For 22-year-old Matt Kyle, the classic entrepreneurial timeline is almost complete.
Sell your car for startup cash? Check. Drop out of college? Check. Build the prototype of an innovative product in Mom's basement? Check.
Now all he needs is that elusive "watch your product's popularity skyrocket and take your bank account with" part. But if it does occur, it will have all started in the Plymouth Meeting Whole Foods.
That's where you'll currently find Kyle's invention, the Fusion Tower – an upside-down, J-shaped metal tube that infuses fresh ingredients with draft beer to create a twist on your favorite suds.
"The concept is very simple," says Kyle, a Bucks County native. "You take any ingredient, mix it with beer, and that ingredient gets infused with the beer and creates a wildly different smelling and tasting beer."
If you're an IPA fan, try adding dry hops to the Tower's chamber. If you like your beers a little lighter, try fresh strawberries. If dark beer is your thing, you can put in coffee beans.
Whatever the ingredients, they're placed into a pressurized glass section called the "fusion chamber." The system is then hooked up to a keg, and the beer is more or less pressed together with the chamber's contents to carry their freshness along to the drinking glass below.
Kyle, who has been a home-brewer since 17 ("no comment" when asked who sampled his concoctions before his 21st birthday), says the patent-pending product is a much more sophisticated design than what hobbyists have been doing for years. Previously, home brewers would take pool filter components to create a similar device called a "Randall." The idea was to replace the fresh aroma and taste often lost during the transporting and storing of beer.
"I had the opportunity to drink some beer out of some of them, and I saw it as sort of an unfinished product where there was an opportunity to actually do it right," Kyle says. "So I basically spent all of my time and money to come up with this."
Kyle, an admittedly unscientific guy, doesn't have an engineering or manufacturing background. He designed early prototypes by slightly altering "Randall" specifications, but started from scratch after he wasn't getting results.
"I threw out all the prior art that I had been doing, and started doing research and coming up with a completely different design," Kyle says, adding that he self-taught using the Internet. "I started figuring out how variables and changes start affecting different things and developed kind of my own science."
After about 18 months of trial and error, Kyle shipped his redesigned specs to a manufacturer, and soon thereafter had a prototype he was comfortable demonstrating at area bars. On Aug. 3, he did his first demo at the Hulmeville Inn in Bucks County, which has since led to several dozen more at bars across Eastern Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic region.
One of those demos was for Billy Speers, manager of Whole Food's Cold Point Pub, who became the first barkeep to lease a Fusion Tower.
"We basically set it up in a box and the customers were drinking it and people loved it," said Kyle, of the demo at Whole Foods.
After that, Speers invited Kyle back to cut a hole in the bar's surface and install the Tower. That makes it the first and currently only bar to have the product installed – other than in Kyle's basement.
Kyle says that he has received many positive reviews of the Tower during visits and demonstrations at various breweries, and hopes he may be on the cusp of landing a multi-lease agreement with a large chain.
"I know there's a huge beer following that's going to appreciate this," says Kyle. "So basically right now my goal is to spread the message and get it out there."
To learn more about theFusion Tower, visit www.fusiontower.com.