Beer here: As craft beverages multiply, Island innovates

Tastes great, more innovative: As summer beer season begins, Long Islands finds itself at the forefront of innovative brewology.

Drink up, Long Island – it’s beer season.

The craft-brewing subculture will be the first to note that every season is beer season, and an autumn-tinged pumpkin ale or a winter stout satisfies just as well as an icy cold IPA at the beach.

But with warm weather, barbecues and other summer trappings comes a particular high point in the annual cycle of suds – and on Long Island and elsewhere, microbrewers and even technological innovators are rising to the occasion.

Look no further than the statehouse, where on Monday the New York State Assembly voted 95-8 in favor of a measure legalizing ice creams flavored with beer and hard cider.

The legislation requires only Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature to become law, and with wine-flavored frozen desserts already legal in the Empire State, expect the governor to redefine “having a cold one” soon.

While not every craft-beverage manufacturer will be investing in cream and freezers, the new law will absolutely add to the regional craft-beverage momentum – a sweet prospect for the 1,005 craft-beverage manufacturers now operating in New York State, according to Cuomo’s office.

This month, the governor’s economic-development experts announced that commercial beverage-making is occurring in 60 different statewide counties – and that 538 new craft-beverage manufacturers have opened since Cuomo hosted his first Beer, Wine, Spirits and Cider Summit in 2012.

Out of the box: With IPS’s help, ZX Ventures will roll out the BeerBox this summer.

That effectively doubles the number of New York-based craft-beverage producers over the past six years, helping the state break into the top five among all states in nearly every craft-beverage category. The Empire State now leads the country in number of hard-cider producers, while ranking second in number of craft distillers, third in breweries and fourth in wineries, according to Cuomo’s office.

“The growth of New York’s craft-beverage industry continues to boost local economies throughout the entire state,” the governor noted. “By working to remove barriers to expansion, we have helped foster new opportunities for small businesses and will continue to support breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries as they develop their brands, create new jobs and drive tourism all over New York.”

Nowhere are those efforts felt more than on Long Island, where wineries and microbreweries have emerged as serious socioeconomic contributors. But of course, the progress of regional and statewide beverage barons – exemplified triumphantly in this spring’s Long Island Craft Beer Week – is not limited only to beverage producers.

Behind the scenes, innovators work ceaselessly to support the craft-brewing industries and improve food-and-beverage experiences, including new and improved ways to consume your beverage of choice.

To that end, Hauppauge-based Intelligent Product Solutions this week announced the official rollout of BeerBox, the first mobile, Internet of Things-enabled vending device designed to accept card payments and serve up icy cold cans of beer, ready-to-drink with the tab already popped.

The device, which cofounder and President Mitch Maiman described to Innovate LI in February as “one of IPS’s more high-profile efforts,” was test-marketed last year and will be introduced throughout 2018 at select nationwide concert and sports venues by New York City-based distributor ZX Ventures, a division of Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Billed as a first-of-its-kind “smart” beer-vending machine, BeerBox – which features a cashless-payment system that accepts all major credit cards (and mobile wallets like Google Pay and Apple Pay) via cellular, WiFi and Ethernet connections – is the ultimate answer to long lines at music festivals and sporting events, according to ZX Ventures exec and BeerBox inventor Robert Gaafar.

“BeerBox makes it much more convenient to purchase a beer and helps concessioners increase sales,” Gaafar noted, adding IPS was the ideal partner to bring BeerBox to life “because of its full range of product-design expertise, and in particular its expertise in designing IoT products and Wi-Fi solutions.”

Intelligent Product Solutions, a subsidiary of Florida-based designer/global distributor Forward Industries, worked closely with ZX Ventures’ accelerator program to turn Gaafar’s vision into a viable product. Among the design challenges: outfitting the machine to dispense 25-ounce cans (a standard size at concert locations), compliance with regional liquor laws, optimized cooling systems and other tweaks to the BeerBox’s look, feel and functionality.

It was just the sort of challenge the Hauppauge-based product-design specialist thrives on, according to Maiman, who raised a frosty mug this week to the collaboration between IPS and Gaafar.

“Working with Robert and ZX Ventures was a true partnership,” Maiman told Innovate LI. “We are thrilled to work with such an innovative company to help make its design concepts a reality.”

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