Beer Science and Board Games

Categories:Brewin' USA, Design Blog
Adam Rehberg

History of Beer

Beer might have the coolest history known dating back to Egypt and Mesopotamia some 6000 to 7000 years ago.  The first beer was likely an accident as the process of fermentation will turn sugars into alcohol in the presence of of Yeast.  There also just happens to be wild yeast that is present in air.  It doesn’t take much circumstance to imagine a harvested crop of grain being rained on and left sunken in a basin and some thirsty fool taking this bowl of fermented sugar water and passing it around the local celebration.  Well maybe it does… but however it happened we’re all thankful it did.  Luckily, the fermentation process in brewing does not produce anything deadly so that local celebration could live another day to tell of their fortunate discovery.

Beer and Board Games

MeepleBeerWhen I started designing board games, I knew that I wanted to make something both hobbyists and newcomers could appreciate.  The choice of a Beer and Brewing themed board game was an easy selection as this is something that both gaming and/or brewing hobbyists and newcomers can easily share a passion for.  To stick to the theme yet keep things high level and approachable, I chose to center the game around Beer and not necessarily the brewing process.  To add tactic and strategy to the game, I included one layer with finer detail and one layer with higher level detail.  The finer detail level is crafting a Beer based on its recipe.  The higher level detail is controlling regional markets in the US based on their beer tastes.  Some of the information will be transformed into a more abstract and simple way to handle this information.

Tactics Layer Always In Focus Strategy Layer

Beer Recipe

and Ingredients

Beer Market Control

 Tactics Layer: Crafting a Brew Using Ingredients

There are four core Ingredients that are used to create every beer:  Barley, Water, Hops, Yeast.  This is according to the Reinheitsgebot, or the “German Beer Purity Law”, which was created in the 1400s but modified in the 1900s to add Yeast to the list.  The reason for the late addition of Yeast was thanks to Mr. Louis Pasteur who discovered the role of microorganisms in fermentation.  In the game Brewin’ USA, Craft Brews are created by fulfilling the Ingredient Recipe on the Beer card where every Beer has Grain, Water, Hops, and Yeast per the German Purity Beer Law.  As with any recipe, quality and quantity of Ingredients as well as the process play large effects to the outcome of the recipe.  To help simplify the brewing process for the sake of game-play and simplicity, I have chosen to use one number to represent an Ingredient’s value.  This can be thought of as an abstraction of Quality and Quantity where an example would be a Pale Ale has a higher amount of Hops versus a Brown Ale while the Brown Ale has typically extracted more coloring from the grain.  Yeast is a little more abstracted by this approach but my simple explanation is that certain beers, a Belgian for example, may require a more complex or higher quality strain of yeast.  There is game-play setup around collecting ingredients to satisfy the recipe of a Beer.

Ingredient Example


An adjunct is a fancy name for something additional in the brewing process such as fruit or coffee.  The game currently allows adding any additive to any beer to augment the value of that Beer.  I have tested the game allowing players to mix additives which adds a certain fun factor but certainly is a slight departure from reality.  I think a way around having too many Coffee Citrus Pumpkin Berry Porters (Gross!) is to enable a bonus if players collect sets of Adjuncts that match.

Focusing on the Beer

I put a lot of thought into the Beer card and wanted to represent authenticity around the passion of a good Craft Beer.  To bring this to life, I chose to bring forward key elements on the Beer card.

Beer KS-01

  • Beer Style:  There are six groupings of Beer Styles represented in Brewin’ USA and these are represented on the Beer card by the Color on the Beer name as well as the Artwork on the card.  I took the liberty to pair some styles together.
    • German Ale
    • German Lager
    • American Lager / Pilsner
    • Pale Ale / IPA
    • Stout / Porter
    • Wheat / Belgian.
  • Beer Relevant Glassware:
    • German Ale = Pint Glass
    • German Lager = Mug or Stein
    • American Lager / Pilsner = Growler (Largest quantity)
    • Pale Ale / IPA = Nonick
    • Stout / Porter = Tulip
    • Wheat = Weizen Glass



  1. Evan AldersonReply
    March 27, 2015 at 11:19 am

    I’m a homebrewer and board gamer myself. I just watched the judging episode on table top death match with your game. It looks great, and I’ll be looking for it for sure soon. I don’t know if you’re looking for outside input or unsolicited advice, but I think a limit on the number of adjuncts, or only certain adjusts are compatible with each other would make for a closer and more interesting game. As well as a means for final round scoring, maybe something like bonus points for all the brews adhering to the reinheitsgebot.
    As i said, if you’re not looking for input feel free to tell me so. If you want to ponder anything of those ideas, also feel free. Like i said, it looks great and I’ll be preordering on my payday anyway.

    • Adam RehbergReply
      March 27, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      Evan – Thanks for the comment! The more input the better. I have actually had a decent amount of input from breweries getting them into the game and going through some beer style / glassware conversations as well as some very helpful info from the guys at Craft Beer Radio Podcast. I love the idea about the reinheitsgebot and I did get rid of the “combining multiple adjuncts” part of the game.

      One thing to note about the TTDM video is the game has changed a decent amount since then based on feedback from gamers. The premise is the same, but I retooled the game to add more strategy and depth via an auction phase versus ingredient collection as well as making bidding money turn into victory points for the end game scoring.

      If you have any more ideas though let me know! There will also be an expansion coming out to kickstarter backers at a certain tier sometime next month.


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