Friday, June 14, 2013

Draftmark In-home Draft Beer System

I had never heard of the Draftmark tap system until I was contacted by them recently to see if I was interested in receiving one to try. For those who are also unfamiliar with it, the Draftmark is a new easy to use self-contained in-home draft beer system from Anheuser-Busch InBev. Dispensing beer from a disposable 1 gallon bottle without the use of CO2, the Draftmark easily fits on the shelf in your fridge in about the same space as a 12 pack of cans. Its actually small enough and light enough that you could take it with you to a party, camping, etc. An insulated carrying bag with freezer pack around the bottle would actually be a pretty good add-on for it.

The main system itself retails for around $49.99 with the beer refills ranging in price from $13.99 ~ $15.99.  I haven't actually seen the system or refills in the Houston area yet, but the Spec's website indicates limited availability at their various locations. The setup is very simple but does require about 4 ~ 6 hours to charge the removable battery and may take that long to chill the beer refill, so don't expect to be pulling your first pint as soon as you get the system home. The Draftmark is designed to be extremely low maintenance as there is no CO2 bottle to change or lines to clean. The rechargeable battery powers an air pump that automatically pumps air into the space between the bottle and the liner that contains the beer to essentially squeeze the beer out (no air comes in contact with the beer inside the bottle). Each beer refill includes a new spout used to dispense the beer from the bottle, so there is nothing that needs to be cleaned when changing refills. The one gallon of beer will get you about eight 16oz pints. At this time, the refills available are Budweiser, Shock Top, Goose Island India Pale Ale, Goose Island Honker’s Ale, Michelob AmberBock and Bass Pale Ale

The detailed setup instructions indicate that the first pint could be foamy (which it was), but my subsequent pours have been as well (despite trying different pouring techniques). The foam does settle quickly, but the beer itself seemed less carbonated. I'd have to try a couple of more refills to know if that's normal for this system or not. As this is a product from Anheuser-Busch InBev, the selection of beer refills is limited to their own products. I have to admit, I probably wouldn't have been interested in trying it if they didn't have Goose Island refills available. At around $16 for the Honkers Ale refill, that's about $2 per 16oz pint (a pretty good price for draft beer) or $1.45 per 12oz serving (which would be about $8.70 per six pack of bottles). Its not necessarily saving you money, but I do enjoy the ability to pour as much or as little as I want.

Overall, I thinks its a pretty cool self-contained system, but the limited availability of craft beer refills will keep it more of a novelty that I'll bring out for parties and get-togethers. I like Goose Island, but not enough to always have one of them on tap in my fridge and that's the only current refills I'm interested in. Considering you can buy a 18 pack of Budweiser cans for less then 20 bucks, I'm not sure it will really appeal to the average Bud drinker either. I think they need to expand the refill selection to include more of their premium and import brands like Hoegaarden, Leffe and Stella, as the consumer of those brands is more likely to spend the money on this type of system and continue to use it. Somehow getting actual craft breweries on board, even if it was just the larger ones like New Belgium, Sierra Nevada or Sam Adams would be great as well, but probably unlikely. In the meantime, I'll happily finish my Honker's Ale and I'll probably try the Goose Island IPA when I find it here.