Stories

Made In Iowa

So many folks who read this will have built their own business. Entrepreneurs know how key community support can be for startups. Our company and the members of our team have been so fortunate to be fueled by wise allies who want to help, organizations built to push startups forward and a community of fellow entrepreneurs passionately building things they care about.

We’re lucky to have built #SmartFlights in Iowa.

Did you know our paddles are manufactured right here in Iowa? We think that’s kinda cool and although it’s taken over two years of serious persistence paired with hard work on all fronts, we’ve solved problems for craft beer establishments and the thirsty consumers they love.

Along with product development, the engaged network of friends nationwide is so meaningful for this venture, but Des Moines knows it’s cool. We define the word supportive here in the Midwest and that’s what makes building big ideas in Iowa so much fun. The energy one can derive by accelerating others is hard to match, so along with tapping into so many great connections, we’ve always stayed dedicated to bringing others together. Another fun fact is that all three of our founders originally met back in the early days of 1 Million Cups Des Moines. So much as changed since the early days, but our team’s collection of paired skills is special and we have a connected community to thank for that.

Along with endless mentoring support, real financial investments from throughout Iowa has allowed us to build magic. We built on our founder’s investments by earning a big state grant and winning cash rewards at a variety of business pitch contests. It’s been an adventure unlike any other and whatta treat building a new era of smart flights.

BENovatorAs we now brew FliteBrite to the next level, we just wanted to take a moment to say thanks again to all who have supported this adventure. We appreciate our family, early adopters, all the introductions to restaurants, brewpubs and brewery hot spots that need smart flights nationwide, community leaders looking to connect us, an industry full of awesome people brewing art and now even strategic investors ready to make some money.

Jump on this flite. The future is brite.

Whatta week for FliteBrite.

We beamed into the Kauffman Foundation, a mothership for entrepreneurship, to announce BIG news for our company! As you saw in the video above, Ben’s pitch is baked to perfection and the entire Q&A is included in the full-length video. After our reveal at 1MC Des Moines and the 1MC Fargo experience, #1MCKC completed a trifecta of epic 1MC adventures.

After meeting everyone at 1 Million Cups Kansas City, Ben stayed in KC to attend the national 1MC organizers summit. #1MCOS was an amazing opportunity to connect with leaders from around the country and we’re thankful to have such an active community builder leading our team!

36 hours of pure energy later, Ben drove back to Iowa just in time to join Sinclair for a pitch to win up to $25,000 in the finals of the John Pappajohn Venture Competition. Winners will be announced next week, but no matter the results, it was a pleasure sharing our story and we’ve worked hard to earn these business-building opportunities.

Looking ahead, we’re about to deliver 20 smart beer flight paddles to our first national establishment, so stay tuned for news on where smart beer flights land next!

1 Million Cups Kansas City

Flight Menu Management

Cocktail menus exist for a reason and the same concept works for craft beer.

Many people don’t know what they want, but are eager to sample your product. Customers who don’t know what beers they like, often chose a flight sampler. Flight menus allow you to feature preset pairings while creating a fun experience, boosting sales and saving time!

By activating a preset flight menu at your brewpub, restaurant or brewery, you can speed up the flight serving process, while still crafting a well-paired flight for your craft beer loving customer.

For consumers, nobody likes to stand in the front of a line and take a bunch of time trying to decide. A flight menu gives everyone an easy and most importantly, fast option for tapping into a fun beer tasting experience. The effect cocktail menus we see everyday, is why preset flight menus are something we’re excited about.

The FliteBrite dashboard (screenshot above) helps build and update your own preset flight menu from the active beers you have available at any given time. Once a preset flight is built, your staff can access them from the paddle and with a single click, they magically send the flight data up for analytical reporting and then have it instantly ready for the customer.

Preset flights save time.

More time almost always equates to increased revenue. Using preset flights allow you to prepare a nice flight pairing upfront and save time while making faster money overall. The FliteBrite crew has learned to really like preset flights for business and can help guide you through ideas that work.

Feel like it’s going to be to much work? Think again. You don’t need a ton of different preset flights to bring a nice little flight menu together. In fact, we think you can just have one, but it’s hard to stop there, so maybe start with two or three beer flights that you pair and sell as an item. If you’re serving #SmartFlights, you simply update your present menu from the online dashboard to make setup lightning fast for staff, then share your new flights with customers on your printed or digital menu. Custom flights will never go away, but we think you’ll find a bump in efficiency as people order what your team can whip together fast.

Wanna chat through your flight menu ideas? Let’s connect this week!

We hit the radio waves for an interview with Insight on Business.

This short video includes the full discussion and was shot live inside the studio. This isn’t the first time you’ve seen us sharing our story on air, but it is one of the best!

Ben McDougal and Michael Libbie talk through our team’s core mission, the challenges of building hardware and an exclusive update on what’s next for FliteBrite and the future of #SmartFlights.

FliteBrite - Firetrucker Smart Beer Flights
We just went LIVE at Firetrucker Brewery in Ankeny, Iowa.

Whatta moment!

 

Firetrucker has become a great friend and a meaningful ally. They serve a nice variety of sophisticated brews and are excited to now be one of the first to serve #SmartFlights. Firetrucker believes #BeerIsArt and now their beer flights look as good as they taste! We’ve learned a lot from this brewery and it’s been a pleasure collaborating with them. Setup went super smooth as our team had Liz and Dan online with electronic beer flights in just a fun short visit.

SmartFlights at FiretruckerSmart Flights SetupBrewery Craft Beer Flight

Once online, we experienced an immediate impact as Firetrucker announced on social media that they were inspired to build new preset flights for their menu:

As they invited all their fans to stop by to try their beer flight menu, we literally had to increase the dashboard’s primary overview graph that reports a snapshot of how many #SmartFlights an establishment is serving each day! Nice work Firetrucker! At around $8 per beer flight, it’ll be exciting to see revenue continue to benefit from this brewery’s new cool factor and you know positive data results that break our graphs, is always something we’re happy to fix!

FliteBrite Online Dashboard

Our electronic hardware product is being used by industry professionals who don’t know us and we’re watching craft beer-loving customers fall in love with the future of beer flights.

We have some borderline epic news on the horizon, but for the moment, we invite everyone to head over to Exile Brewing and now Firetrucker Brewing to enjoy this era of #SmartFlights. Cheers!

 

Craft Beer Flights

Ben McDougal - Des Moines, Iowa

Smart Beer Flights

It felt like sending the kids off to college, but we’re proud to share that #SmartFlights are officially LIVE for the first time in the wild!

Wanna be first to experience FliteBrite? We invite you to head to Exile Brewing in downtown Des Moines, Iowa! RJ Tursi and Exile Brewing Company have been an ally from Day 1 and if you remember, we actually collaborated with their team for quantifing smart beer flights in a 2016 research project. As one of the leaders within the Iowa craft beer community and with around 15 craft beers on tap, this is a perfect place to begin the next chapter of our story.

We were planning to ship trial paddles throughout the country after our CBC 17 adventure, but due to a few tricky product issues, we were forced to pull them back into the workshop. For all you brewery and restaurant owners who are excited to get your electronic beer flight paddles, know this is a big step in the right direction and we’re committed to delivering a durable product on our mission to unlock a more engaging flight experience nationwide.

Craft Beer Trivia

Trivia nights are fun and have become increasingly popular. It’s an easy event to host in almost any brewery, brewpub, restaurant or bar and adds one more reason for customers to head your way.

We know our electronic beer flight platform provides an enhanced customer experience, but since we enjoyed craft beer trivia at CBC17, we’ve added a few new angles to utilize as you bring #SmartFlights online.

Flip The Script

Whether it’s a part of a trivia night or not, we’ve always been intrigued by the idea of flipping the ordering process. Instead of your serving staff taking the order, why can’t the customer have the option of setting up their smart beer flight? This not only saves time, but what if we used our platform to serve up a twist of fun. After you fulfill the order, imagine the beer flight being delivered with a little trivia game. Instead of highlighting which beer is which, we can now serve the flight with details hidden and then after a few guesses, the correct answers can dynamically appear! You know beer lovers will appreciate the chance to showoff, but at the core, you’re avoiding wasted time of people standing at the bar not knowing what they want, while engaging customers with a little brewtech gamification.

Craft Beer Trivia - Smart Beer FlightsInteractive Tasting Round

Many trivia nights involving craft beer include a tasting round where participants are invited to sample a few beers and then determine which is which. Using smart flights and built during our

CBC17 event at Penn Social, we have a more interactive way to deliver this beer tasting round. Start by determining the beers you’ll serve. Let’s assume you’re serving four to each person/team. Mark the sample cups with a 1, 2, 3 and 4. Make sure you pour the right beer into its assigned glass, and then deliver them in a random order to the trivia participant. Once received, an interactive beer tasting begins. To submit their answers, each team brings the flight back to the trivia organizer and received points for each beer correctly identified. You could add variances into this, such as styles, types of specific ingredients and more. It’s fun, super easy and offers a chance for customers to learn, rate and share what they like about each item served.

Custom Beer Details

With our online dashboard that allows establishment owners to manage their active beer menu, one sneaky, but especially unique way of using smart flights on trivia night, is to actually hid answers within the details associated with different beers. All beer data automatically loads with accurate details from Untappd as you add new beers on your active menu, but all this information can be edited to include anything you want. Whether that’s a little promotional content or an answer to be found during trivia, we love the idea of a speed round that awards the people who can find the answer hidden, but still easy to find within their smart flights.

Endless Opportunity

With our digital experience, the opportunities are endless, but let’s close with a few general thoughts. There are dedicated companies who can provide trivia nights, such as Geeks Who Drink, who makes this even easier to execute, but what have you done to make trivia successful at your establishment? Have you tried anything that didn’t go over well? When do you host trivia nights? We always suggest an early evening event on a slower weekday. We like Tuesdays for the memorable naming effect of calling it “Trivia Tuesday”, but you know if/how a trivia night will work best.

Engaging gamification paired with big data is a powerful combination and we’ve enjoyed exploring how FliteBrite can bring trivia nights to life. Whether it’s enhancing your trivia night or another hot idea, our team is here to break barriers and would love to hear how we can continue pushing the limits of your smart beer flight experience. Cheers!

We unleashed #SmartFlights at The 2017 Craft Brewers Conference!

Craft Brewers Conference 2017After years of development, it was surreal to officially unveil our company and the future of beer flights at the industry’s largest event of the year. As you may have seen in our CBC17 preview article, this was an important event where we wanted to make a big impact. As you can see in the photos below, we had an awesome booth, enjoyed all sorts of adventure and loved sharing our innovative product with tons of attendees from all over the world. Like we did in our CBC16 recap, let’s take you on a ride through our trip to Washington DC. Hang on…here we go!

Monday

After arriving the night before, our three-person team packed up and rolled into downtown DC. The venue for CBC was once again massive and after checking in, we hauled everything to where we’d call home the next three days. Setup was smooth and our hot little booth looked sweet!

Once setup was done, we found a random spot to grab some beers and do some final prep work. The “remote office” we chose became the destination for everyone from North Carolina, as the NC Beer Happy Hour got underway. We tapped in and meet a bunch of great people, before heading to the night’s big event.

The opening reception at CBC is always epic and this year was no different. We arrived at the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of American History, where of course, great craft beer was served, but also tons of fun things to experience. After some time there, we strolled out to the middle of the national mall. This was a special moment, as Ben, Sinclair and Jake all enjoyed a few brews and stood in between the Washington Monument and our nation’s capital. From there, we headed to the second location for this fun gathering. Once inside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the night came to life. We had way too much fun closing things down, met some cool cats and captured some epic photos that we’ll enjoy forever.

Discovering Smart Flights

Tuesday

With very little sleep, it was time to do what we came there to do. Booth 1640 became a little hot spot in the massive expo hall and it was awesome to see so much interest in our new technology. We met all sorts of brewery owners and industry professionals and even plugged our product into a few other booths throughout the event. Thanks again Grandstand, Barth Haas Group, Brewd and Sahm! In short, Day 1 was a great start to our three day adventure in DC!

Wednesday

Day 2 was the best day of CBC17. Our booth buzzed with activity all day long and our after party with Sam Adams and Digital Pour was a hit. As you can see below, one obvious highlight was meeting the crew from Sam Adams. One of the fathers of craft beer, Jim Koch, actually had a chance to play around with our product and had fun snapping some photos with Ben. Penn Social was an awesome host and we even came up with a new way to use our smart paddles within the beer trivia event. Thanks again to our friends (and booth neighbors) at Digital Pour, Penn Social and Sam Adams for such a fun evening.

Jim Kock & Brewers Association

Once we closed down the party at Penn Social, our crew flew over to catch the end of the Iowa Beer Social. It was awesome to walk into a room full of friends, Ben turned on his electronic shoes and the night got a little out of control from there.

Thursday

The final day of CBC was a struggle. You could tell that all of the 13,000+ attendees were exhausted from such a crazy week and the mood throughout the event felt like zombieland. Nonetheless, we pushed through and generated another day full of new introductions and continued interest in our electronic serving system.

Along with meeting new friends from Beer Advocate, one highlight came right at the end of the show. We had packed up our booth and were walking off the show floor. As we walked past the Brewers Association’s area, Ben stopped to say thanks for all their help. As he randomly walked up to say hello, they were literally in the middle of talking about FliteBrite, with our promo paddle in their hands! The timing of our visit could not have been scripted any better, so Ben took some time to share our story and walked them through the world’s first electronic beer flight paddle.

We crashed back at the house and had a fun evening of reflection. Friday we did a little sight seeing and left DC with a mixture of emotions. Our formal unveiling had gone big at the Craft Brewers Conference, we had a bunch of breweries, restaurants and bars from throughout the country sign up for a free trial, and there was an exciting sense of accomplishment, but we also heard all sort so of valuable feedback and know there’s a lot more work to be done.

CHEERS to CBC17!

2017 Craft Brewers Conference - FliteBrite - Booth 1640

We tasted the Brewers Association’s Craft Brewers Conference in Philadelphia last year and we’re proud to share that we’re headed to Washington DC to formally unveil our smart beer flight platform at CBC17!

The simple fact that we’ll be in our nation’s capital for the largest gathering of brewers is awesome, but we’re stepping it up this year and are ready to take orders from nationwide attendees.

To make it easy to secure your own smart beer flight paddles, we’ll be hanging out in one of the hall’s hot spots, Booth 1640. In fact, here’s your first look at the Craft Brewers Conference 2017 Exhibit Hall and where to find FliteBrite on April 10-13, 2017!

2017 Craft Brewers Conference - FliteBrite - Booth 1640

You heard it here first.

#SmartFlights are formally being unveiled at #CBC17.

 

Smart Beer Flight PaddlesInside the exhibit hall, we’re literally next door neighbors with our friends from Digital Pour (1636) and just a flight glass away from Grandstand Glassware & Apparel (1837). We can all enjoy two beer stations (red) on each side of our booth and being able to stop by all sorts of other friends in the exhibit hall this April. BREWD (1023) will be in the house, along with other friends like Track Track Malting (654) and Draft Magazine (424)!

Along with your first smart beer flight experience, we’ll be giving away fun swag at Booth 1640. We’ll have our new customer coasters on hand with a new collection of shirts and a few more surprises for the first breweries and restaurants who secure their own fleet of electronic beer flight paddles.

With a fun booth in the heart of DC’s largest exhibit hall, we are ready to deliver, but you know we’re just as excited for the after parties. In fact, we’re excited to announce a special event we’ll be hosting with Digital Pour at Penn Social on Wednesday (4/12) night! More details are on the way, but #SmartFlights will be paired with trivia and a ton of fun. We’re also excited for the annual #IowaBeerSocial, as that’s always a great time to connect with all our Iowa allies!

After CBC16 in Philly last year, the FliteBrite crew can’t wait to reconnect with everyone and we’d invite you to follow our #CBC17 adventures. Take a peek at our matte black beer paddles before the rush of CBC17, then connect with us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. If you’re attending the Craft Brewers Conference in DC, we also invite you to shoot us a note so we can reserve you a time to experience one of the hottest new brewtech products on the show floor.

Cheers to this exciting announcement for our company, the monumental opportunity and all the people who make craft beer so much fun!

CBC17 - FliteBrite - Booth 1640

Smart Beer Flight Paddles

Introducing our matte black smart beer flights!

These electronic beer flight paddles have been thoughtfully designed and meticulously manufactured to look amazing, be cost effective and super durable.

The sleek look paired with our interactive color touchscreen allows you to showcase your craft beer in a whole new way! You can order your fleet now or apply for our free trial program. In the meantime, here’s a quick look at how the world’s first smart flights have evolved.

BRIEF BACKGROUND

We began with a clear paddle that was a beer nerd’s dream.

This fully-functioning prototype introduced the world to smart flights, affirmed our vision of a more engaging customer experience and turned out to be perfect for showcasing the wi-fi enabled technology built inside the paddle. This clear prototype taught us what customers wanted. It also confirmed what brewery and restaurant owners had to have. It would even be used in the wild as we conducted research to quantify smart beer flights.

As cool as it looked, this clear paddle was not made to hold up in the harsh environment behind the bar. It was also not designed for true manufacturing. As our electronic technology evolved, we continued to refine what the future of beer flights would look like, how it would feel and how the entire experience would flow.

This bold new embodiment that we’re formally unveiling here, is the result of countless hours talking with industry experts, listening to customers, learning from mistakes and passionately polishing our innovative platform overall. These matte black paddles are built to serve a more engaging beer tasting experience, while providing the most brand-boosting way to serve fractional pours. Welcome to the future of beer flights!

DIRTY DETAILS

The matte finish gives these beer flight paddles a soft and balanced feel, while the deep black color provides a modern look that looks great in any setting.

The four pockets are carved out to allow a wide variety of flight glasses to pass through (2.025″ diameter) and evenly catch each glass when the paddle is lifted up. This lightens the paddle and eliminates craters that collect stale beer and even mold.

Centered between the four pockets, we’ve dedicated a space just for you! Working together, we’ll provide a sexy little icon sticker to showcase your brand in a big way.

Overall, this 2×2 layout provides a more stable feel by ergonomically distributing the weight of full flight glasses closer to your hand. It is also thoughtfully paired with the 2×2 layout of the color touchscreen built into the handle. Fastened your seat belts. This is where things get super exciting.

Our patented touchscreen technology provides a balanced experience right out of the box and truly brings FliteBrite to life. At first glance, you’ll realize it’s not your smartphone, but once you begin clicking around, you’ll realize it doesn’t matter. We’ve utilized a lower resolution display to make our product affordable, but with intuitive design, we’ve implemented fast-loading graphics and accurate information that’s fun and easy to understand for anyone.

One of the best features of our interactive touchscreen, is the ability to update it over the air, right from your online dashboard! This allows us to continuously enhance the touchscreen, while ensuring you always have the most up-to-date experience.

We’ll hold off on sharing too many details on the online dashboard, but know it’s what puts the “smart” into smart flights as it manages all your smart paddles, magically updates your menu with single clicks, builds social media campaigns and tracks some crazy cool analytics.

AMAZING RESULTS

You’ll be blown away with how much your customers enjoy the smart flight experience.

FliteBrite’s smart beer flights fuel the virality of what people naturally enjoy sharing by tapping into accurate details for each brew and giving your customers a fun way to share, track and even rate the beers they love. By connecting with a more informed customer, you can increase loyalty and boost engagement that will positively expand your brand.

We have poured our hearts into building this product and we’re so proud to share that starting today, our matte black paddles are ready to ship nationwide!

Ready to Rock?

Contact Us to learn how easy it is to serve the best beer flight in town!