All About Beer Magazine - Volume 38, Issue 1
March 1, 2017 By Jeff Cioletti
Sometimes, new technology is hiding in plain sight. At Old Devil Moon in San Francisco, what appears to be a draft list hand-written in chalk is actually an animated projection on a blackboard. (Photo by Jon Page)

As uncertain as the future seems to be these days, at least we can look forward to our bars getting smarter. The days of flagging down a bartender or server when you’re ready for your next pint may one day come to an end if Smart Cube technology ever catches on.

The Smart Cube is an ice-cube-shaped device that sits in a drink and uses Bluetooth technology to communicate with a tablet app in real time to let the staff know when your glass is almost empty. It does so with the help of sensors embedded in the cube that measure liquid levels. Bacardi Limited piloted the technology for its Martini vermouth brand, but its application can extend well beyond cocktails. And, since it’s made with food-safe resin, it wouldn’t alter the taste of a beer (or water it down, since it’s not an actual ice cube).

And speaking of more intelligent drinking, another innovation whose relative simplicity will enable it to catch on a lot faster than the Smart Cube is the Glassify Smart Glass, a drinking vessel with an embedded NFC (near field communication) chip that’s readable with a smartphone’s QR code app. A swipe of the phone unlocks personalized drink promotions and loyalty coupons.

Technology doesn’t always have a function that’s directly related to a commercial transaction. Bars are dens of recreation, after all, and sometimes the goal of a high-tech innovation can be all about personal enjoyment. A company called RichTech has developed custom bar and communal table tops that feature various moving images—could be anything from flowers, snowflakes and clouds to more abstract designs—projected right on to their surfaces. But they’re not just passive diversions; the images are fully interactive. Drinkers can manipulate them with their fingertips.

The true bar of the future, however, won’t be an earthbound one. Once commercial spaceflight becomes a thing—and an affordable one at that—extraplanetary vessels will include fully stocked bars (people are going to need to calm their nerves when they leave earth’s atmosphere). But don’t expect beer to be there. Carbonated beverages are a no-no in zero gravity. There’s no burping in space, as the gas just sits in the stomach and merges with the solids to become an unpleasant, blobby mass. (Though this could be an opportunity for bubble-free brews like Sam Adams Utopias).

Drinking noncarbonated beverages is hard enough in zero g; liquid won’t stay in the glass and would just float everywhere. The marketers of Ballantine’s blended Scotch whisky commissioned the Open Space Agency to create a glass that’s compatible with sipping in space. Its base includes an embedded magnet that helps keep everything in one place. The final frontier, indeed! 

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a special section on the future of beer, which appears in the March 2017 issue of All About Beer Magazine.