Rating new beer gadgets the Fizzics and the ManCan

Fizzics-left-with-pint-of-beer-and-ManCan-right
Fizzics (left) with a pint of beer and ManCan (right).

One of the simple yet overlooked joys of beer is that it comes in a bottle or a can, ready to drink. Grab an opener or just yank the pull-tab, and you're good to go. No assembly required.

Which is why the arrival of any new, high-tech beer-dispensing gadget gives me pause. Put me in the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it league.

That seems to be the case with the "revolutionary" Fizzics portable draft beer system, a Mr. Coffee-like contraption that sucks beer out of a bottle and pours it into a glass.

For $169.99.

At Brookstone. You know, the over-priced headphone and massage chair store.

Now, you may rightly wonder why anyone would need an expensive machine to do the same job that can be adequately performed, at absolutely no cost or inconvenience, by a hand connected to a functioning wrist. Even your uncoordinated brother-in-law somehow manages to get most of the beer into the glass, right?

Maybe, but take a close look at that ghastly head.

Closer!

You'll see that "a hand pour of your favorite beer will create foam of randomly packed bubbles of non-uniform shapes that are inherently less dense and frothy, and result in a grainy mouthfeel."

Or, at least that's what the company behind Fizzics says.

Its machine, with a "proprietary built-in tap and patented infusion technique," uses high-frequency sound waves and oscillation to pour "a dense, long-lasting head, resulting in rich, creamy foam that enhances the texture, aroma and aroma of beer while locking in flavor."

In short, it says Fizzics makes any store-bought beer "awesome."

In fact, the damn thing actually does a good job of simulating beer poured out of a tap. The bottle of Red Hook Blackhook Porter that I ran through it was silky and full-bodied with a head that reminded me of the nitro collar of foam on a perfectly poured Guinness.

The thing is, it doesn't make for a better beer.

For starters, few brews really need this kind of enhancement. Light-bodied lagers, for example, are so enjoyable precisely because they're poundable. Who wants a Troegs Sunshine Pils that goes down like a ladleful of gravy?

It did bring out subtle malt notes in a bottle of Rinn Duin Sandpiper, a brown ale from Toms River, N.J. And it gave a half-empty day-old growler of Love Gravy barrel-aged stout from Barren Hill Brewery some new life.

Overall, however, the dozen or so beers I ran through the machine didn't taste better, just different.

More alarmingly, though, Fizzics is just a bad precedent for beer. It's exactly the sort of money-wasting nonsense you'd expect to see in the wine world, with its nose hair aerators and sterling silver drool buckets.

Not that I'm opposed to technological progress.

Case in point: the ManCan.

This is no gimmick, no magic bubbles. It's a simple, one-gallon, stainless-steel keg that takes the place of your glass-bottle growler.

Fill it at your favorite taproom or brewpub. Bring it home, attach a simple, smartly designed, pocket-size CO2 regulator, and you've got instant draft beer.

It's small enough to fit in your fridge, and light enough to take to a party. Basic growlers go flat after they're opened and exposed to oxygen, but beer in a ManCan stays fresh and bubbly for weeks.

I've been using one at home for the last month with small batches of homebrew, and I already like it better than my power-guzzling Kegerator. It's pressurized with mini-CO2 cartridges that are available at bike shops, so there's no need to haul a big, empty tank to a gas supplier. And, with just eight pints of beer inside compared to the nine sixpacks in a sixtel keg - it takes a lot less time to empty and move on to something new.

At about $150 on Amazon and elsewhere, ManCan is not cheap. But it works, it's simple, and it appears to be built to last.

"Joe Sixpack" is written by Don Russell. For more on the beer scene, download Bar Talk with Glen Macnow and Joe Sixpack, and sign up for his weekly email update at joesixpack.net. Email: joe@joesixpack.net.