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Monday, December 19, 2011

Will A-B's New Draftmark Hit the Mark?

An early Christmas gift arrived on the front porch this morning from the folks at A-B ... it's their brand new Draftmark tap system. If you haven't heard about the new, battery-operated gadget you can find out more from the company's website here. While the arrival of this new home draught system may not qualify as news to most craft beer drinkers, it is interesting to note that one of the three beers available for the system at roll-out (set for February 2012) is Bass Ale - a respectable English pale ale. The other two are Budweiser lager and Shock Top Belgian-style wit. I'm a little surprised that Stella Artois wasn't among the initial brands set to be released, but the marketers at A-B Inbev likely see the Belgian lager as too close in terms of target audience to Budweiser. I'd imagine that more brands in the portfolio will be added if the new system proves successful in the marketplace in 2012 - maybe even some Goose Island beers down the road? Who knows.

Draftmark's 1-gallon refill with special spout
Speaking of the marketplace, the Draftmark system is being released to a very limited test market in the St. Louis area first, and then throughout the greater St. Louis area in February. The obvious appeal of the system, although I've yet to test it out myself, is its size, portability and - one would assume - affordability. The rechargeable battery-operated system fits easily into the average home refrigerator with a very small footprint. The beer refills, sold in 1-gallon plastic jugs with a special connector, seem compact and easy to install not to mention easy enough to tote along to a party or move to a different location on a whim. I didn't see any projections on what the system, or its refills, will retail for when released but I've got to think that it will be comparable to the Heineken BeerTender system, or less.

Draftmark's customizable tap handle
The most glaring down side, as I already noted, is the limited beer selection. If this product catches on, however, this will surely improve substantially with time. I'll be curious to see if the brands will be limited to obvious A-B Inbev selections only (which is my suspicion), or if the system will be compatible with other brands packaged in similar 1-gallon plastic dispensers. I've seen similar plastic bottles in 6-liter size used for packaging home brew, but this 1-gallon size/configuration may well be proprietary. This will make it tough for the Draftmark system to compete for a wider audience when compared head to head with other home systems capable of using a 5-liter mini keg, which is available in a wider variety of beer brands ... including craft beer like Bell's Oberon.

Time will tell if Draftmark hits the mark or not, but in the meantime it will be fun to give this gadget a try since I love new technology and, of course, beer. It is undoubtedly a cool concept that has potential. Let's see where this goes in the months to come. 


  1. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Anyone know what stores sell it?

  2. Anonymous11:58 PM

    You do realize that the DraftMark beer is not draft beer. The beer is "flash" pasteurized. Basically the beer goes through a heated pipe before being put into the containers. Haven't you noticed that the beer is not refrigerated at most of the retail outlets? If it does not need to be refrigerated then it must be pasteurized. So why spend a premium for "bottle" beer?

  3. I received my Draftmark for free through a marketing program. Its a very cool gadget and the beer does taste quite good. However I can't honestly recommend for someone to go out and buy something that may not be a good long term investment. When you consider that a 12 pack of bottled beer runs me $12 to $14 I bought my first refill at Binny's Beverage Depot and it wasn't cheap at $16.

    Now maybe the price of the gallon refills will come down but I doubt that. Being that an initial investment of $50 is required I honestly don't see this product catching on. My prediction is that these units will all be in a landfill within a few short years.

    Having said all that I am keeping my unit for special occasions when friends come over.

    For me though I generally buy a 24pk of cheap beer and a 12pk of good beer per month. Switching to 3 gallon refills per month is just not where I want to be $$$ wise.

  4. Anonymous1:09 PM

    I bought this as a gift this past Christmas. i got it from a local grocery store and I bought out all the regular bud refills they had. Here it is football party season and i cant find any more refills in Atalnta area. Ga has some type of restrictions on selling the units here. Why would A-B introduce this product into a market that couldn't support it? I'm waiting for a call back from the distribution company for possible locations to purchase. If i can't find the refills easly then I'll return the stand, the gel ice pac, and the dispencer! What a bust!!!


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