We’ve been waiting a looong time for in-person beer festivals to return. This made the 2021 Iowa Craft Brew Festival special. Our beer festival app was in full effect (with a few new features!) and the Best of Fest Award was up for grabs. It was great to catch up with so many friends from all around Iowa, while making a bunch of new ones as well.
The Iowa Brewers Guild has traditionally hosted #ICBF in the heart of downtown Des Moines and while the urban vibe was always cool, this year’s shift to a more spacious, natural environment was well-received. The live music was fun too! Below is our festival summary and a few photos to highlight this triumphant return to brewfests.
#BrrrFest was a blast.
We returned to Coralville, Iowa for their 9th annual winter beer festival. Our beer festival app was back in action and easier to manage than ever. Event organizers spent no time herding tigers, yet 100% of the 61 vendors had their BrrFest beer lists looking sharp! This allowed 3,000+ attendees to rate any of the 300 craft beers being poured. In fact, before the doors even opened, 3,323 beers were added to wish lists, which continues to prove our platform builds hype, sells tickets and is appreciated by hop heads planning their own brewfest experience.
Once the doors opened, our team enjoyed sharing stories of our good friend Dan from Firetrucker and celebrating endless good beer with a community of beer lovers and the artists who brew them. Attendees rated more beers than last year’s event and after a tight race that saw beers going up and down the leaderboard, the Iowa Brewers Guild was proud to deliver our Best of Fest Award to Big Grove Brewery. Here’s the milestone moment and a few words from our winners on video, as well as, our full 2020 festival summary and highlight photos. Cheers!
Here’s how it all went down. As our beer flight app was being piloted at local restaurants, breweries and bars, our team collaborated with the Iowa Brewers Guild to use our evolving smart flight platform to connect beer-loving attendees with their tasting experience at live events nationwide. Feature ideas have now evolved into reality and we’re thrilled to announce the unveiling of our brand new beer event app at The 2018 Iowa Craft Brew Festival!
“It’s been such a pleasure collaborating with so many industry allies throughout Iowa and this partnership with the Iowa Brewers Guild is special. Together, we’ve build a fun way for thirsty attendees to enjoy, track, rate and share their favorite beers at this year’s Iowa Craft Brew Festival!” -Ben McDougal
Here are key features attendees will enjoy:
Special thanks to J. Wilson, Kelsey Seay and the Bens on our own team. Together, we’ve built something event organizers, vendors and attendees will all appreciate! We look forward to seeing everyone at the Iowa Craft Brew Festival and we hope everyone has fun drinking, tracking, rating and sharing your favorite craft beers. Cheers 🍻
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
After 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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
You heard it here first.
Inside 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!
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.
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!
With 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 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.
We 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!
The FliteBrite team revealed smart beer flights to a packed house at 1 Million Cups in Des Moines, Iowa. Enjoy the epic experience for yourself, as Ben McDougal, Ethan Davidson and Ben Sinclair share a concise presentation that features all three of our co-founders on stage.
The audience came to life as they listened how FliteBrite provides a more engaging beer flight for breweries and restaurants nationwide. With so many engaging features, FliteBrite truly does offer educational entertainment that brews a more loyal customer and it was awesome to finally share what FliteBrite is all about!
The 30-min. community Q&A is not included in the pitch video, but the caffeinated crowd had a huge response with great questions and anticipation for FliteBrite. The team did an awesome job introducing this news that the craft beer world would soon be enjoying brighter beer flights!
Check out more photos from this special 1 Million Cups event and thanks again to the Des Moines community for all the support and this amazing opportunity. Cheers!
Ben Sinclair, known on our team just as Sinclair, is the magician behind what makes FliteBrite the smartest way to serve beer flights.
Sinclair has always been into electronics. Sinclair was there when the web first appeared, and has been building the Internet even since. As mobile apps started taking over, Sinclair began creating fun things that brought your smartphone to life. Uppward was an app that allowed you to connect with fellow flyers on the airplane and then came Offspring, a micronetworking app for families to share memorable moments. He would eventually help launch Shift Interactive into a progressive web and mobile app development firm in Iowa, before making a move that would lead him to join the co-founding team at FliteBrite.
Sinclair has been a master at software development since the beginning of time on the Internet, but deep down, he had always wanted to tap into his interests in electronic engineering. FliteBrite’s beautiful balance between intuitive software and interactive hardware was a perfect fit! FliteBrite truly came to life when Sinclair blended his tech-savvy skills with the innovative mind of Ben McDougal and the manufacturing expertise of Ethan Davidson.
You’ve seen our smart beer flight experience, right?
FliteBrite’s interactive touchscreen adds entertaining education to craft beer flights and Sinclair has been the in-house magician behind it all. Sinclair’s sharp focus on optimizing FliteBrite’s user interface and electronic engineering truly puts the “smart” in Smart Flights! His handy work allows our electronic serving system to be ultra fast, easy for anyone and super durable with outstanding battery life.
Along with building so many awesome features and optimizing the FliteBrite platform overall, Sinclair used his wizardry to build FliteBrite’s awesome online dashboard. Whether it’s single-click menu management fueled by Untappd, tracking valuable flight and customer data or slick social sharing tools that tap into the natural virality of the taproom experience, Sinclair has built a powerful platform that allows our customers to unlock a new level of customer connectivity.
Like the rest of the FliteBrite crew, Sinclair is a sharp entrepreneur with tons of interesting hobbies. Besides enjoying a pint of craft beer, Sinclair digs being a Dad, astronomy, fine dining, ham radio, all things Apple, backpacking and the occasional Miami Vice. As our Chief Social Officer, Sinclair keeps our team fresh with good times and tons of laughs.
Sinclair makes FliteBrite special and we’re lucky to have him on our team. His crazy smart development effort has fueled our efforts to provide a new level of entertaining education at breweries, bars, brew pubs and restaurants nationwide.