When I switched my focus to product reviews I definitely intended to include kitchen appliances in the mix, and today I found the perfect inaugural example. Krups, noted for their superior home espresso machines, has teamed up with Heineken to devise the Beertender, a home draught beer system. This has been available in Europe for a while, but it's making it's American debut via Williams Sonoma March 1 (that's TODAY). A more sophisticated model is rumored to hit shelves in April.
So what is it, exactly? Essentially, a pretty, digital, compact "dock" for a mini keg of beer. An LCD panel displays the amount of beer left, the temperature of the keg, and, as a nice touch, the number of days of freshness left. You can adjust the temperature, but I think the carbonation balance is preset. I recommend checking out Not Cot's nicely graphic review here.
While the Beertender is awfully pretty, I must admit I'm not so much in favor of the gadget. To begin, as far as I can tell you'll only be able to purchase mini kegs of Heineken, which might not be everyone's first choice (and certainly isn't mine). Other web sites claim Beertender's compatibility with "other premium European beers", but their availability (and premium-ness) is questionable. Furthermore, because the BeerTender uses internally pressurized kegs you can't fill up kegs yourself with homebrew or craft beer, and it's unlikely that small craft brewers will offer their beers in a compatible form. Craft beer enthusiasts are best sticking to cumbersome but versatile kegerators.