I was pleasantly surprised to receive a Draftmark beer system in the mail recently. I’m not sure if it was because of my recent “Sam Can” fame in Outside magazine, or just this little blog – but either way I am never disappointed to receive free beer gear.
I opened the packaging and after deciphering the multi step instructions on putting this thing together, I stuck it in the fridge and waited for it to chill.
The premise of the device is pretty straight forward. You buy the dispenser for about $50 and then buy refills of beer for about $15. The refills are in what seems to be a hardened soda bottle style container, with a plastic bladder inside. You basically drop the plastic bottle into the dispenser, insert a new tap (a new tap is included with every bottle, to eliminate the need to clean) and then push the unit closed, which punctures a small hole in the base connected to a miniature air pump. The dispenser and air pump are battery operated (rechargeable and included) and as you dispense beer from the front, the unit pushes air in through the hole, around the plastic bladder, dispensing the beer. This method is unique in two ways: one, your beer is never exposed to oxygen or light and two, you don’t need CO2 to operate it.
Mine came with Goose Island IPA, which was better than I expected and most likely due to their acquisition by AB InBev. However, perusing the website it seems that most of the options for now are big ole macro beers – Shock Top, Michelob Amber, Bass Pale Ale and yes, believe it or not, Budweiser. A Draftmark representative said, about the options “We are constantly evaluating new refill options to offer a wide variety of options for beer lovers. Goose Island IPA is the latest addition to the lineup, which became available in select markets this month. The Draftmark Facebook page is the best place to stay informed about new refill options as they are announced.”
Considering the Draftmark container only holds a gallon of beer, or about 11 cans worth, I find it difficult to imagine a Bud drinker that would go through the trouble to set up and maintain this device for just 11 beers. I personally think that they’re missing the mark on the opportunity here…
The real opportunity as I would see it is an upgrade to the traditional growler, or alternative packaging for high ABV beers.
After consuming my 11 Goose Islands (which, come on, was really only about 8 real pours at home – who has a 12oz beer glass?) it seemed to me this would be an creative way to provide growler fills of craft beer that would be able to be dispensed for longer than the traditional growler. It would also be a logical way to package high ABV selections, letting me consume them over a period of time rather than 22oz per sitting.
Imagine going to your local brewery or brewpub and getting one of these canisters filled with their fresh beer. The container is air and light tight. You could bring it home, drop it in this Draftmark dispenser and then dispense it one pour at a time, for likely a week or two without losing much on the front of flavor or carbonation.
I’m certainly not an engineer – or a scientist – but I am a beer geek and brewer and think that this is another missed opportunity of the novelty beer packaging market. I get it, the big guys have got the big money. But every now and then, one of these ideas could actually have some merit in the craft market.
I asked the Draftmark representative about this option and was told “for safety reasons, the current refills are built to be one-way only, so once a container is used, it cannot be refilled.”. I am certainly curious about this device and the refill container and safety be darned I will probably have to take this apart and see how it works, just because I am curious like that… And for now I guess we still have the glory of this awesome growler filler.