draftmark offerings

Draftmark: We Tried It Again, Eh, Whatever, It Works Okay

In Product Review by Karl

Recently I’ve seen a number of commercials pushing the Draftmark system, created by A-B to bring keg beer home to your fridge. Presumably this is a Father’s Day media buy, made to plant the seed that dad likes beer, so dad would drink beer if we got him a newfangled doohickey to drink beer with at home.

Pretty cool spot, right? Serious. Lots of heavy minor classical music. Looks like a Jaguar or a BMW spot. Then a 25-54 demo dudebro, drinking his beer! Sold, right?

draftmark 10

We checked out the Draftmark originally in December 2012 here, where Ryan found it to be pretty handy, actually. Ryan passed it off to me a while ago to give it a shot myself, and while I don’t dispute anything he said previously, I’m a little more mixed on the value proposition.

The good stuff: it does what it promises. It pours beer from a big jug, and it saves you from having to buy a full kegerator system and devote the energy and floorspace required to it. Plus you don’t have a bag full of empty bottles and cans to throw out at the end of the night.

It’s also pretty easy to use — basically you attach the spout, load your little minikeg like you’re loading a gun, connect the contact/pour points and slide the housing back together. Pretty easy. No worrying about connecting hoses or gas lines or taphandles or anything like that — as a piece of engineering goes, it’s solid. The plastic housing seems like it’ll hold up to a decent amount of abuse, and all in all it appears to be plenty sturdy, which it should since you’re dropping like $50 in order to bring something home to make beer drinking more difficult than it needs to be.

And that’s where I kinda lost interest.

Spacewise, this thing still eats up a decent amount of refrigerator real estate. You can’t put anything on top of it, because it’s round, and (of course) you can’t break your gallon of beer down into smaller sizes and slide into drawers or shelves like you can with cans or bottles. The thing pours super thin — it’s like the machine is literally pissing beer into your pint glass. Not super appealing, but really, not the end of the world — except for the massive amounts of head produced by the thing. It’s almost like someone took a straw and blew a ton of air into the beer. Not to mention the air-compressor HRNNNNNNNNNN sound you get when pouring your beer.

My main question is: Who’s the real consumer for this? The thing is too geeky for the Bud Light crowd — I don’t see them particularly caring about draft beer at home — and it seems too screwy for the craft geek/dork/aficionado scene, who would know enough to want their CO2 or nitro, want their pour to be free-flowing and their beer options to be endless.

If A-B envisions the Draftmark as the Keurig of beer accessories (as I imagine has been pitched in a boardroom somewhere between St. Louis and Belgium), they’ve got a long way to go to achieve it. Bottom line: What’s the one thing that Keurig has that Draftmark does not?

Variety.

I can get Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Green Mountain, Caribou, and any other different kind of coffee I want with a Keurig. I’m stuck with a handful of A-B products if I buy this, which I’d better damn well like if I want to get my money’s worth out of this thing.

There are six kinds of refill listed on the Draftmark site, including Bass, Shock Top and good ol’ Budweiser. Crafty folks better enjoy a gallon of Goose IPA or Honkers, because that’s all that approaches that category – a Michelob product completes the offerings. This screenshot shows a 312 option, which isn’t listed on the website, so real good message consistency, guys.

draftmark screenshot

If I were in charge of Draftmark, I’d open-source the damn thing and give away the technology for free to everyone who wants it. The more breweries who want to play with the toy, the better, right? Except it’s surely an added expense for all those breweries — you need new packaging, new filling lines, new labels, new carriers, all sorts of added expense. That’s a big risk on an unproven delivery system, especially for any smaller operation. It’d be nice to think that we could live in a world where everyone gets along and plays nice, but the thought of Miller-Coors jumping on board with an A-B toy is about as likely as Coke playing nice with Pepsi.

From the craft angle, it would take a major player like Sam Adams, Dogfish or Lagunitas to give the system their product blessing to allow Draftmark to begin to edge into the geek market, but I’m guessing those guys are even less excited about sidling up to the beer behemoth that is InBev.

I think the world is more than ready for draft beer in the fridge. Any appliance manufacturer that comes up with a way to house a CO2 barrel and a sixtel in a full-size refrigerator and have it pour out the front next to water and ice could make a small fortune, I think.

On the small-scale in-fridge and countertop level, I just don’t know if it’s possible to do well on a small-scale like this. Maybe someone can work out a magic Sodastream configuration with a mini-CO2 tank and some jockey-box-like cooling system. I do know that I’m still surprised that A-B is pushing this thing, and I hope that they’re not pushing the hell out of it now just to sell the last stockpile of the things before walking away from it entirely, leaving a bunch of dads with a big beer-pouring paperweight.

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About the Author

Karl

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Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Draft Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, comes out in late 2017, and if you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.