Dispenser serves up fresh craft beer, local Kickstarter record

Synek Draft Systems' beer dispenser has set a fundraising record for St. Louis-based Kickstarter projects. | Photo Courtesy of Synek
Synek Draft System’s beer dispenser has set a fundraising record for St. Louis-based Kickstarter projects. | Courtesy of Synek Draft System

A startup looking to change the way beer is packaged has engineered the most successful Kickstarter campaign in St. Louis history.

As of 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Synek Draft System had raised $612,919 in support a countertop craft beer dispenser that will allow consumers to serve themselves draft beer virtually anywhere. The campaign has less than two days left to raise funds.

The previous high for a St. Louis company’s Kickstarter was $450,333, set in April by board game designer Stonemaier Games in its campaign to fund Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture.

Synek marketing manager Eric Stoddard said that the success of his group’s campaign was due mostly to relationships formed with craft brewers in the year and a half before the campaign started.

“We weren’t going in there thinking ‘Let’s see what happens,’ Stoddard said. “We’d already reached out to breweries and other people in the craft beer industry.”

It’s an industry in the midst of considerable growth. The Brewers Association, which represents the $14.3 billion craft beer industry, said sales increased by 17.2 percent nationwide in 2013. And at least 1.2 million Americans are brewing their own beer at least once a year, according to the American Homebrewers Association.

A total of 2,063 people across the country have backed the Synek project, with 1,265 people pledging $299 for the first edition of the device, which holds 128-ounce cartridges that can be fitted to the dispenser’s tap.

The dispenser maintains the proper temperature and pressurization of the beer, but founder Steve Young and his team believe that the vacuum-sealed, UV-shielded packaging can change the industry.

When Young, whose background is in finance, was asked by a Seattle craft brewer to look at the brewery’s numbers a year and a half ago, it sparked a conversation about a major flaw in the beer industry.

“Small craft breweries can’t afford to bottle and distribute their beer, so they have to rely on what they can sell in a brewpub or growlers,” Stoddard said.

Growlers, which are 32 to 64 ounce glass jugs, are sometimes the only option if consumers want to take craft beer home. But the jugs are notorious for their short shelf life once opened.

Stoddard said that by offering beer makers a free adapter that allows beer to be poured from taps into cartridges, Synek can help commercial brewers and homebrewers alike circumvent the expense of bottling and keep beer fresh.

In his Kickstarter video, Young says that the dispenser allows for the convenience of a bar tap and, unlike growlers, keeps beer fresh for 30 days or more.

Once the funding campaign ends on Thursday, the project will enter large-scale production and the Synek team will continue working to convince holdout brewers to adopt its technology.

A number of brewers have already agreed to package their beers in Synek’s bags to be sold in brewpubs or stores. That group includes the Saint Louis Brewery, which produces Schlafly beers; Columbia’s Logboat Brewing Co.; and Michigan-based Founders Brewing Co.

The first dispensers will be delivered in spring 2015, and empty cartridges will cost $1 each.

See Synek Draft System’s video from its Kickstarter campaign below. 

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