Making Pabst Proud: Wisconsin Startups Mix Beer With New Tech

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participating in the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s student business incubator, Launch Pad. They’re now producing about 14 barrels of beer per month, with intentions to boost that to 40 soon, Schwartz said. MobCraft’s team makes its beer at House of Brews microbrewery in Madison, but they’re scouting Madison locations to open MobCraft’s own brewing facility, Schwartz said. Currently, its beer can be found in bars and retail outlets throughout the Madison area and a couple locations in the Milwaukee area.

—CraftFund, Milwaukee: Dupee founded the crowdfunding site in 2012, five months after the federal government passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which in part allowed for non-accredited investors to put money into startups through websites. But Dupee and others are still waiting for the Securities and Exchange Commission to implement the law.

Instead, Dupee is now focusing on rolling out CraftFund in states that have passed laws allowing equity crowdfunding within their borders, starting with Wisconsin, which passed such a measure last year. Dupee expects the site’s first Wisconsin deals to occur in May, when the state’s law is expected to take effect. Nationally, CraftFund has 704 investors and 65 companies registered on its website for potential crowdfunding, including MobCraft. Beer will be a primary focus for CraftFund, but the site’s scope will extend to restaurants, cafes, distilleries, cheese makers, and more, he said.

—Beer Mapper, Madison: Knowledgeable bartenders have a map of the beer spectrum floating around in their heads. The Beer Mapper app makes that knowledge an interactive, two-dimensional reality on an iPad.

Kevin Jamieson, a San Francisco native working on an electrical and computer engineering PhD at UW-Madison, developed the beta app for helping new craft beer drinkers visualize their personal palate. Jamieson and his advisor, UW-Madison engineering professor Rob Nowak, used algorithms to design an app that creates a heat map depicting a person’s preferred types of beers across the spectrum from stout to IPA to lager, and everything in between.

The app presents a series of questions, asking if the user prefers beer A or beer B, beer C or beer D, and so on. After several answers, the app generates the heat map, complete with specific beer brands listed within their respective categories. Jamieson and Nowak partnered with ratebeer.com to build the app’s database of beers, incorporating 10,000 beers that have more than 50 reviews on the site.

But the app’s creators have no interest in turning Beer Mapper into a business and running it. They’re in talks to license their app to Chicago-based Savvo, which has developed an app to help shoppers choose wines in retail outlets. Savvo installs kiosks in stores that run the app on an iPad, and the startup intends to expand its service to beer with the Beer Mapper, Jamieson said.

—BrewU, Milwaukee: This company formed last fall during Startup Weekend Milwaukee 2013 as BrewU, although it’s in the process of changing its name, co-founder Chris Welker said. The startup’s mission is to provide a collaborative space that offers home brewing lessons to beginners and novices, as well as renting out equipment and space for experienced enthusiasts to brew if they can’t do it in their apartments or homes.

BrewU hasn’t secured a facility yet, but it has held two workshops at a local restaurant, Welker said. The tech component here? BrewU will do the usual customer engagement through social media, and its co-founders are also thinking about developing an app for reserving brewing space at its facility, a la OpenTable, Welker said.

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Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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