SYNEK promises more sipping variety with its beer-in-a-box mini-tap system
By C.C. Weiss
July 2, 2014
Small tap systems like the Heineken/Krups Sub and Philips PerfectDraft serve as small, simple alternatives to larger keg refrigerator systems. The problem with these mini-keg systems is that there are precious few compatible beers to put on tap. The SYNEK offers what it hopes will be a far more versatile mini-tap, going so far as to say that it can fill your mug with any beer on Earth.
"We believe that beer is an art that deserves to be shared with the world," SYNEK's designers say in introducing it on Kickstarter. "Imagine, for a moment, that you could have access to every beer in the world fresh from the tap – your favorite local brewery, your best friend’s homebrew, or an international favorite … all available to you wherever and whenever you want it."
This might be an appealing prospect that is sure to get beer drinkers salivating, but the claim is entirely theoretical and would require every brewery in the world to buy into SYNEK's strategy. That hasn't happened yet, but the start-up makes an interesting argument.
What the SYNEK does differently from other small tap systems, and from the beer industry at large, is its packaging. In place of a metal keg or glass growler, the system relies on a 1-gal (3.8-L) bag that slides into an easy-carry box. The vacuum-sealed bag is built to hold the carbonated pressure of beer, up to 30 psi, with a pressure relief valve there to prevent over pressurization.
At home, the user slides the full box into the refrigerated countertop dispenser, hooks up the tap and CO2, and enjoys cold fresh beer from the tap. Both the pressure and temperature are adjustable.
The SYNEK bag-in-box cartridge comes with a number of claimed advantages over other types of beer packaging. It can keep beer fresh for up to 30 days after the first pour, as opposed to a growler, which only lasts a few days. The cartridge is designed to be interchangeable with little loss of carbonation, meaning that you don't have to finish the entire gallon of beer before changing the cartridge out. You can switch out your pilsener for an IPA, then put the pilsener back later without ruining it – the single tap can be used to pour many different types of beers in the same day. The bag doesn't interfere with taste so you get only the flavor of the beer itself.
The "every beer in the world" variety claim comes when it's time to fill the SYNEK cartridge with beer. Instead of sitting around waiting for your favorite brewery to stock your local liquor store with SYNEK beer cartridges, you take your empty cartridge there and have them fill it up. SYNEK plans to provide both breweries and dispenser owners with a special adapter that fills the cartridges from any keg, tap or brewery tank. You take home the beer of your choice, hook it up to your personal tap and enjoy it over the course of a month.
SYNEK creator Steve Young seems confident that microbreweries will embrace the cartridge system because it was designed in response to their concerns. A stock analyst by trade, Young identified a logistics frustration among US craft brewers when analyzing the industry.
Young's Kickstarter bio paraphrases those frustrations: "We make amazing beer, but we can’t get it into our customers’ homes and make money at the same time. If there was a way to create a growler that maintained our beer’s quality longer than two days, it would change everything."
SYNEK counts cans and bottles as too expensive to use in offering a full selection of craft-brewed beer, full kegs as too large and expensive for most consumers, and growlers as having a short shelf life detrimental to beer quality. Its cartridge is designed to give breweries a cost-effective way of delivering a full selection of long lasting beer.
The SYNEK team says that it's working hard to advertise its system with local breweries around the US. Of course, it can't guarantee that ever microbrewery will be eager to jump aboard. Beer distribution laws also vary by state, and SYNEK says that its design does not meet the legal requirements of Alabama, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Vermont.
The SYNEK seems great for those that don't mind spending money to have craft beer on tap at home, but it won't necessarily prove affordable for everyone. Before you even get to the cost of the beer itself, you have the US$349 retail price of the dispenser and the cost of the cartridges, which SYNEK hopes to keep around $1 each. The recyclable cartridges can be reused, but they're mainly designed to be single-use, unlike a reusable growler.
SYNEK is just over halfway to its Kickstarter goal of US$250,000, with about three weeks left to go. It plans to use the funding to finish development and get the system to market next year. It is offering a variety of pledge options, including a $299 SYNEK dispenser system with estimated April 2015 shipping if all goes to plan.
The video below demonstrates the backbone of the SYNEK system: filling up the bag using its tap adapter. If you're interested in hearing the full spiel, there's a longer video on the Kickstarter page.
Source: SYNEK System