going to bring their Syneks with them tailgating and camping? Why lug this thing around when you could fill a cooler with a variety of cans instead? There’s also the issue of drinking vessels – if you’re going to drink portable draught beer from a plastic cup, then the novelty would seem to be rendered moot. Personally, I’d rather suck a beer straight from the can than drink a draught beer out of a plastic cup, but that’s just me.
    • Beer for growler fills is usually more expense per ounce than beer sold in a keg (not including the deposit). And draught beer at a bar or brewery is usually double that of comparable beer sold pre-packaged in bottles and cans. The average bottle or can (in my experience) is priced between 20 and 30 cents per ounce, whereas the average pint or growler fill at a bar tends to be priced around 40 to 50 cents per ounce. You really must have disposable income to make a Synek worthwhile.
    • See my blog from last month scoffing at growlers. Much of what I said about growlers is applicable to a Synek.
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    Sweet ride!

    iphone 123But I digress. I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy a Synek; I’m just saying it’s not for me, at least not right now. It’s a toy that I can’t really financially justify splurging on and one that I don’t think I’d use that much anyway.

    As an AnCap, I wholeheartedly support entrepreneurs and my hat is off to Steve Young and company for taking a pretty big risk in both this economy and in this highly regulated industry. This cannot be an easy product to sell, and I’m sure some idiot politician will try to stymie or flat-out ban Syneks in some capacity eventually. I appreciate that there does seem to be a viable market for this product and I’m impressed by all the support it’s apparently received by brewers and other industry professionals. Synek could be a game changer. I guess we’ll find out.

    What’s your thoughts on Synek?
    1. Is this a product you would consider buying? If so, how would you use it?
    2. How does this compare to a traditional kegerator?
    3. How does this compare to growlers?
    4. Could this/will this have a huge impact on the beer industry in the long run?