James Governor's Monkchips

On Craft Beer and Systems Design: startup culture and how to scale

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As you know, we at RedMonk like craft beer. Next week Stephen is running our second Monktoberfest, where craft beer meets craft tech, in Portland Maine. I will run the sister conference Monki Gras in London on January 31st.

There are clear parallels between the craft beer movement and what’s currently happening in tech – startup culture is growing like crazy, in brewing and software. So what’s common between them? In this video I ponder these issues over a pint. Seems appropriate to raise my glass to you all on a Friday afternoon.

Next week IBM PureSystems has a major launch, and IBM is sponsoring this Opinionated Infrastructure series to help foster a conversation behindaround it. So do you think beer and tech infrastructure are related? What can one learn from the other. The Camden Brewery which features in this video is as aggressive as any Silicon Valley startup. The guys at Brewdog also get a mention- they take gonzo marketing to a new level… its a great business, built on the foundations of a really tasty beer – Punk IPA. Craft brewers share yeast (code) and collaborate on product. They compete on implementation, not specification. The parallels work well.

So wait, IBM is sponsoring a video post about beer? Sure – IBM is also the lead sponsor for our developer events. Beer is Social. Tech is Social. IBM is Social. Its all good. I hope you enjoy this video.

Oh yeah one last thing – the launch is the week after next and while I can’t give too much away, but you can expect IBM to do something in the data space. To get your neurons firing about that why not check out yesterday’s video blog How To Not Define Big Data. We will be recording a Google Hangout with practitioners next week on October 3rd.


  1. Both practices are creative at heart. In the 70’s and 80’s in the US almost all beer was adjunt lagers and made in large volumes and as cheaply as possible. For those of us on the East Coast, Coors was a forbidden treat(watch Smokey and the Bandit). Algorithmic beer making is like algorithmic development, big, sterile, and mostly tasteless. No wonder kids in the U.S. were advised to avoid studying CS. It was “all going to India”. Now we are in the midst of a renaissance. Good devs can write their own ticket. Dev unemployment is sub 5% w/ 30% forecast growth in the U.S. by 2020. Brew ales, create hi-performance dev teams, and mix them together liberally.

  2. I see the parallels and I think the analogy is good – the one difference I see is the infrastructure platform. For developers now, there are many different choices for standing up infrastructure cheaply, quickly, and with low risk. My understanding, though, is that the investment for a “production-ready” brew operation is much larger. I know there are opportunities for contract brewing, so perhaps this is craft brew’s equivalent of shared infrastructure.

  3. You can be ready to brew 5 gallon batches for under $100 (I do). It’s like the equivalent of EC2. Unfortunately, you can’t sell it or make more than 200 gallons a year. At least devs can scale on demand and sell our products without the government making it illegal or prohibitively expensive.

    Also, check out the 5 barrel brewing systems at more beer.com. A Dev can dream…

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