PicoBrew blindsides Kickstarter backers with surprise stretch goal

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PicoBrew has been around for a while, making beer brewing easy, even for people who don’t know the difference between hops and hops. The company’s current Kickstarter campaign is for the Pico C, a small home brewing appliance to make brewing even easier, using a Nespresso-style cartridge approach to making your own home brews. Today, the company announced a surprise upgrade option to its campaign — a whole new appliance. The PicoStill is a small still to make hard liquor from the beer you made with the Pico C. I’m not sure these types of surprises are a great idea.

On the topic of moonshine, I should point out that the company (wisely) doesn’t suggest you go and brew your own gin right off the bat. “PicoStill can be used to distill hop oil, water, and essential oils. Licensed and properly permitted craft distillers can also use the PicoStill to produce a wide range of alcohols, including vodka, whiskey, bourbon, moonshine, gin, brandies, schnapps and more.” Can you hear the “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” in that sentence, right around where it says “licensed and properly permitted craft distillers”? Yeah, me too.

Anyway. As exciting as it is to spring a whole additional piece of kit on your backers, I’m not going to lie: I really hope that this isn’t the start of a trend. Hardware startups are hard (I should know…), and scaling hardware manufacturing is an art in itself. We’ve seen many of the most popular hardware crowdfunding campaigns crumble under their own weight (ahem, we’re looking at you, Coolest Cooler), not least because they added layers and layers of complexity to a product as so-called “stretch goals.” Adding a whole new piece of equipment to the mix is brave, to put it mildly.

Don’t get me wrong; PicoBrew is an excellent company, and they’ve successfully delivered on promises in the past. There’s nothing that makes me think that it won’t deliver this time, too. I further admit that a $479 brewing machine/still early-bird kit is causing my finger to hover over the “pledge now” button. The thought of having a home brewery and still in my own home is so unbearably cool that I barely know what to do myself. Of course, that’s exactly what marketing is meant to do (It worked! Congratulations.)

Having said that: Surprising backers with major changes halfway through a campaign makes it much harder to do due diligence. Whenever you back a campaign on any crowdfunding campaign, you should ask yourself, “Do the promises a company is making about a product make sense? Do I have faith in their ability to deliver?” The answer to that question could change significantly if the campaign changes the goalposts halfway through, and makes it much harder to be a diligent crowdfunding backer.

PicoStill is available now to Kickstarter backers for $170, or packaged with the Pico Model C for $479. It will retail for $349 when it hits stores later this fall.