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Web application connects home brewers, offers thousands of beer recipes

Brewtoad.com was developed by Minneapolis-based Ackmann & Dickenson and senior software engineer Kyle Kestell


If you're ever walking down North Third Street in downtown Minneapolis on a summer day, don't be surprised if you see employees of Ackmann & Dickenson, an software and web development firm, brewing beer on their office balcony.

"Brewing beer is one of the social aspects of our company," Andy Dickenson, managing partner, says. And while home brewing is a fun pastime for many A&D employees, in 2011, senior software engineer Kyle Kestell worked with A&D to merge the company's passions for beer with business.     

"I had only recently been hired at A&D, and I was working with technology that I didn't have a lot of experience with," Kestell said. "I thought the easiest way to get up to speed would be to build something on my own."

In partnership with A&D, Kestell began developing what today is called Brewtoad: a web application that enables its users to discover, create, and share home brew recipes.

Since it's official web launch in 2012, 45,766 users have signed up to explore the 180,000 recipes in Brewtoad's database, all for free.

"When I first started, I had no intentions of it being what it is today," Kestell said about Brewtoad. "It was just an experiment."

What started as an experiment still continues to evolve. Today, users can clone beer recipes and tweak them to their liking. Brewtoad's beer recipe editor tells users how bitter, what color, and what alcohol percentage the beer will ultimately be, and more.  And the fact that A&D isn't making any money off the product isn't concerning. For Dickenson, helping to develop his employees' ideas is ultimately helping his company.

"We build software for a lot of people, so it's fun to have something for ourselves," Dickenson says. "Brewtoad is a place where we can really demonstrate our expertise." With nearly 50 employees who work to build websites, design and build applications, and help with internet marketing strategies, Brewtoad helps A&D professionals test theories and hone skills.

And whatever the company is doing with Brewtoad is working. Dickenson says that it is a rapidly expanding site. Just last month, Brewtoad garnered more than 740,000 page views and 91,000 unique visits worldwide, showing that the web application has international potential.

"We're capable of turning this into an international application," Dickenson says.

In the next year, A&D is considering adding a paid-for subscription function to the site, though everything that's free now will remain free in the future.

"This is one of a few projects where we've take an internal idea and brought it to life," Dickenson says. "The intent long-term is to add functionality beyond what we have."

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