From Microsoft to Beer: Pair Create Homebrewing Machine

Bill Mitchell, left and Avi Geiger, formerly of Microsoft, with their PicoBrew home beer-brewing machine.


If you were one of the top guys who spent much of the 2000s trying to get Microsoft to develop tablet computers, you might be ready for a drink.

Or two.

Fortunately, that guy — Bill Mitchell — has figured out how to easily produce a never-ending supply of absolutely top-notch beer, in any style and flavor you can imagine.

After leaving Microsoft in 2010, Mitchell started a company called PicoBrew with his food-scientist brother and a gifted hardware hacker he used to work with in Redmond.

Together they created a dream machine for small-scale brewing that they’re unveiling Monday.

Called the PicoBrew Zymatic, it’s a device the size of a large microwave oven that almost completely automates the process of producing beer.

The idea was to take the drudgery out of brewing, without sacrificing the fun or the gratification that comes from creating your own batches, Mitchell said.

“The beauty for us, especially in beer-making, is it’s this great fusion of science and cooking, of chemistry and cooking,” he said. “We didn’t want to lose any of that — in fact we want to enhance that portion of it — and just take out the bad portions.”

They’ve also applied modern technologies to the ancient art.

Zymatic machines were designed to be Internet appliances. They are controlled by open-source software, connected to the Web and managed through a browser.

PicoBrew’s software dashboard is used to concoct recipes and adjust brewing cycles. Users can share recipes through the service and monitor the brewing process remotely on their smartphone.

Data collected by this online service — from users who opt to share their brewing activity — will be used to continue refining the machines, which are also designed to be hacked and modified as buyers see fit.

About 1 million people in the U.S. brew their own beer, from President Obama on down, according to the American Homebrewers Association. But it remains a niche hobby because home-brewing can be a hassle.

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Beer Profile: New Belgium Lips of Faith Paardebloem


Profiled by Ken Carman for

Beer-Profile1-258x300 Paare don moi’ but I bought this with a cringe, because New Belgium’s brews have a mixed history with me. The Lips of Faith series even more so a “mixed history.” The last one I remember reviewing was the Pluot and I likened its aroma to someone who ate a lot of fruit and then had to vomit. Hard to get past that to the medicore’ taste. Odd, because I have found strong tastes or aromas often lacking in their Faith series.

They have redeemed themselves.

I have never liked dandelion brews, but this worked well with the peach, which you find first in the aroma. The taste is also light peach, medium body with a hint of caramel malt and even less a hint of dandelion. The color is between gold and straw with a hint of haze and a big, long lasting, pillow head. Moderate sweetness on the palate.

While the abv, at a stiff 9%, is not noticeable at first, as it warms it expresses itself, but never obtrusive or hot. Very well balanced. Mouthfeel is solidly balanced with sweet coming in first, body second, peach third with Lady Dandelion a distant 4th. Grains of Paradise are in here, but I’ve judged many GP beers and have yet to be able to actually taste GP. If they’re “paradise,” paradise is more than a tad bland, in my opinion.

Some folks claimed “wild yeasty,” but tasted like a typical ale yeast to me. No clove, banana, sour or otther indications of such. Either I missed it or they were mistaking some of the peach sense for a wild yeast flavor. The brewer claims “wild,” but not so… IMO.

81% at Beer Advocate and 85@ Rate Beer.

I’d heartily recommend that you try it for yourself, and rate it at a PGA4.


Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”