This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
To get a perfect glass of beer, you apparently don't start at the top but at the bottom.A newfangled beer dispenser at this year's Utah Arts Festival fills liquid gold from the bottom of the cup in just a few seconds, quenching a thirsty crowd in only a fraction of the time. It also curbs the possibility of a big head and the wasteful foam that normally would be dumped out of the side of the glass during the pour.GrinON Industries, the Montesano, Wash., company that invented the Bottoms Up beer dispenser, claims it has filled 62 cups of beer with the machine in one minute.General Distributing, a Salt Lake City beverage distributor, is the only company in Utah to have the machine, which looks like the top of a metallic stove with either two or four valves that stick up. In addition to this week's arts festival, which begins Thursday, the Bottoms Up has recently been demonstrated during two Real Salt Lake soccer games at Rio Tinto Stadium."I will always look into the cutting edge of this stuff, and this is one that actually works," said Jay Benard, who manages the draft department at General Distributing.At first, the core idea of this unique beverage dispenser might seem crazy: You use cups that have a hole in the bottom. But around the hole is a metallic ring on the cup. A round, bendable magnet - exactly like a refrigerator magnet and about the size of a silver dollar (which they claim is too big to accidentally swallow) - covers the hole.You place the cup over one of the valves, which pushes the magnet up. That causes beer to shoot up into cup until it's filled, and the valve automatically shuts off. When you pull the cup off, the magnet seals the hole with no leakage."I had to scoot people out of the way to sell others a beer because people wanted to see it, they thought it was so cool," said Rob Hammer, a senior draft technician for General Distributing who first tried it at Rio Tinto.The idea for Bottoms Up came to inventor and Grin ON president Josh Springer while he was daydreaming at his father's birthday party in 2008."I saw a pitcher of beer filling up at the bottom. It just popped into my head," he said. "The conversation at the table earlier was how much beer is wasted on service. Then it literally hit me like a lightning bolt."Everybody looked at me like I was crazy except my dad," he added. "He said, 'That's cool, but I don't think you can do it.' So the challenge was set, and four days later I had a working prototype."Factors like temperature change and an inexperienced bartender can lead to a pitcher or cup of beer that's full of foam, Springer added. Benard estimates a dozen or so pints of beer are wasted every half-keg by bartenders pouring out excess foam.The Bottoms Up dispenser can produce a cup with virtually no foam. But for those beer lovers who like a nice head for the aroma, Springer is working on a version in which the level of foam can be adjustable, as well as one for sodas. He's also working on a line of glassware and pitchers to work with the system, and he's developing a kind of cup with a raised bottom so you won't accidentally poke your finger through the hole (and because a lot of jokesters like to poke the hole while a friend is drinking, he said).Lovers of artisan beers probably needn't worry about the magnets and metal ring affecting the taste, according to one beer aficionado."I don't think it would affect the taste of the beer at all," said Mike Riedel of Farmington, who runs the Utah Beer Blog at utahbeer.blogspot.com. "Besides, the type of beer you're looking at [to use the Bottoms Up] is for the most part not a high-quality, quaffable type of beer. You're looking at more of a 'lawn mower' beer."The downside to the Bottoms Up idea is the cost. The dispenser alone, which doesn't include normal hoses or a carbon-dioxide tank and refrigeration unit, costs as much as $3,400 for a four-valve system. Then there are the plastic cups, which are specially made only by GrinON. While they are normal plastic cups with a hole in the bottom and the magnets, they can cost as much as 75 cents per cup vs. about 13 cents for a normal cup.To help offset the cost, Springer's friend came up with the idea of adding advertisements to the magnets, and people have begun to collect them as refrigerator magnets, he said. Anheuser-Busch has already signed on.He has since sold more than 300 dispensers all over the world, including Belgium, Brazil and Mexico."We concentrated on stadiums. But to date every type of venue has purchased them, all the way from a restaurant to bars to a traditional Irish pub," Springer said. "That was a big win for me because it's not traditional to have an Irish pub have a Bottoms Up beer dispenser. That's pretty cool."
To see the dispenser in action, check out http://bottomsupbeer.com/videos.htm