Innis & Gunn serve virtual reality with beer

Independent Scottish brewer Innis & Gunn is serving virtual reality along with its beer in an experiment being rolled out in more than 50 pubs across the UK.

Scottish craft brewer Innis & Gunn launches Imersive and Gunn, a Virtual Reality experience that changes how you taste beer.

Scottish craft brewer Innis & Gunn launches Imersive and Gunn, a Virtual Reality experience that changes how you taste beer.

The brewery is the first to combine beer with virtual reality, giving customers the chance to drink two of its best-selling beers – original and lager – while wearing a VR headset that transports them to VR Scottish landscapes to see how it alters the way people taste the beer.

The brewery worked with cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Jacob Jolij, an expert on how brains creates experiences, and developed two short films to complement each beer and impact the taste perception. The lager is accompanied by a short film set along the craggy cliffs and rolling sands of the coast of Dunbar and Galloway, while the original whisky cask-aged beer is heightened by a film of dense pine forests, rolling barley fields and still lochs.

“Through immersing the drinker in this world, and igniting the additional sight and sound senses, the taste of the beers will be heightened and a whole new realm of beer drinking unlocked,” the company said.

Speaking to db at the launch of the event, founder and master brewer Dougal Gunn Sharp said the company had wanted to investigate how it would be possible to bring beer and VR together and demonstrate how people perceive beer when they are in a different, virtual setting, and deprived of the setting they are expecting.

“The VR changes the way you perceive the beer and how you taste it,” he said. “A taste experience is not just a matter of chemistry and biology. Whenever you take a sip of your favourite beer you do not just taste the water, the grains, and the hops, but your brain adds in your previous memories, surroundings, and expectations.”

Innis & Gunn is also selling the cardboard VR viewers for £5 via their website and releasing the films on Youtube for customers to download onto their phones and view with the beers at home.

Sharp said the move would help created a new conversation around craft beer. “We are really interested to find out what people’s experiences are and get them talking about it,” he added.

Innis & GUnn

Innovation boost

The company is set to develop is range of seasonal beers over the next year having acquired a new brewery at Inveralmond in April, funded by its BeerBond crowd-funding scheme.

The Inveralmond brewery has recently installed the ‘Oakerator’ – a special percolator which uses  whisky soaked oak chips to speed up the process of oak-aging its Original beers and thereby increase production. This is part of a three-year plan to scale up production and treble its existing output, the team said.

But Gunn Sharp said that while increased production was one strand of the process, the bigger plan was to boost its ability to develop new beers and use the brewery as an innovation hub.

“It’s about flexibility rather than pure numbers,” he said. “We have an incredibly passionate team and it is like being in a test-kitchen, which the Inveralmond team help to translate from [test] concepts into products.”

“The by-line for us is innovation. We’ve been innovating from the start, with our cask-aged beer, spreadable beer and now VR. We have a lot of things in the pipeline and a very ambitious plan for developing the business, but it all comes back to the beers.”

Expansion plans

The company is also looking to boost its number of The Beer Kitchen bars – currently it has them in Edinburgh and Dundee – and plans to roll these out across cites in the UK as well as internationally, when suitable sites can be found. It has big export market to Canada, Switzerland and the USA, Gunn Sharp added.

As well as acting as a “fantastic vehicle” for the brand – “People can be fully immersed in the experience,” he noted – the bars also act as a test-bed for trialling new products.

The brewery is currently actively investigating how to fund the next phase of its expansion.

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