Pando

Fizzics, a gadget that makes bottled and canned beer taste like draft brews, is the ultimate "dad startup"

By David Holmes , written on May 5, 2015

From The News Desk

When I first heard the idea for Fizzics, I was fairly certain it was either a lie or a joke.

It had all the trademarks of what Pando alum James Robinson would have called a "scampaign." It makes an unlikely claim -- in Fizzics' case, that it can make any bottle, can, or growler of beer taste like it was just poured from a tap at a bar. The device itself is made of 3D-printed material -- you see it's always smart to incorporate buzzwords and hot design trends into your fake product to lend it the shine of modernity, relevance, and faux-newsworthiness. And finally, Fizzics' product is hosted by Indiegogo -- and when you just have to scam as many people on the planet without ever running afoul of a site's terms of use, accept no substitute.

And so I had to try Fizzics out for myself. If it was real, then great. Maybe I'd write about it. I like beer and I bet a lot of our readers do too. And if it was a scam, then I'd definitely write about it as yet another piece of Indiegogo's habitual complicity in screwing over the backers of fake products. One could argue that anyone willing to believe the outrageous claims of a company like the fake calorie counting device Healbe deserves to lose their shirt. But then what good is a company like Indiegogo with tens of millions in venture funding if it can't assume some level of responsibility for the veracity of its campaigns?

Luckily for Fizzics, the story I'm telling is the former: The company's drafty sudsification technology is not only a real product -- unlike so many other pieces of "vaporware" on crowdfunding -- it also just plain "works," turning bottled beer into something much foamier, creamier, and even a little more aromatic. I only wonder, however, whether consumers will really want that particularly sensual experience with every brewsky they throw back.

Last Friday at the Bushwick watering hole/coffee shop Cobra Club, I met Fizzics' founders Philip Petracca and Roger An, two amiable dad-looking fellows whose knowledge and passion for beer was sincere and comforting in a fatherly sort of way. They brought with them some bottles of Brooklyn Lager, which was good luck because the bar had that same variety of beer on tap so I could make a fair comparison between the draft version I ordered from the bartender and the ersatz "draft" created by attaching the open full bottle to Petracca's and An's device, which is about the size and weight of Sodastream's at-home fizzy beverage maker. The version made up for me by Petracca, a bald, healthily built CPO at the iris-based authentication company EyeLock -- and the more garrulous of the two founders -- had about three of four inches of foam, which is much more than what you get from a bottle of Brooklyn Lager or even the proper draft the bartender handed me. This gave the beverage a creamy taste not unlike what a beer like Guinness offers when served on tap. This in turn leads to what Petracca calls a unique "mouthfeel," one that is pleasant, though one that's not usually associated with beers like Brooklyn Lager. The proof, Petracca says, can be seen not just in the thick layer of foam, but in the way the foam sticks to the side of the glass, not unlike the way in which wine has "legs" that leave marks on the glass as well.

See the lacing on side of the glass?" Petracca asks. "That's a distinct attribute of high quality. We can't turn a Budweiser into a craft beer. But we can make it better."

That difference in texture is the biggest differentiator that Fizzics provides. The foam also carries with it flavor and aromatic properties so there is a very subtle enhancement of taste over the proper Brooklyn draft -- though to be honest that could be less owing to the foam and more owing to the taste of the bar tap itself which, depending on how often it's cleaned, can lend a not-exactly-pleasant metallic taste that obscures a beer's natural flavors. This is why Fizzics' pitch emphasizes that its faux-drafts are in fact superior to a real draft you get at a bar.

The question is, at $99, will consumers want something that drastically changes the taste of their beer, even if in the minds of Fizzics' founders it's for the better? On one hand, the device is part of a growing FOGO movement -- or "Fear of Going Out." Why spend $6 to $10 on draft beers at a crowded bar when you can buy a six pack, run them through your Fizzics, and enjoy draft quality beer at home while watching Netflix alone or with your significant other?

On the other hand, that Brooklyn Lager draft? To me it no longer tasted like Brooklyn Lager -- not the way it does out of a glass and not the way it does on draft at a bar or restaurant. And while the creaminess of it was pleasant, when I'm in the mood for that type of beer I'll opt for one that's supposed to taste like that naturally, like Guinness or Murphy's.

Nevertheless, kudos to the Fizzics team for not falsely advertising what their product can or can't do. And I imagine where the sales of their product could really pick up are as gifts -- though not so much for the rising millennial class of beer snobs but more for the casual homebody beer drinker who wants something a little different and fun and unique, but who doesn't care much about authenticity. In other words? Dads. Yes, like Wilco is dad-rock, Fizzics is a true dad-startup -- a trend that, as I reach a certain age myself, I could definitely get onboard with.