For his new beer business, a local native has combined the old-school nostalgia of the Chattanooga Choo-Choo with new technology represented by the Innovation District.
Dakin Cranwell recently opened the self-service taproom, called American Draft, in one of the Choo-Choo’s train cars.
It didn’t make sense to try to squeeze a bar and bartender into the 600-square-foot space, and Cranwell had seen the self-pour technology in Denver, where he’s been for the past 10 years doing everything from going to film school to creating a restaurant concept.
When customers come into the car, which is near the Glenn Miller Gardens at the Choo-Choo, an employee checks their identification. Patrons get a radio frequency identification card that unlocks the taps.
“Your card is an identifier for who you are and what you’re pouring,” Cranwell said. “Anything that’s coming out of the faucet is being charged on your tab, and you can see your bill [and the ounces you pour] ticking up.”
Customers can test small pours of beers they may not be familiar with or get full pints.
After a patron gets 32 ounces, the system requires them to check back in with the employee, who makes sure they aren’t overserving themselves. The employee can reactive the card so the customer can continue drinking.
American Draft has beers from across the country, and the pour system is organized by region.
Cranwell said that the beer prices are comparable to other local bars, although maybe 50 cents more in some cases, and that customers get a value add by being able to try a variety of beers.
He has plans for other future ventures, possibly including a food concept in another train car that could service American Draft customers.