Why this Columbia brewery has turned to the digital economy.

Something as simple as buying a beer at one Columbia-area brewery could soon help folks get acquainted with the new digital economy.

By the end of the year, Columbia Craft Brewing Co. aims to announce its first release of a non-fungible token (NFT) collection, a launch that will allow beer lovers and consumers in general to own digital assets that will also give them access to special customer experiences at the downtown brewery, according to Andrew Strauss, the brewery's co-owner and business development officer.

Strauss and those working with him on the project realize there is a steep learning curve for many people with this new project, but they're willing to brave the challenge.

In simple terms, NFTs are unique digital assets based on blockchain technology that can't be replaced or exchanged because of their distinctive properties. They're called non-fungible tokens because unlike fungible, or interchangeable, items such as physical or cryptocurrency, NFTs can't be exchanged. Once purchased, they belong exclusively to the owner.

Ownership of the NFT can be verified through the blockchain, which is a decentralized and secure log on the internet.

Up until now, most NFTs have involved digital art, music or games, but the medium is increasingly being used in the business world.

Columbia recently made news in the NFT world in October when a three-bedroom house sold to a real estate investor for $175,000 as an NFT, according to an article in Newsweek. This was the second real estate transaction in the U.S. using the technology, with the first being a Florida home sold earlier in the year.

Many realtors and others online were confused or outraged by the Columbia NFT house sale, claiming that it wasn't valid because no physical deed was signed. Others, however, said the sale represents a new future for real-world assets, and could eventually eliminate much of the paperwork and time involved in the sale of property like real estate and cars.

Strauss hopes the brewery's new venture into NFTs will help to take away the "great unknown" factor many people experience when talking about the new technology.

"We know that NFTs have a bad rap because of some of the experiences people have had with them, but our idea is to put some real utility behind the NFT so that you get something along with your ownership," Strauss said.

Strauss realizes that many people might not know what an NFT or the blockchain is, so he plans to create material available online...

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