27 October 2016

Draftmark… If Only They’d Let Me Drink and Be Merry!

As I've mentioned previously, I'm majorly into beverages. Call me a drinks master; I said drinks-master, not Drunken Master. (Sorry, Jackie Chan.) And while I'm not a daily beer drinker, I enjoy the thought of a nice cold draft and do drink beer upon occasion. Additionally, I happen to have a lot of mates who absolutely love beer. Do you like beer?

As a result, I love the idea of having a tap system in my home bar. I mean, it is a bar. And though one day I plan to install a full multi-tap system (DIY project anyone?), there's a product currently on the market which easily allows me to add a "counter-top" tap or two.

Some background: I was lucky enough to do a home product trial of the Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) Draftmark Home Tap System [draftmark.com] when it launched in limited markets several years ago, and I thought is was a solid product. Powered by a rechargeable battery "pump", the portable unit [MSRP $49.99] sits in one's fridge and keeps a 1 gallon (128 oz) beer refill [MSRP varies by brand but prices range from approximately $11.99-$19.99], called a Brewer's Barrel, fresh for roughly a month.

Draftmark launched with 5 brands of beer available as refills. Bass seems to have exited the lineup since then according to what's currently listed on product website, but one can get refills from Budweiser, Shock Top Belgian White, Goose Island India Pale Ale, Goose Island Honker's Ale, Michelob AmberBock and Michelob ULTRA. The varieties one is able to get vary by market. But there have been a few hints from recent social media postings that AB InBev is planning to add more brews to the available refills in the coming months. One can hope.

The Draftmark system also came with a starter set of neat little magnetic brand medallions that attach to the handle to denote the brew currently on tap —including a plain Draftmark logo one to use if no corresponding brand medallion is at hand — and promised more medallions would become available as more brands were added to the refill lineup. (In a nice gesture, Draftmark gave away Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat medallions via a Facebook promotion one Autumn to commemorate the seasonal beer's availability "on tap".)

The portable Draftmark unit could be easily taken on picnics, boats etc. with the purchase of accessories like the Draftmark Gel Wrap, a cold pack (sleeve) which keeps beer chilled for ~4 hours in lieu of the unit sitting in a fridge — perfect for a tailgate. There was also a rebate promotion on the system when it launched at retail which made a reasonably priced small kitchen appliance a great deal (for anyone who likes beer or frequently entertains beer drinkers). It was (and still is) a very promising product, well designed and simple to operate. And who doesn't love the idea of fresh draft beer on tap?

Unfortunately, however, AB InBev couldn't seem to decide if it wanted to support the product. The roll out wasn't exactly smooth. Finding the tap system and more to the point, its beer refills, could be extremely difficult. What good is an empty tap system? As a result, after my initial product test I'd relegated it to a shelf in my gadget closet, the place where things sit until they can be useful, waiting for the day when I could add it to my home bar, in pride of place.

Draftmark is still seemingly confined to limited markets, but is finally expanding, albeit slowly: Target was recently added as a vendor toward the end of last year — around the holidays an Ibotta app rebate was available on the Draftmark system when purchased at Target. Walmart carries the refills as well, at least according to a search on walmart.com, I haven't spotted any in-store. Total Wine & More is also a vendor and some local package stores may order the refills upon request if they don't normally stock them.

With this spate of renewed activity surrounding the product, I brought that baby out of exile, (re)set it up and decided to give the brand a shout out.

Aside: Through a bit of a fluke, I ended up with two Draftmark systems from the original product test, and while I do drink beer, I don't drink it often enough to justify owning two systems in my, at times, overly practical mind, so I happily gave the extra one to a beer loving neighbor. If I expand my home bar later on – a definite possibility once I'm in roomier environs – I can acquire another system/s as needed since availability is expanding. I can also borrow my neighbor's system, and have offered to do the the same for him, of course, if he wants to say, throw a party and have more than one variety on tap. We're cool like that in my 'hood.

All I need right now is more beer… and the corresponding medallions for the handle. Get to it, AB InBev! Your audience is tired of waiting. Time for a marketing push. I'll volunteer to be a brand ambassador. I've been told I could sell sand in a desert.

NOTE: This post is part of my Kick-A-Kitchen series. I am a foodie, a gourmet, a bon vivant, if you will. I love to cook, to eat and to entertain good company (the whole eat, drink and be merry thing). As such, my kitchen and its neighboring bar-room are two of the most important places in my Castle Modern and outfitting these areas is a serious business. What rooms are particularly important to you?
DISCLAIMER: I am of legal drinking age (and then some). I am not an employee of Anheuser-Busch InBev and was not compensated to make the above post. However, several years ago, I received (two) Draftmark Home Tap Systems as part of a product test in exchange for my honest opinion. I gave mixed feedback at the time — loved the product concept and design, hated the extremely limited refill availability — and hoped the system would eventually be better supported by its maker. All opinions expressed above are my own.

UPDATE 27-Oct-2016: It would seem AB InBev has given up, as there have been no further announcements and the product's social media pages are all but dead. Sad, as it's a great product. I love mine. This is a missed opportunity.

NOTICE: This post is a reblog from (the now defunct) castlemodern.tumblr.com. It was originally published 26-Feb-2016. Post may have been edited or updated from its original text. 


  1. Heard that AB InBev and Keurig are teaming up to develop an at-home alcoholic beverage maker that would focus on beer, cocktails and other drinks. The machine would be based upon Keurig cold-brew technology.

    Considering AB InBev has all but abandoned the Draftmark (which is a sweet keg system) and Keurig quickly dropped its version of a cold-brew soda maker, I'm not exactly dancing in excitement. If it works, great. But they'll have to "show me the money" before I bite.

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