New Wilmington-based service would support small batches of experimental beers

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Wilmington Brewing Company's Michelle Savard offers up a 'Midtown Swank.' A new website will help beer aficionados find craft beers like this, while helpers brewers gauge interest and offset costs of new and experimental beers.
Wilmington Brewing Company’s Michelle Savard offers up a ‘Midtown Swank.’ A new website will help beer aficionados find craft beers like this, while helping brewers gauge interest and offset costs of new and experimental beers. (Photo by Benjamin Schachtman)

WILMINGTON – Craft breweries establish themselves in many ways, but frequently it’s with bolder or more experimental beers. That’s the joy of craft beer – it’s also the risk.

Wilmington’s Wide Open Technologies’ new Brewfully website, which launched this week, has a goal to take some of the risk out of the craft beer game, while at the same time helping beer aficionados make their way in an increasingly crowded market.

Here’s how the website works: breweries can register with the site and post potential beer projects. Users log in and can see which of these projects are in their area and, if they like, pre-order them.

The spectacular failure of the Coolest Cooler Kickstarter looms over crowd-funding, but Wide Open Technologies CEO John Cornelius said the project is different than such projects, calling it a “pre-order platform.”

Cornelius said, “I don’t want to call it crowd-funding, because that isn’t really accurate. This isn’t like Kickstarter, in that these are already operating businesses.”

The Brewfully site allows brewers and customers to keep in touch, posting updates even after the project is funded; brewers can let users know when the beer is brewing or being canned, or keep them up to date during longer processes like lagering or barrel-aging. But, if a particular batch of beer ends up not getting made, Cornelius said there will be no risk on the user end.

Wide Open Technologies Rob Brink, designer who worked on Brewfully. Brink said the website was designed to be mobile-friendly and streamlined. (Photo Benjamin Schachtman)
Wide Open Technologies Designer Rob Brink worked on Brewfully. Brink said the website was designed to be mobile-friendly and streamlined. (Photo Benjamin Schachtman)

“We take your credit card number, but only as a placeholder,” he said. “It’s safely encrypted. If for some reason the beer doesn’t get made, you don’t get charged.”

Wide Open Technologies is working with breweries in Ashville and Charlotte, and is also looking at Raleigh. Locally, Cornelius said, “we’ve spoken to pretty much all the brewers in Wilmington, there’s definitely some excitement.”

Brewfully’s first client is the Wilmington Brewing Company. Owners John and Michelle Savard told Port City Daily about the project last week: a barrel-aged raspberry saison released as a limited bottling. It is an eccentric beer, but after one day on Brewfully, the project is 25% funded.

John Savard said a service like Brewfully would be instrumental for a small-to-medium sized brewery looking to put expensive or unique ingredients into a beer.

“This is perfect if I’m planning on something a little out there,” Savard said. “Before I brew something or put it in a barrel, I can know – is anyone interested? Does anybody want to drink an oyster stout? If I make something with some exotic, expensive hop, is anyone besides me interested in that?”

Brewfully users see ongoing projects from local breweries, including a description and updates on status. (Courtesy Brewfully/Wide Open Technologies)
Brewfully users see ongoing projects from local breweries, including a description and updates on status. (Courtesy of Brewfully/Wide Open Technologies)

Because Wide Open Technologies only handles the pre-payment and does not ship any beer, it has managed to avoid any complications with the North Carolina Alcohol Beverage Control boards. Cornelius says users will have to physically go and pick up their beer, but considers it added benefit of the service.

“It’s part of why we wanted to focus on local breweries,” said Cornelius. “It’s the community part of craft brewing. More and more breweries are organizing social events, release parties and pick-up parties [for new batches of beer]. We think this will be a helpful part of that.”

Wilmington Brewing Company’s Savard echoed that sentiment, “that’s the kind of connection you want with your local brewery. You’re not going to have that with a big brewery.”

The Brewfully site is live now, with Wilmington Brewing Company’s “Goblin Queen” as their first project.

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