HOLMDEL – The founder of “Shark Tank” winner Fizzics is jumping into the Shore’s growing craft beer market with plans to convert an aging farmhouse in Colts Neck into a sprawling brewery with expansive views of the countryside.
“My brother-in-law lives in Colts Neck. My friends live in Colts Neck. They go, ‘Yeah, you’re crazy; you’re not going to open a brewery in Colts Neck,'” Petracca said. “But we said, ‘Why not?’ We’re going to build this whole agricultural ecosystem around this beer.”
He described the brewery as the logical next step in a career of startups that most famously included Fizzics, a product that promises to make beer from a can or bottle taste like it has been poured from the tap. It convinced “Shark Tank’s” Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner to chip in $2 million.
Petracca’s message hit home with entrepreneurs who understood both the struggle he faced perfecting his ideas and the feeling he had when he knew it would make a mark with consumers.
“I was sitting there (listening) thinking, that’s how I feel,” said Alexis Castellano, 38, of Holmdel, who started Fasten with her business partner, Jill Slater. The company makes swimsuits for girls that open at the waist, making it easier for parents to change diapers.
“We put it out there and all we hear is, ‘Genius, why didn’t I think of this, where has this been all my life?’ We’re just having trouble getting it out there the way he has. He did a better job with that.”
Petracca, 44, lives in Howell with his wife, Keri, and their three children.
Low-key and gracious, he walked chamber members through what has been a dizzying three years. It started with a quest to make beer taste like it was fresh from the tap; included a scientific breakthrough that he stumbled on thanks to a vaporizer; and ended at the Culver City, California, studio where “The Wizard of Oz” was filmed.
The experience taught him lessons. Among them: try to win over the critics; be authentic; and stick with your business plan.
“The one thing for any startup I’ve ever been to, the ones that were successful and the ones that fail, to me they’ve had one thing in common,” he said. “The ones that were successful were very disciplined in executing their model and business plan. And ones that fail are the ones that chase every shiny object that comes along.”
Petracca left his job at Fizzics late last year to open Source Farmhouse Brewery with his business partner, Greg Taylor.
They bought the farmhouse on two acres from Steven Garrett. They are testing recipes in Petracca’s garage. And they are expected to begin work soon on what will be a $2 million 4,000-square-foot brewery.
It will join the growing craft beer industry in a state that has been playing catchup since lawmakers allowed smaller beer makers to increase production in 2012. New Jersey now has 82 craft breweries, ranking 19th nationwide in the number of breweries, but only 42nd nationwide in the number of breweries per capita, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group.
And it is part of a change to Colts Neck, known for its horse farms, agriculture and golf courses. Also on the way is the Colts Neck Stillhouse, an artisinal distillery, next door to Source.
Petracca said he is trying to blend in. The brewery plans to buy the bulk of its ingredients from local farmers. And it plans to team with Delicious Orchards, the mainstay grocer, to offer food that will go well with its beer.
He realized that if he did his homework and explained how a craft brewery would fit in in Colts Neck, “people will embrace that,” he said. “Why wouldn’t they?”
Michael L. Diamond; @mdiamondapp; 732-643-4038; [email protected]