Funderwhelmed

Welcome to the weird world of craft beer crowdfunding disasters

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We’ve seen some epic beer crowdfunds in the past few years. From Left Handed Giant raising £400k in five hours, a million in a month, to build a new brewery and bar in the UK, through to Pico-C raising $1.9 million to allow kickstarter backers to brew 5L kegs of craft beer in their kitchen. Craft beer certainly seems to ignite imaginations and entrepreneurial spirit among those who, in the past, might have been constrained by the limits of commercial funding methods (or, indeed, by the laws of the universe as we’ll see). Today, crowdfunding has unleashed these ideas on the world and given everyone the opportunity to ask you, the drinker, to help them carve out their little plot in the gold-rush.

While it would be interesting and no doubt informative to look at some of those amazing success stories, in the interests of schadenfreude we felt it would be much more fun to visit some projects that not only didn’t make it, but that were doomed to fail from the start.

Let’s remember that the lesson here is not to laugh at those who fail – some of history’s best ideas have been born out of repeated failure – but to highlight the fact that crowdfunding isn’t the easy route to launch your next shonky business venture, madcap science experiment, holiday, or elitist product. 

We’ll mark the campaigns out of 10 for innovation, how hard they failed, and the level of hubris on display...

Want not much beer in two weeks’ time? This is for you! 

Raised £1,559 of the probably unrealistic £309,355

UNFUNDED

Trying to take on the world of home brewing is a daunting task. The aforementioned Pico system seems to be doing pretty well, but Three60 Brewing System was an early competitor to that Kickstarter (or perhaps a grab for cash off the back of other more successful projects). 

The main challenge with this system, quickly identified on forums and on the Q&A of the Kickstarter page, seemed to be that no-one understood how everything came apart to be cleaned, as there seemed to be a lot of internal machinery and piping, tubes and cooling systems. Add to that previous failed fundraising campaigns, the small capacity, long wait time and some angry backers withdrawing their money due to the lack of communication, and this was a bit of a damp squib. The lesson here is don’t come to the home-brewing table unless you know how to clean your equipment.

Innovation score  4/10

Failure Score  8/10 

Hubris Score  4/10 

Vostok Space Beer... bottle 

Raised - $31k of a cool $1million ask

UNFUNDED

4Pines, a brewery based in Manly, Australia, brewed the mother of all PR stunt beers: an Irish stout that might taste good in space. They are hoping to futureproof their business strategy by aiming to corner the market for those who wish to have a cold one while on a hugely expensive space tourism flight. To be fair, the beer won a gold medal, so maybe it was a decent brew. 

However they have a problem: how would the thirsty space tourist drink the beer and get the full experience in zero gravity? Solution: over-engineer a bottle which works in a similar way to a rocket’s fuel tank, then ask beer-loving chumps from all over the world to fund its development. Unfortunately for the billionaire leisure astronauts, not too many people bought into the dream; it turns out we’re a jealous bunch and not keen to pay for rich people to get their zero gravity buzz on.

Innovation score  7/10

Failure Score  6/10 

Hubris Score  8/10 

Beer doesn’t have a gender problem

Raised - $1,578 of an incredible $150,000 ask 

FUNDED (Indiegogo allows creators to keep whatever is pledged in some instances, even if a target isn’t reached) 

Isolating a culture of lactobacillus from a Czech model’s vagina and using this to make beer is apparently a way to experience the following:

“Imagine a woman of your dreams, your object of desire. Her charm, her sensuality, her passion… Try her taste, feel her smell, hear her voice… Imagine her massaging you passionately and whispering into your ear everything you want. Now free your fantasies and imagine that with a magic wand you can close it in one bottle of beer.”

I think the men (definitely men) behind this beer could perhaps link up with the team behind My Dad Wrote a Porno to investigate a sponsorship deal.

Lactobacillus is actually a valid ingredient in beer, creating the sourness that you would recognise from a Belgian wit or a Berliner weisse. So, kudos to the team behind The Order of Yoni (yep, that’s the name of the beer) for taking an idea and following it through to the logical conclusion that people want a beer brewed with bacteria from the vagina of an attractive stranger.

But wait! If you’re rich and insane, you can get 60 bottles of your very own beer, made from your very own significant other’s lactobacillus culture, for the low, low cost of $10,000. Bargain. She’ll love you forever. I did a bit of swift research and identified that Lactobacillus can also be found in and around the back door of men. So, you know, it’s open to all really. They’re missing a trick by not making their marketing a little less gender-specific.

Innovation score  5/10

Failure Score  8/10 

Hubris Score  9/10 

Spice up your pint

Raised $30,978 of the surprisingly low $25,000 

FUNDED

Hop Theory bags are being included here not because they failed to get funded, but because the very idea is somewhat offensive. It’s a bit like someone saying, “Hey, is that wine a bit crappy? Add some Ribena and it’s basically a Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘68”. The core concept is that the main thing stopping crap beer from being good beer is a few hops and fruit/spice flavours. So, why not add them by creating a little tea bag you drop in that contains cascade hops, orange peel, and coriander seeds. They actually managed to get funded, which is impressive. They (mostly) delivered, which is also impressive. They also got feedback that the results were… not so impressive.

Never fear though – they’re going to try again according to the holding page on their website. However, this campaign was three years ago now, so I’m assuming they’ve realised there is a little more to beer than just a hint of coriander. 

Innovation score  2/10

Failure Score  2/10 

Hubris Score  8/10 

I love beer, give me money to start the BEST brewery EVER. 

Raised £0 of a hopeful £58,004 

UNFUNDED

When Landon MaCallister woke up on January 13th 2015 he said to himself “Well, I have always loved beer. It is perhaps the greatest thing ever invented”. The logical conclusion, in his potentially hungover state, was that he should build a brewery. The greatest brewery ever seen. Qualifications? Landon doesn’t need them. Experience? He’ll figure it out! So launched the thin-on-detail, big-on-hype campaign to fund the Koala Brewing Company in Georgia USA (Koala? Georgia? Makes sense). 

Some might think giving 50-grand to a random American is a big risk, and Landon is not unaware of this. He states himself, “The main challenge we will face is going to be coming on to such a competitive market. Well rest assured our beers will outshine, outlast, and overall taste better than 99.9% of beers on the craft beer market today.” Thanks Landon. Putting our worries to rest. This is a sure thing. 

Incredibly, even the campaign reward for a $25 donation – “You will get a great general thank you note from me mailed to you!” – failed to draw in any backers, and the Koala Brewing Company became but a twinkle in Landon’s eye.  

Innovation score  1/10

Failure Score  10/10 

Hubris Score  7/10 

Beam me out of here

Raised: Campaign removed from Indiegogo, still present on some crowdfunding sites (and has raised $0)

UNFUNDED

The Automated Beverage Synthesizer (or ABS) from Shiva Science and Technology Group in the United States is a revolutionary new product that will build any drink (ANY DRINK) from its component parts. Why they named it after a braking system, we’ll never know, because the product, and all of Shiva’s other products, have been taken down from Indiegogo and are being reviewed by the site’s long-suffering “Trust and Safety team”. 

However, the gist of it was that you’d programme in, say, Pliny the Elder, and it would remake the beer, in the machine, from its component chemicals. But instead of using this revolutionary technology to build medicines, it’s best put to work creating cheaper versions of our favourite beverages. 

The mastermind behind this particular campaign also had campaigns running for a non-specific nanomedicine cure for cancer and, of course, a perpetual motion machine that was going to solve the world’s energy needs. No doubt he’s being kept down by big pharma and the evil wind turbine moguls. At the end of the day, whether a genuine attempt at the impossible, or just a con, this one holds a special place in my heart for aiming so high that it missed reality completely. 

Innovation score  10/10

Failure Score  10/10 

Hubris Score  10/10

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