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A Beer & Tech Pairing Guide: Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality Series

Michelle Ross

Welcome back to our AR vs. VR series, but first, please cleanse your palate as we hop into the beer world. The key to success regardless of your industry is to stay relevant, and the alcohol industry has leaned on emerging technology to be heard, or in this case, to be seen through immersive reality. Check out our previous post on interactive wine labels here. Although breweries’ attempts to blend augmented reality (AR) into their labeling/packaging pale in comparison to wineries, they have really pulled into the virtual reality (VR) space with some crafty experiences. In this batch, we’re looking at the different ways breweries use immersive reality and critique their effectiveness. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beer holder, so try some of these experiences for yourselves. 

If you’d like to see our past articles pitting AR vs. VR, check out our language post here and our home improvement post here

Ready for beer? Let’s hit the taps.

Augmented Reality

Interactive labels are in. We’ve hit on the subject before, so here we’re looking at some new ways that augmented labels are doing more than just entertaining. Kill two beers with one stone, that’s the saying, right? Devil’s Backbone entertains and educates. Stella Artois entertains and provides directions. Angry Orchard entertains and pairs food with cider (nonbeer exception). By downloading their respective apps, you can hold up your phone to the packaging, the labeling, or right on the street you’re standing on to see pips appear in your screen’s field of view. Below, we take a closer look at how these three companies use AR to reimagine drinking.

Virginia Is for AR Lovers.

Devil’s Backbone

Shout out to fellow Virginians and AR innovators! Devil’s Backbone, a brewing company in central Virginia, revamped their packaging with AR last year for their Vienna Lager, Gold Leaf Lager, and Striped Bass Pale Ale. When holding up your phone to the cardboard packaging, you will either see a bass who sings about oyster restoration and keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean (Striped Bass Pale Ale), a barn swallow swooping around Virginia and Austria (Vienna Lager), or a dog...being a dog (Gold Leaf Lager). Since Ario is based in the Tidewater region of Virginia, we have a soft spot for the pale ale that educates beer drinkers on saving our bay.

Hey Stelllaaaaa!

Stella Artois

For over a decade, Stella Artois has harnessed AR in several different ways. All the way back in 2009, they used AR in a Christmas card campaign called ‘Send a Card, Save a Tree’ to raise funds in order to protect the livelihood of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. That same year, they debuted ‘La Bar Guide,’ where you could hold your phone up to a street and watch pips populate the screen that told which bars have Stella Artois. In 2019 at the Cape Town Festival of Beer, you could hold your phone up to the Stella logo at the booth and watch a film. Hey Stella, what’s up next for 2020?

P.S. If you didn’t get the “Hey Stella!” reference, check out this iconic clip from A Streetcar Named Desire.

Okay, Okay, This Isn’t Beer.

Angry Orchard

It’s obviously cider, but they’re owned by Samuel Adams Boston Brewery so we’re going to make an exception. Angry Orchard’s app pairs cider flavors with specific foods. Ryan Burk, the head cider maker of Angry Orchard, will appear on your screen while he’s dining in an apple orchard at a table stacked with decadent food and an ice bucket full of ciders. Once you get past hating Ryan Burk just a little because you wish you could trade places, Ryan will give you some food pairing suggestions to make your life as mouth watering as his.


To check out their video by going to their page here.

Virtual Reality

Breweries with tasting rooms have been popping up one block after another during this past decade. The older breweries have to find fresh and innovative ways to compete with all these up-and-coming breweries so many have taken to virtual reality to showcase their beers and facilities. The virtual tour experiences can be viewed on YouTube where you can pan around the video with your cursor to view the 360 degree film, or if you have a personal headset like the Oculus Rift, you can try out an even more immersive experience. Take a look at how Innis & Gunn, Deschutes Brewery, and Brooklyn Brewery brought their landscapes and brewhouses to you.

What They’re Calling Beer Goggles 4.0.

Innis & Gunn

The Scottish craft brewers Innis & Gunn have created an experience called ‘Immersive & Gunn’ where taste testers can sample beer while wearing headsets. You will be flown across Scottish landscapes that inspired their beers to make certain flavors pop and change the way we think about taste. Once helmeted, you will be transported across Scottish landscapes complimenting respective beer flavors to amplify or alter taste perceptions. Originally you had to go to the brew house, but now you can walk into certain pubs in the U.K., order a beer and get a headset to wear while you drink. Yes, you have to return it, and while it caught our attention, it hasn’t been well received by everyone. Matt Allyn from Men’s Journal wrote, “and while the technology and effort is impressive, it seems to us like a great way to ruin a good time at the bar.” What do you think?

Oregon Trailing for Adults.

Deschutes Brewery

Deschutes Brewery, named after the Deschutes River in the Pacific Northwest, has created three virtual tour experiences corresponding to three different beers. Two of their main beers are named after Oregon landmarks, a porter called Black Butte and a pale ale named Mirror Pond. The third beer is a seasonal pale ale called Hop Trip. The videos below are 360 degree films, so don't forget to use the navigation icon to pan around the video and see all the views. If you have a VR headset, now is the time to grab it and check out these experiences in VR.

The Hop Trip Virtual Tour transports you to Sodbuster Farms in the Willamette Valley where hops are picked and then back to their brewery where hops are thrown in the kettle.

The Mirror Pond Virtual Tour takes you to the quiet impoundment of Deschutes River that’s saddled by a wood walking bridge and tucked in a vibrant forest.

The Black Butte Virtual Tour takes you to the extinct volcano that is engulfed by forest, wildlife, and springs. 

Did He Just Say Smellovision?

Brooklyn Brewery

Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster for Brooklyn Brewery, takes you on a 360 degree tour of the brewery and tasting room in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You begin standing on Wythe Avenue as you are welcomed to the neighborhood, then quickly swooped into the brewhouse, cellar, boiler room, barrel library and more as Oliver gives a humours guided tour. Wait for him to drop the word smellovision. Sure, a brewery tour is a brewery tour, and they all begin to look the same if you’re an avid beer taster, but let us tell you, Oliver’s narration makes this well worth the watch. Again, don't forget to use the navigation icon to pan around the video and check out all angles.

AR vs. VR: Which method is winning?

Since we are using multiple examples of companies using AR and VR in various contexts and time periods, we can’t quite use data such as sales, costs, and ratings. So, we are just going to examine how they stack up in news media such as newspapers, blogs, and magazines. 

If you google ‘augmented reality’ and ‘beer,’ several articles pop up from big name beer publications such as Brewbound to alcohol beverage publications like The Drink Business to tech news sites such as GeekWire. The articles are either unbiased or in favor. No negative press yet. Now, if you google ‘virtual reality’ and ‘beer,’ it’s a different story. The reviews are mixed. Men’s Journal headlines with “Today’s Beer Atrocity: Bringing Brews to Virtual Reality,” but when Vice is asked if VR while drinking is effective, they write, “Does it work? Astoundingly yes.” 

It’s incredibly subjective, and we feel stumped on a decision. So...we have to call this one a tie for now and see how this emerging technology plays out in the industry. 

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