Originally Posted by Mongrel
Not even comparable. Show me a home system where you can select your current brew on your laptop, and the grain starts moving from the silo...
I've had a few chances to look into the computer system at Deschutes, last night being the most recent. It's part of the scale of things. There are only a couple of valves the brewer has to open by hand, and they still have to do their kettle salt and hop additions when the computer tells them it's time.
I've been to New Glarus - their new brewhouse is pretty much fully automated.
If you didn't mind spending the money, there's no reason you couldn't put ridiculous levels of automation in at home. The PLC software that runs my plant is all Windows-based. I sit across the hall from the automation guy at my cheese plant, and he's shown that anything is possible with money and time. I could probably go to my company's idle assets warehouse and scrounge enough stuff to make a bonafide commercial micro-brewery, no problem. With a few silos or supersack of grain, rotary valves, some automated scales, and a pneumatic convey system, automated malt delivery to a mill and then into a mash tun would be easy compared to the stuff we do.
Good practices, good people, and good ingredients = good products. Add automation, and you've got good products in mass quantities - but only if you still use good practices, people, and ingredients. I'll put our regular cream cheese up against anyone's (and we routinely do in competition), even if we are churning out tens of tons every hour (a light day of production requires the milk from 10-20,000 cows). All of the milk is locally sourced, yada yada yada.
Even with all of the automation, the human touch is still in play. Automation just makes it easier. It's fine to dislike SABMiller, AB/Inbev, and the others because you don't like the beer they make, but just saying that bigger = badder is arrogant at best.