Sometimes the sharks in the Shark Tank get it wrong.
I know that's hard to hear—believe me, it was a tough realization for me, too. Take, for instance, the Fizzics Waytap (MSRP $129.99). Essentially, the Fizzics Waytap is a pod/cartridge-free system designed to pour the liquid in a bottle or can of beer in a way that mimics the pour you get when you order a draft beer at a pub.
The Fizzics team introduced a bigger, more expensive version of the appliance to the sharks a couple years ago:
Cheers, fellas! You've just walked away with a $2 million investment from Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner in exchange for a 16.7% stake in your company!
The slimmed-down Fizzics Waytap hit Brookstone shelves faster than you can say "Kickstarted," and when one of these contraptions just sorta showed up at our office one day, we decided to put it to the test.
How does it work, exactly?
The Waytap costs about $130 and is compatible with 12- to 25-ounce cans and bottles. If the slimmer Waytap is too small for you, the larger Fizzics system can house 32- and 64-ounce growlers in addition to standard-sized cans and bottles, but it'll set you back somewhere between $150 and $180, depending on where you buy it.
You can check out a nifty, animated demonstration of how the Waytap works here, but here's the gist of it:
1. Load the Waytap with four AA-sized batteries.
2. Open the hood and slip in a bottle or can of beer, making sure that the tube inside Waytap finds its way into said bottle or can.
3. Secure the hood, position your glass at a 45°-angle in front of the spout, and pull the tap handle forward.
4. Once the glass is about 2/3 full, transition from pulling the tap handle forward to pushing it away from you.
5. Pushing the tap handle backwards will fill the remainder of the glass with a thick, foamy head, which allegedly is the product of agitating sound waves created inside the tap.
6. Have a nice, cold pint and wait for all this to blow over.
Say, isn't that a ton of effort to pour a single beer?
And that's the first problem with the Fizzics Waytap—it takes a fair amount of work to pour your beer.
In addition to opening it, closing it, pouring the beer, and then opening it again to remove the empty can or bottle, you'll need to clean it if you want to switch from one style of beer to the next. That is, unless you don't mind getting Guinness goop in your west coast IPA.
But you do mind, don't you? You're a certified Beer Geek! That's why this product is marketed towards you, and that's also why you (or a loved one) bought this contraption in the first place.
You'll clean this damn thing every single time you choose a new beer. And no matter how hard you grit your teeth and try to justify this absurd ceremony, you'll all the while be thinking about how many sips of beer you could've been enjoying if you weren't cleaning your Fizzics Waytap.
And this is problem #2—the Fizzics Waytap takes about as much effort to clean as it does to use.
Cleaning the Fizzics Waytap is a matter of going through the whole process over again, but with warm water instead of beer. On paper, it sounds simple: Easy to clean! Just use warm water! In reality, though, cleaning the Waytap is just an extra job that eventually needs my attention—I can do it before I enjoy my beer or after I enjoy my beer, but at some point, this thing'll need cleaning. If I decide to switch from a stout to a lager, the cleaning will probably happen sooner than later.
And if cleaning it weren't aggravating enough, here's the real kicker: The warm water you use to clean the system will need to be in a receptacle narrow enough to fit inside the Waytap. In other words, you probably won't be able to use that basic, 16-ounce pint glass you just used to drink a beer. Instead, you'll have to find a glass that's roughly as narrow as a bottle or can of beer.
OK, but does it work or not?
Yes, beer poured through the Fizzics Waytap was noticeably different, but I wouldn't say it was better. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that just about every beer I poured with the Waytap was considerably less enjoyable than the same beer poured by hand.
Which brings us to problem #3, the biggest problem of them all: The Fizzics Waytap will make your beer more foamy, but it won't make it more enjoyable.
We tested the Waytap with three different beers: Guinness (stout, from a bottle), Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (pale ale, from a bottle), and Narragansett (lager, from a 25oz can). In each round of testing, I watched the Fizzics Waytap begin with an overly-aggressive pour and then top it off with a violent expulsion of dense, viscous foam.
Worse, it invariably filled our 16-ounce pint gladd to its brim with foam before the 12-ounce bottle was even finished, leaving the beer's remnants to be spat out through the spout in a sticky, gurgling swan song that pelted the inside of the glass with globules of foam.
No matter the beer, I was left with an abnormally large, cappuccino-like head (usually three to four fingers thick). In fact, you can even see the denser, sonically-enhanced bubbles settle underneath the fizz from the initial pour.
Certain beers—especially ones often infused with nitrogen, like Guinness—might seem like they're benefitting from the Waytap's foaming system, and I imagine seeing and tasting a thicker head will be enough to impress some drinkers. I've even read several enthusiastic reviews of the Fizzics Waytap, from consumers and professional reviewers alike, that cite the "soft" or "creamy," taste of a Fizzics-poured brew.
But I'm not buying it. All you've done is essentially shaken it up during its trip from the bottle to your glass. The Fizzics doesn't add any carbonation to your beer, which means all of that foam had to come from somewhere, and that somewhere happens to be inside of the beer itself.
By the time the foam settles, your beer is considerably flatter than it would have been with a good ol' fashioned hand-pour. All of that carbonation that used to be suspended in the beer is now sitting at the top of the glass.
Look no further than the original Kickstarter page for the Fizzics system:
By leveraging sound waves, Fizzics Waytap converts the beer’s natural carbonation into densely compacted, uniform Micro-Foam™ bubbles unlocking the true taste of any beer, delivering the freshest, fullest flavor like the brewmaster intended.
Hey, um... guys? I'm pretty sure the brewmaster didn't intend for their beer to be shaken up and poured terribly before reaching someone's mouth. And achieving the "freshest, fullest flavor" is as simple as buying relatively fresh beer and pouring it correctly into the proper glassware.
Not to pile on, but...
Did I mention this thing drains batteries in what feels like less time than it takes for it to ruin a twelve pack? It turns out that the Fizzics Waytap continues to sap its four AA batteries even when the device isn't in use.
When we first got the Waytap, we unboxed it, loaded it up with double-A batteries, used it once, and then didn't return to it for a couple months. After a single use and a couple months of living on our break room shelf, the Waytap needed a new set of batteries.
Who exactly is this product for, then?
Now we've arrived at problem #4, which I believe will be the biggest contributor to the Fizzics eventual downfall, and the reason you're likely to see them strewn about garage sales and TJ Maxx bargain bins in the very near future: the lack of a well-defined target demographic.
I mean, think about it—if you're willing to spend $130 on a relatively large, single-function kitchen appliance that promises to pour a better beer, chances are you care deeply about beer. So why on earth, then, would you plunk down over one hundred bucks on something that pours your beer terribly at worst, and at best, just stirs up your Guinness like a milkshake?
If you do want a foamy, decarbonated beer experience, by all means—invest in a Fizzics Waytap. Just don't believe the hype about it objectively improving the beer itself and/or recreating the draft experience.
Side note: If anyone wants to pay me $130 to be their personal beer-pourer, I work flexible hours and I'm very good at furiously shaking cans and bottles.
The Fizzics Waytap is destined to be a short-lived, seemingly-luxurious gift that's graciously given to a family's resident beer guy or beer gal. It'll be gifted by people who mean well but ultimately fall for Fizzics' highfalutin claims about "unlocking the full potential" of beer, and "protecting" the beer from "degradation," or whatever.
This product is intended for people like me—folks who spend a considerable amount of time hunting down hard-to-find beers and discussing them online. Nevertheless, you couldn't pay me to use it on the premium beer I typically spend money on.
If you're the whiskey lover of your friends and family, you're bound to get whiskey stones in your stocking at some point. Do you love golf? Be prepared to get a golf ball washer for Mother's Day or Father's Day. And if you're a "beer geek," you'll probably be gifted a Fizzics Waytap. Such is the way of life.
For $130, the Fizzics system will take up countertop space, drain a ton of batteries, and solve no problem whatsoever. In the process, it'll most likely do the opposite of what it promises to do—it will leave you with nothing more than a flat, aggressively-foamy beer and a mess to clean up.