Father’s Day is just two days away and you don’t have a gift yet. To be honest, you haven’t even really thought about it. As you contemplate an appropriate present for dear old dad you hear a sucking sound and feel a light puff of air as all thought evacuates your brain. (Admittedly it’s mostly air in there anyway.) As you step through the front doors of Wal-Mart you become paralyzed; a deer caught in the headlights. You find yourself in some kind of Twilight Zone moment. You’re stationary in another dimension as the rest of the world buzzes around you in slow motion. The retiree greeter waves his welcome as though he were immersed in syrup. His “welcome to Wal-Mart” sounds like a 45 rpm record playing at 33. You hear an echoey rattle as a dude with a mullet and cut off T-shirt pushes a cart by on the left.
This is a good time for a beer. WAIT! Dad likes beer! There it is. The solution was right in front of you all along. You can do this.
If this is your situation, you might consider a home draft system. No, I don’t mean shelling out $600+ for a kegerator and keg, though that would be nice. I’m talking about one of those fit-in-the-fridge thingies. All the big brewers have got them. MillerCoors and Heineken rolled out first, but AB-InBev wasn’t far behind. Their Draftmark system was introduced in early 2012, but has only recently become available in the Twin Cities. I had the opportunity to give one of these devices a spin. It delivers exactly what it promises; draft beer in your refrigerator.
The premise of the thing is simple, though a wee bit mysterious. Beer comes in a one-gallon canister that looks a lot like a soda bottle. The canister is inserted into the machine and beer is poured from a tap faucet on the front. There is no CO2 cartridge. A battery operated compressor pushes the beer from the canister with air, but through some proprietary bottle-in-bottle technology the air never touches the beer. I haven’t figured out how this works, but I also haven’t tried very hard. The manufacturer claims that beer will stay fresh for up to 30 days.
What are the pros of the Draftmark system?
- It’s inexpensive. $50 buys the machine and refill cartridges are $14-$16. That works out to about $1.50/12-ounce beer, slightly less than buying a sixpack.
- Each refill cartridge comes with its own spout, so there is no need to worry about cleaning draft lines.
- It’s easy to assemble and operate. Charge and insert the battery. Insert the spout. Place the bottle and twist. Pour beer.
- It’s compact; about the size of a “fridge pack” of soda or a loaf of Wonder Bread.
- It’s nice to have draft beer in the fridge.
The biggest downside is beer selection. It’s an AB-InBev product. You can only get AB-InBev products, and precious few of those at present; Budweiser, Michelob Amber Bock, and Shock Top, along with a couple of better choices, Bass Ale and Goose Island Honkers Ale and IPA. Seeing as AB-InBev owns the world, there are other brands in their portfolio that would make for a more interesting assortment. They promise a wider selection in the future. Check here for a list of locations where refills can be purchased.
One note on use. Being a man, I didn’t read the manual until after using the thing. I became concerned when my first and second attempts poured pints of nothing but foam. The manual though says that this is normal, as the device has to charge.
The upshot: Would I rush out and buy one of these for myself? No. It’s kind of gimmicky. The beer selection is too limited and it just seems easier to get bottles or cans. But I have a gadget-loving, non-craft-beer-drinking brother-in-law for whom the system would be perfect.