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Beer vending machines? Yes, they’re a frosty, sudsy thing

Jay MacDonald

Last week, if you’d told me I could dip my credit card into a vending machine and stroll away with a frosty can of beer, I would have assumed you’d been drinking. But as I write this, my eyes (and mouth) are suddenly agape that a few busy (and thirsty) tech teams have finally made every brew hound’s dream come true.

That’s right: beer vending machines (BVMs), once little more than a pipe dream for thirsty fans, are officially serving up cold ones at concert venues, sports stadiums and other gathering places around the planet. You’ll likely catch them turning up this summer at stadiums and festivals near you.

Beer is cold, and can is opened for you

New York-based BeerBox claims to be first out of the gate, selling 25-ounce brews cooled to 35 degrees Fahrenheit from 150-to-300 can dispensers that elevate and even open your suds for you.

Look for the BeerBox beer vending machine at festivals and concerts.

BeerBox helps reduce long lines.

Why the classy butler move, you ask? Easy: Most venues have open container laws to prevent fans from throwing an unopened beer as a projectile. That said, the upright ceremonial can presentation is pure selfie/Snapchat bait.

BeerBox accepts all major U.S. credit cards and NFC mobile wallets (Apple Pay, Google Wallet, etc.). Average time from tap, swipe or dip to first sip: 45 seconds.

Surprisingly, the major form of payment BeerBox doesn’t accept is that old vending machine standard: cash and coin.

The company’s primary goal in creating BeerBox was to address the long waiting lines for beverage service that not only annoys event fans but often stifles sales. More vending distribution points equals more beers sold and shorter lines for served food and drinks.

“We really focus on eliminating the long lines,” says BeerBox founder Robert Gaafar. “It’s like, do I really want to go get that drink? I might miss the third quarter.”

Prototype beer vending machine checks ID

How do BVMs prevent underage fans from purchasing a cold one? For now, BeerBox keeps the kids at bay by parking a concession worker nearby to ferret out the minors.

Gaafar says vendors may accomplish the same goal by placing BeerBoxes in a contained area where guests have to show their ID.

But recent news from the technology front suggests that identity verification using a blockchain platform may soon make age verification as easy as an NFC tap.

Guests at this year’s Consensus 2018 tech conference in New York witnessed the debut of a blockchain-based identity app produced by the tech company Civic in partnership with Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer.

A mere scan of a QR code with the app at the vending machine’s payment terminal is all that’s needed to prove you’re of legal drinking age and unleash the suds.

“This is the first proper use case for identity on the blockchain,” says Civic founder and CEO Vinny Lingham. “This is a very basic use case, but you can buy a can of beer.”

While blockchain and other technologies will likely have a significant impact on how we pay and whether we meet the age verification test in the future, we all can lift a toast to the pioneers of BVMs for breaking through the roadblocks and shortening our line to the Leinenkugel’s.

See related: With chip-enabled sunglasses, it’s paid with the shades, Gotta run; my pants have discovered eBay, Biometric scanner lets you give the finger to bar tab

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