Cambridge Beer Festivals – all the beers…

If you want to know more about the condition of our sample beers at the Cambridge Beer Festival, we have all the data you could want. So what’s the story?

Firstly, you might want to know what the ambient temperatures are in the tent:

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And how that relates to all the beers:

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 16.11.40

Good to see a signficant difference between ambient and the beers!

We’ll put the views for each beer into separate posts, for technical reasons your author doesn’t entirely understand, but relate to inadvertent triggering of The End of Times, apparently.

Beer Festivals: too hot to handle?

Here at Purrmetrix we’ve been getting very interested in beer recently. And not just for the obvious reasons.

Fact is, beer, especially real ale, is a living thing, and sensitive to temperature. Good pubs put effort into making sure their cellars maintain the 11-13°c that is the optimum for keeping cask ales at their best. Organisations like CAMRA and Cask Marque offer training and accreditation, with an annual survey of pubs testing for temperature, taste and aroma.

Is British beer too warm?

Despite this, the old legend that British beer is served warm refuses to die, and in fact might be grounded in some truth. One of the earliest Cask Marque surveys reported more than 2000 pubs serving beer warmer that 13°, with a number consistently producing pints in excess of 20° and in one case even 35°C. Yuck.

Beer this warm not only spoils more quickly but also tends to ‘fob’ or froth, meaning a lot more is wasted. The British Beer and Pub Association estimates that for a 10 tap bar warm cellars can reduce yield and waste up to £14,000 of revenue each year. We’re guessing no landlord wants this to happen and warm beer is more often the result of a hidden problem – hotspots in the cellar, or brewlines run past a fridge outlet. Which is why we’re getting very interested, because one thing we love at Purrmetrix is finding hidden problems, bringing them out into the light, and giving them a good kicking.

Delivering quality at Beer Festivals

Meanwhile, whatever the difficulties in guaranteeing a decent pint in a pub, a different challenge faces the organisers of beer festivals. Beer festivals are enjoying a rennaissance, clocking up audiences of thousands. Imagine the problems a landlord for a large town centre pub with 8 ales on tap faces. Now multiply that by 10, and add in much more limited ability to control the climate and a clientele that really, really cares about quality. Once the sun comes out and your marquee warms up, how are you going to deliver?

Next week we’re going to have a look at this question at the Cambridge Beer Festival, one of the oldest and largest beer festivals in the UK. 200 beers, 60 ciders and Perries. Foreign beers, English wine and even Mead. And also: 50 kittens, sitting on the more popular casks and monitoring their temperature. We’re hoping to break some new ground here – we are measuring the surface temperature of the casks, not their contents, with the aim of gathering enough data to determine the relationship between the two. Other things that interest us: can we alert you, the Beer Festival customer, to ‘low beer’ status on each cask and let you get that critical last pint before it runs out?

So if you’re planning on going to the Beer Festival and want to do a bit of public science, check our data here for a sample of stock and see if you can determine the point at which the beer is getting low. There’s a live feed across the whole site and you can follow us on Twitter for more updates.

What’s the Grand Challenge?

COINS Grand Challenge award for R&D on temperature and HVAC monitoringWe’re very happy to be winners of the COINS Grand Challenge this year for our R&D in HVAC monitoring. If you don’t work in the construction industry you may not know COINS – they are huge supplier of enterprise software to construction companies. And they fund the COINS Foundation which uses enterprise to address issues of social justice.

A fundamental principal of the COINS Foundation is that if you have intellect and ideas they are more powerful when shared. This spirit drives the awards – set up to encourage innovation and big ideas throughout the construction industry they aim to give a leg up to small companies and young people who have big transformative ideas.

Other winning ideas like community led solar desalination and building government schemes to reward the development and construction of green homes – these are the sort of thing that will add technical impetus to the UN’s climate change deal. HVAC is part of this – it’s responsible for more than 5% of energy consumed in western countries and often shockingly badly run.

Preparing for these competitions is often a sweaty, nervous process but it does make you evaluate why you’re doing it. Which is a real benefit. For the pre-startup team sitting in the pub and dreaming of building a great company, finding your big challenge should be easy. Once you’re stuck in the middle of customer feedback, fixing bugs, scratching heads over cashflow projections, it can be less easy to remember why you’re there. That’s the real prize of a well run competition: a chance to get a bit of perspective.

And for us, the Grand Challenge still stands. Looking forward to dealing with it in 2016.

Merry Christmas!

The best type of energy management?

A personal diversion for a minute.

I’ve been full time in PurrMetrix for six months and I’ve learnt a tonne of stuff. And the biggest of these is energy management. My own.

The popular conception of an entrepreneur is a constant manic whirl of energy (with occasional forays into black depression and/or megalomania). Truth is, I think that image hurts business because it makes normal humans like me think a startup is not for mortals.

Until I started to rub shoulders with founders at Business of Software and it became obvious to me that starting a business is a marathon, not a sprint. And I run marathons. I know what it takes – it takes regular, committed, disciplined preparation.

This crops up as a common theme in so many entrepreneurial blogs. From Amy Hoy’s excellent excellent work on bootstrapping at UnicornFree to Steli Efti’s invaluable advice on selling for startups, managing your energy so you can continue to show up every day and lift the bar a little bit higher – that’s what makes the difference.

Lessons learnt in six months of managing my energy:

1) be able to answer the ‘what’s the point’ question. It’s hardly ever: ‘so I can make a pile of money’ because that is more reliably achieved by a career in the Law. Or dentistry.

2) be content with ‘good enough’ knowing that with practise good enough will turn into excellent. See also: this blog

3) learn to dissociate emotional state from actions. Don’t deny your feelings, just don’t let them stop you doing the things you need to do

4) there is no shame in doing things the lazy way if that gets you what you need

If you believe Seth Godin, I’ve got 5.5 more years to go before I know if PurrMetrix will be a success. One thing I do know – no-one ever survives a six year sprint.