Stories

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!

FliteBrite - 1 Million Cups Fargo

Traveling to Fargo in January may not seem like a natural destination to bring FliteBrite, especially as we prepare for our nationwide release, but Fargo has the largest 1 Million Cups event in the country and they’re friendly community is full of innovative entrepreneurial energy.

While our team stayed back to continue polishing our new matte black paddles, our fearless leader flew north to present FliteBrite in front of a full theater of inspired entrepreneurs at 1 Million Cups Fargo. Since we had so much fun sharing our full team’s pitch at 1 Million Cups Des Moines, we thought it may be fun to showcase this lone wolf pitch as well.

 
Fargo was an adventure packed full of random awesomeness.

Along with a terrific 1 Million Cups experience that was featured in this Emerging Prairie article and a mini explosion of Twitter activity, we had a terrific time connecting with tons of entrepreneurs, craft beer lovers and energized community builders during our 48 hour visit to Fargo.

One big highlight was our visit to the North Dakota State University Research & Technology Park. It was great to see how NDSU is supporting student entrepreneurs, while also advocating for innovation with more established brands.

Another highlight was working inside The Prairie Den and attending a community celebration called 1 Million Thanks. This was an annual event that recognized entrepreneurs, encouraged innovative action and continued to build the #ilovefargo mentality.

In addition to our presentation at 1MC Fargo, our visit to NDSU and the 1 Million Thanks event, we tapped into local hot spots like Fargo Brewing Co., JL Beers, Drekker Brewing Co., Würst Bier Hall, No Bull Smokehouse, Junkyard Brewing Co. and the Front Street Taproom. Everyone truly seemed to like smart beer flights and it will be fun to see who is first to serve a brighter beer flight in Fargo!

Thanks again to Greg, Annie, Lindsay, Aaron, Brent, Shane, Zach, Corey, Jessie, Callie and the entire Emerging Prairie community. This was a trip we won’t forget. Cheers!

I’m a guy, so this is not something that I learned easily, but my wife has taught me the value of a great presentation. Whether it’s a cheese plate that looks straight out of a magazine, the perfect steak plated up like a boss, or how you serve beer flights at your brewery, restaurant or even at your home bar, a little extra effort can go a long ways!

No matter the craft beer experience you’re serving, the initial presentation you deliver will determine one of your customer’s first responses. Make it a good one.

How you introduce your product completes the life cycle of a process you pour your heart into. You wouldn’t grill a perfect steak and then serve it on paper plate, right? Why would you create, buy or sell an amazing craft beer, just to hand it over on a piece of wet paper and hope that your part-time bartender scribbles the right name of something you care so much about?

Even if it’s not smart flights yet, we still hope you take pride in the way you present your beer flights! Everyone has great ideas on how to make it fun and we also thought we’d share a few quick things to remember:

Optimize Pricing

When you serve four 5oz glasses of brew, that’s just under two full glasses of beer, with added variety and a little extra time to prepare. That’s worth more than some folks realize. Flights are a perfect doormat into your beers, so there’s value in a less expensive flight, but through years of research, we’ve learned the national average for a flight of four, is between $8-$12.

Smart Flights

Smart flights are what we do at FliteBrite and the era of a more engaging beer flight is now. Shoot us a quick email and we’ll hook you up with a free trial paddle!

Custom Glassware

Yes, if your beer flight glasses are custom and cool, some will get stolen. The thing is, we can make these very inexpensive so you can just consider it swag marketing for your customers to enjoy your sweet looking beer flight glass at home. We can even help design your flight glassware to look perfect in your flight paddles.

Fun Facts

It can be a nice conversation starter when you know a little extra about each brew. Pair your beer with intention and offer fun facts as you deliver the beer flight. Where it’s made, hop selection and other interesting ingredients are a great place to start.

You already know serving beer samples can take a bit of extra time, but if you and your team spend the time to serve beer flights wisely, you can easily boost your customer’s experience while adding a valuable revenue channel into your overall menu. Along with the fun of showcasing a well-paired beer flight and inspiring more informed customers, you’re making money on fractional pours and it creates a great environment for all to enjoy.

Make your awesome beers look awesome!

Think how much time you put into making your beers and building your brand. We know you take pride in every aspect of your craft, so complete your taproom experience and make people remember you by serving a beer flight that looks so amazing that everyone will want to order your beer flight experience again and again!

Ready to Rock?

If you’re looking for ideas to make your beer flight truly stand out, we can help. Let’s bring your first 10 smart beer flights online and make your brewery or restaurant the talk of the town this year!

FliteBrite is proud to announce that we earned top prize at the TS Bank REV business pitch competition!


FliteBrite at REV 2016

As part of a TS Bank’s community reinvestment initiative, this second annual event brought entrepreneurs together to compete for a share of $27,500. After moving through the preliminary round, our team was selected as a finalist in this Shark Tank-like competition.

We arrived at the event and really enjoyed meeting startup community builders from Omaha and Council Bluffs. Under the bright lights, Ben, Ethan and Sinclair presented a 5 minute pitch and then answered questions from a panel of four judges on stage.

It was challenging to share all that we’ve been building in such a concise way, but everyone clearly understood the opportunity that smart beer flights provide beer-loving consumers and the craft beer industry as a whole. Here are the results!

FliteBrite – $10,000
Lien Waivers – $10,000
Terva – $5,000
Wicked Apples – $2,500

Once again, congratulations to all the finalists. Our team truly appreciates the top prize of $10,000, but also how this type of community-driven event supports the startup ecosystem overall. Special thanks to TS Bank, Revela, Startup Omaha and all the partners who gave us a meaningful boost as we prepare to deliver our first round of nationwide pre-orders this month. Cheers!

TS Bank - REV 2016

What do you say about this guy?
Ben McDougal is a leader on the FliteBrite team who is tapped into the community and felt the problem we’re solving with smart beer flights first.

theteam-featuredphoto-benWith a computer science in hand, Ben considered California before returning to Iowa to build the Internet back in 2004. He conceptualized websites and built online visibility for other business owners and did so for 10 years before retiring from web development. He then joined a progressive Des Moines home builder to build his own marketing and innovation position. He enjoys the team and digital marketing work in residential construction, but he’s also blessed with the freedom for “BENovator” to build communities. Within the Iowa startup ecosystem, his organizing efforts for 1 Million Cups Des Moines and dmStartupDrinks takes a special energy, but Ben is always ready for the next adventure.

With his conscious effort to build innovation that works within a market that’s meaningful, Ben McDougal has also fueled an entire entrepreneurial side to his career. Yes…there’s way more!

Ready? Here’s the weird part of Ben that makes him interestingly awesome.

Starting with a 3v3 soccer tournament way back in the day, Ben would build and then sell that business after 2 years. One of the main reasons was that Jet Set Studio went online in 2007. For almost 10 years now, Ben has built friends, community, a video game social network, a video game tournament search engine and interactive gaming events throughout North America. eSports, Guitar Hero, Halo, Madden, Call of Duty and the magnetism of video games overall, has combined to create a crazy ride for Ben and his creative work through Jet Set Studio. In fact, it’s super cool that we’ll have a little video game aspect at our big FliteBrite booth we’re about to announce for the 2017 Craft Brewers Conference in DC!

Ben wants to change the world and loves the adventures in life. He also enjoys golf, Seth Godin, audiobooks, capturing electronic music, travel, tech, the art of the pitch, wine, craft beer, photography, accelerating others and spending time with his wife and new baby girl.

Ben McDougal

So now that you understand this guy a bit more, imagine if he was to invent and passionately build something like FliteBrite!

Ben is our community builder at FliteBrite. He’s the social media, website building, search engine optimizing, storytelling, brand developing assassin on our team. He’s basically the nerd you need to know and he said that he hopes you’ll connect with FliteBrite on Instagram, haha!

Ben keeps FliteBrite’s fresh ideas flowing, communication rolling, content expanding, sales growing and business building. Big ideas take the next level of innovative effort and this guy unlocks our overall company in a way we’re so excited about. With such an amazing team, Ben, Sinclair, Jake and I have had so much fun building the future of beer flights. We always say the customer discovery has been a blast and we’re excited to now have the only smart beer flights online nationwide.

Ben McDougalWe write all this, but face it. It’s likely you know this guy who’s passion is the art of connection. By bringing great people together for so long, Ben’s engaged network is an entrepreneurial tribe of energized, passionate business owners nationwide. He’s the type of influencer that wants to hear your story and ideas, but FliteBrite and the value of beer flights is his favorite topic, so you can expect at least a short update on these smart flights the next time you connect with him.

Ben McDougal is an idea machine who intelligently builds things that work on a timeline of now.

This company would not be here with out him and I know he believes the age of FliteBrite is now. He’s strategically built our company to support something big and his entrepreneurial leadership is easy to see. He’ll have a beer flight with you anytime and makes it a good time, every time. Thanks for all you do bro!


Smart flights are crazy and you’ll be the talk of the town when you grab your own. Contact us to discuss bringing smart beer flights to your brewery or restaurant. You can also get things rolling here – jump to our order form. Here we go friends!
In collaboration with MBA students at the University of Iowa, we’re using real-world data to quantify the value of smart beer flights.

After a semester of planning, we established a real-world research project that pushed our electronic technology into the wild for the very first time! In collaboration with our friends at Exile Brewing Co., which is a Des Moines-based restaurant, taproom and brewery that distributes craft beer throughout Iowa, we were able to compare one week of “business as usual”, to one full week with smart beer flights online.

Our team and the MBA research team were given full access to financial data and surveys completed by actual customers as they compared beer sales, customer responses, social media activity, staff feedback and overall sales. We began seeing live data flowing into the online dashboard for the first time. It was crazy cool. In fact, if you’re willing to squint, here’s the actual survey! The results were just as tasty.
Beer Flight Surveys

KEY RESULTS:

  • 83% of customers surveyed said they prefer smart beer flights over traditional beer flights.
  • 14% more overall customers took photos of their smart beer flights.
  • 20% more people shared their smart beer flight on Untappd and throughout social media.
  • 93% said our beer flight paddle’s touchscreen was easy to understand.
  • 65% of surveyed customers order beer flights “Every Time” or “Often”.

It’s hard not to notice the intriguing results from this valuable research. The cool part is that there’s even more super interesting data we’re excited to connect you with as you bring smart flights to your brewery, restaurant, taproom or bar. [ORDER NOW!]

It was also absolutely amazing to see live beer flight data flowing into the real-time online dashboard. You can also bet Ben, Ethan and Sinclair enjoyed the craft beer industry’s first smart beer flights served in the wild. Want a fun story? Ask about the Exile’s beer called “Jesus on a Forkilift”…for lunch, haha! One of our favorite quotes came from RJ Tursi, owner of Exile Brewing Co., during the research process as he said:

“People are loving the smart flights, both staff and customers. It’s a kick ass product.”

smart-beer-flights

Along with so much positive feedback, we also identified numerous ways to optimize the overall experience, so we’re proud to share that our team is already working to implement a variety of improvements as we prepare to deliver our first round of pre-orders this Fall!

On behalf of the FliteBrite family, we’d like to thank Kenton, George and James for their commitment to outstanding research. We’d also like to thank Wade Steenhoek and the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business for giving us this opportunity to continue quantifying smart beer flights. Last, but certainly not least, thanks again to RJ and the entire crew at Exile Brewing Co. for being the world’s first establishment to serve a brighter flight of craft beer.

University of Iowa - Tippie College of Business

 

Don’t get left behind.

Contact Us to learn how easy it is to bring smart beer flights to your business!