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Omahans invented a claw machine for beer

Omahans invented a claw machine for beer

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Friends JR Bryant and Ryan Schwarz had long been “lonesome dreamers,” searching for that big idea, that thing the world never knew it always needed.

They bounced ideas off one another and their respective wives for years, but it was Schwarz’ wife Laura who -- after hearing so many bad ideas -- came up with the good one. While watching her kids play at a claw machine, she wondered, Wouldn’t it be fun if an adult could play this for something they wanted?

And thus, the Brew Buck’it, a claw machine filled with beer, was born.

Technically, the Brew Buck’it uses a magnetic hand instead of a claw, and the beer is symbolic. For a buck per play, players can try to grab an empty beer bottle with the magnet. If they nab a bottle, they can take it to the bartender and redeem a beer of the bar’s choosing.

The first and only machine is outside the Old Mattress Factory, 501 N. 13th St., and will stay there during the College World Series. Bryant said they’re hoping to soon sell Brew Buck’its to bars in the metro area and elsewhere.

“The biggest dream is to sell the concept exclusively to a beer manufacturer,” Bryant said. But for now he’d be thrilled to see the Brew Buck’it in as many bars as possible.

In the meantime, Bryant and his partners still have their day jobs: Bryant’s a sales manager at Midwest Office Automations; the Schwarzes are real estate agents; and Jeff Douglas, a recently added fourth partner, works for the Nebraska Furniture Mart.

The idea for the Brew Buck’it came in a flash, but getting the thing made and then perfected took a few years. Once they found there was no patent on such a device, Bryant and the Schwarzes flew to Florida and met with an engineer to develop their bottle-plucking magnet hand.

Hand assembled, they built a series of prototype games to be used at various area bars, including The Loose Moose, IceHouse Sports Bar and Barry’s and Downtown Bar in Lincoln.

“We wanted to see if there was a demand for them,” Bryant said. “And there was a demand right away.”

Each machine brought in about $400 a week, he said. And the prototype at the Old Mattress Factory during last year’s CWS did even better, getting about 400 plays a night. The CWS prototype was literally played to death, its corpse now sitting in Bryant’s garage.

After getting the patent for the Brew Buck’it approved, the inventors partnered with a New Jersey-based manufacturer Coast to Coast Entertainment, who re-engineered the original design. Coast to Coast made the machine now at the Old Mattress Factory and will make all future Brew Buck'its.

The new and final model is made of sturdier stuff than the prototype. It could survive popularity.

Contact the writer:

micah.mertes@owh.com, 402-444-3182

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