Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article mentioned the wrong high school attended by Clark, Kurczewski, and Prischak.
You may never have wondered what alcohol and protein powder mixed together would taste like, but three Erie natives are on a mission to find out.
Mitch Clark, Josh Kurczewski and Nick Prischak have released a new alcoholic mixture called Formal drinka protein-rich drink.
The 290-calorie non-carbonated drink, which is marketed as a ‘100% useless’ product for ‘high octane’ people, is similar to fortified juice and contains whey protein isolate, flavors natural and natural sweeteners. It comes in Pineapple Pump, Swoleberry, and Orange County flavors.
Protochol Beverage deployed in gas stations and local beer distributors at the end of January.
“The taste reviews have been really great,” Clark, 24, said. “We’ve already had a few stores that have had to reorganize after they sold out quite quickly, so we’re pretty happy with how things are going.”
After graduating from their respective colleges in May 2020, the co-creators — who attended Cathedral Preparatory School together — found themselves back in their hometown wondering what to do with their free time.
“We really wanted to start a business,” said Kurczewski, 23. “We went down some weird rabbit holes, like trying to solve the shortage of blood donations, but then we thought, ‘You know what would be a lot easier? Making something we would normally drink rather than trying to build supply chain software. program.'”
As gym enthusiasts, Kurczewski, Clark, and Prischak wanted to create a drink that appealed to their gym and social lifestyle. So, in their parents’ basements, they started mixing whey protein powder with various alcohols, coming up with a few “unfortunate” combinations, Clark said.
“In our very early versions, we used liquor, vodka, and gin,” Clark said. “It was just trial and error of what worked.”
Once they narrowed it down to a few solid recipes, they started selling their homemade creation to friends, gauging interest in an alcoholic protein shake.
“When people got more interested, we started to dive in,” Clark said.
Make it take off
Thanks to bar launch parties and unusual social media promotion, it didn’t take long for the friends to create more hype around their product.
The main challenge was to find a factory that would produce their fortified protein drink.
“We probably called over 100 breweries across the country and many were worried about putting (this blend) in their tank because they weren’t sure they could clean it up and make it safe for use and future use,” said Kurczewski.
Kurczewski and the others worked with a lab in Kentucky to produce a government-approved recipe with good juice texture.
“What we have is not a milkshake or tastes like protein at all,” Kurczewski said. “It’s a common misconception that we’re fighting in our marketing right now.”
The first batch of Protochol Beverage was supposed to be brewed in Toledo, Ohio, and then released last fall, but some production issues got in the way, Clark said.
Finally, after almost two years, a deal was struck with Taft’s Brewing Co. in Cincinnati, which brewed an initial batch of 22,000 16-ounce cans of Protochol.
Plans for a second production run are in the works at a different location, Clark said.
Put Protocol on the card
After a successful first run, the “Founding Fathers of Spiked Protein” – as they call themselves on the website – hope they can eventually take their side business and make it their full-time job.
For now, they have day jobs. Clark works remotely for Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defense company, while Kurczewski and Prischak both work for The Plastek Group, 2425 W. 23rd St. in Erie.
Clark, Kurczewski and Prischak hope to expand Protochol’s reach beyond the Erie area to the state college market by the start of the fall semester, Clark said. They have an interest in reaching students at Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pittsburgh, and possibly Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
Launching their product in Erie – or the Miami of the North, as they call it – was a no-brainer.
“I think it helps that in Erie, it’s a pretty cool, tight-knit community,” Clark said. “I don’t think our product would have gained as much attention or notoriety if (the launch) had taken place in a big city. It would have just gotten lost in the weeds.”
Kurczewski echoes Clark’s sentiments.
“We got advice once that if you can’t do it as your hometown boys in Erie, you’re not going to do it in any other market,” Kurczewski said.