When recipe-kit services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron hit the scene a couple of years ago, responses were polarized. Regular home cooks—the type of folks who browse recipe sites and cookbooks for dinner ideas, or who confidently improvise based on the ingredients in their cupboards—didn’t see the point. Why pay a premium for someone to send you precise portions of the ingredients you need for a given recipe? Newbies, on the other hand, embraced the idea: For them, these delivery services made the prospect of cooking dinner a little less daunting.
Now, a company called Kit Lab hopes to do for homebrewers what Hello Fresh did for home cooks. But there’s a sharing-economy twist: The recipes for each homebrew kit are supplied by users, who get a cut of the profits. If you’re an experienced homebrewer, you can upload a recipe for your favorite beer to Kit Lab, and when another user orders a 5-gallon kit, you’ll make $5. Likewise, if you’re a tyro, you can benefit from the expertise of other brewers without having to track down all those hard-to-find ingredients on your own. “I love to try new recipes I find on homebrew forums, but it’s always such a pain to run around town and try to find all the ingredients I need for brew day,” explains Kit Lab founder Ryan Sanders in the video on Kit Lab’s Kickstarter page. “Plus, to add insult to injury, I feel like every time I end up with these small amounts of specialty grain that I just can’t use.”
Of course, there are already sites that sell beer kits, but Kit Lab promises to turn it into something akin to a social network, and to become a go-to resource for unusual beer ingredients. Based on a highly unscientific survey I submitted to my home-brewing colleagues, it seems like the response echoes the split of experienced/inexperienced home cooks with regard to those dinner kits. An accomplished homebrewer seemed skeptical of Kit Lab’s value. “It seems sort of counter to the DIY ethos of homebrewing,” she said. “Also, a lot of secret formula ingredients are quirky and perishable, like fresh hops from the garden or a handful of sour cherries.”
But another colleague who’s been wanting to get more into homebrewing really liked the idea. “I think the main point of providing specific amounts of specialty ingredients sounds super convenient, even living within walking distance of two brew shops,” he said. (He lives in Brooklyn.) If you agree—or if you’d like to make a few bucks on your priced homebrew recipe—you can donate to Kit Lab’s Kickstarter campaign through Saturday, May 2. If the company reaches its funding goal, it plans to open its online marketplace in July.