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Beer science


(CNN) -- Matt Younkle, president and chief technology officer of Laminar Technologies, got the idea for his company's crowning product, TurboTap, while waiting in a beer line in the summer of 1995 at the University of Wisconsin.

"I was standing in line ... probably about a 15-20 minute line, and just asking the question ... 'Why is this line moving so slowly? [There's] got to be a better way,' " Younkle recalled.

He turned that wait into a concept and entered an invention contest. He won first place and used the $10,000 prize to patent his invention. After a few years of dabbling in other things, Younkle picked his project back up and introduced it as TurboTap, a beer tap that the company says creates a faster, more consistent pour, with less wasted beer.

Bottom's up

While the product looks like a conventional beer tap, it doesn't pour like one.

Younkle says the device has a consistent pour, because from tap to glass, the beer pours from the bottom up -- rather than pouring with the standard tilt -- thereby decreasing the amount of foam.

"So, rather than pouring, injecting the beer in one direction, we're pouring from the bottom up and we're pouring in 360 degrees around, so it's a very smooth, even flow," Younkle said.

The company's Web site touts a pour up to four times faster than a normal tap -- four gallons per minute -- that reduces the wait for a beer, which was Younkle's original goal.

Laminar also promises an increase in beer yield of up to 30 percent, because less of the keg is wasted. That's an attractive feature for restaurant beverage directors like Steven Tindle.

Tindle, who works for Shaw's Crab House in Chicago, first heard about TurboTap in a Chicago newspaper.

He says the device has made a difference in the restaurant.

"[TurboTap] improved our ... yields off our kegs, so therefore we're getting more profit off our...kegs," he said.

'R and D'

It took years of what Younkle calls "R-and-D" -- research and drinking -- before TurboTap hit the market in late 2004.

His first customers were stadiums, including the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field; FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins; and the Chicago White Sox's home, US Cellular Field.

Laminar also has tapped the home beer-drinker market. The company recently began offering kits for kegorators and keg coolers.

TurboTap is making its way into bars and restaurants in the Chicago area, and Younkle plans to expand.

With the completion of some deals in the works, Younkle estimates installation numbers for TurboTap will be around 30,000 this year, a contrast to 2005.

"Last year ... we installed in the neighborhood of three- to four-thousand TurboTaps."

The device has received nods from Popular Science, was winner of the 2005 Chicago Innovation Awards and chosen as one of Time Magazine's most amazing inventions of 2005. But Younkle acknowledges he has competition.

"The products we compete with are stand-alone units and they do some things that TurboTap doesn't do. They may count beers, they may provide additional refrigeration," he says.

But he is focused on developing a faster process to cool beer, expanding internationally, and enjoying the perks of his job.

"We have beer on tap at the office all the time, so ... at the end of a long day, we can kick back and enjoy a cold one and it will be perfectly poured."

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