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Beer Kegs (1,500 Words)

It's no surprise that beer is one of America's favorite alcoholic drinks. In fact, in 2018 Americans consumed over 6.8 billion gallons of beer.

So when it comes to choosing a keg, you might find yourself leaning towards the biggest size available. But is bigger always better?

There are six different types of kegs on the market today, and each one is unique. Kegged beer is different than its bottled counterpart, so you might not actually want how many beers in a keg the size of a barrel versus how many come in a traveling container.

Below, we cover the basics of each style of a keg, what they might be used for, and what you should do once you select the right style of keg for your event so you can have the best beer keg possible.

Types of Kegs

When you picture a keg, what comes to mind? Chances are you're picturing a big metal drum filled with booze, and someone may or may not be drinking out of it upside down.

This big metal container is called a half barrel. It holds a whopping 124 pints of beer and is the largest keg on the market. While it's certainly one of the most popular options, it's not your only choice when it comes to kegs.

The smallest options hold as little as five liters of beer, and there are kegs in all sorts of shapes and sizes between these two extremes. Let's cover what makes each choice different.

1. Mini Keg

The Mini keg is the baby of the keg family. It only holds up to five liters of beer and is specifically crafted for mini kegerators.

The small size of the keg makes it the perfect choice for portability and one-sitting usage. Due to the size, however, you might find that your options are limited. Beer suppliers usually focus their attention on larger kegs that they can charged higher prices for.

If you're looking for a keg to take camping or to an outdoor concert but don't want to haul around a hefty metal container, this is the ideal keg as it's easy to both carry and keep chilled.

2. Cornelius Keg

Are you a homebrewer who prefers kegs to bottles? If so, the Cornelius keg is probably the right choice for you.

These kegs are easy to clean and keep stored away in-between brewing sessions. They aren't as small as the Mini keg, however, so you can walk away from a brewing session with more beer than you might otherwise get.

Cornelius kegs have two different types of connectors that they might come with, and you need to be familiar with both. They are the ball-lock and the pin-lock connectors.

The Cornelius, or Corny keg, holds five gallons of beer. This is a huge increase from the Mini keg, which only holds five liters.

3. Sixth Barrel Keg

Next on the list is the Sixth Barrel keg, a popular option for beer-heavy restaurants.

This keg is usually found alongside dual or triple-tap kegerators and is only slightly larger than a Cornelius Keg. Its tall and slender shape makes it a great option for restaurants who want to provide a large breadth of beer selections in their menus, but don't have a ton of storage space.

The Sixth Barrel holds 5.16 gallons but looks significantly slimmer than other kegs on the market.

As a result, it's easy to have multiple Sixth Barrel kegs near each other so that you can provide multiple beer flavors at once.

4. Quarter Barrel Keg (the Pony Keg)

You may have never seen this keg, but the Pony keg is famous for its design. This keg is large enough to hold down 82 bottles of beer, and its large carrying capacity makes it a popular keg choice for beer experts.

It's much shorter and stouter than other options, which makes them a little easier to transport even with the large carrying capacity. We should note, however, that these kegs do take up more ground space. Each Pony keg holds 62 pints of beer.

5. Slim Quarter Keg

The Slim Quarter keg is like the Pony keg's taller and thinner twin.

It holds the exact same amount as the Pony keg but is long and lean instead of short and stout like the Pony keg. The Slim Quarter is a perfect option for anyone who wants a big keg and has a dual-tap kegerator.

It comes in a similar shape to the Sixth Barrel keg but holds an additional 27.5 bottles of beer.

6. Half Barrel Keg

The largest option on the market, and arguably the most famous, is the Half Barrel keg. The sheer carrying capacity of this keg makes it a great option for big parties and events. One Half Barrel keg holds the equivalent of 165 bottles of beer.

This keg size is most often found in bars and restaurants and, because it's so popular, most home kegerators are designed to fit this size of keg unless they're specifically designed for Mini kegs.

While the overwhelming popularity of the Half Barrel keg might make it seem like the natural choice, the size of the Half Barrel can be a detractor. Their large size makes them heavy and difficult to transport. They also come with a huge amount of unpasteurized beer, which must be kept cold and consumed quickly to keep it from spoiling.

How to Choose a Keg

Now that you know the various sizes of kegs available in the market, you can start to decide what type of keg would be right for you. Consider the type of kegerator you are working with. While most kegerators are already designed to be dual-tap, some kegerators are single-tap only and only let you work with one beer at a time. If you don't have a kegerator at your home or business, make sure that you have a place where you can keep the keg cold in some way.

Next, you'll need to decide how many beers in a keg you're going to require. Keg beer is almost always unpasteurized because it's designed to be stored at cold temperatures and consumed quickly. This is different than bottled beer that can last for months at a time at room temperatures.

If you don't think you'll need 165 bottles of beer for your next event, don't purchase a Half Barrel because you'll just be left with an unused amount of beer that will go bad if you don't drink it quickly. While you can always pour the beer from the keg into glasses and store it in the fridge, the unpasteurized nature of the beer means that you'll still need to consume it quickly.

You'll also want to be aware of the keg system that's being used. Sankey kegs are most often used by microbreweries. They're a little outdated, but still common enough to be aware of. The other usual key is a Hoff-Stevens key, which needs to be screwed on carefully to avoid being sprayed.

Remember Your Crowd

Are you choosing a keg for people who just want to drink beer and relax, or are you trying to pick a keg for a group of beer aficionados? Keeping your audience in mind as you select your keg will help make sure that you choose a keg that fits the need of your event.

Mini Kegs are a great portable choice but often come with limited options in terms of beer types. If you're trying to appeal to a crowd who prefers microbrews, you'll also want to stay away from half barrels, which often are designed for large quantities of beer.

Once You've Chosen

Once you've picked your keg size, the fun can begin. Plan to order your keg at least a week before your event and have it delivered 24 hours before people are due to start arriving so that the beer inside the keg can settle before it's tapped.

Remember that you'll only be renting the keg, so make sure to double-check that you're renting the right equipment to go along with your choice and that you've arranged for a time to have the keg picked up.

Consider how you plan to chill your keg. A kegerator or keg bucket will work well but, in a pinch, you can also use a clean trash can filled with ice. Just make sure that ice surrounds the entire keg, especially the stem.

How Many Beers in a Keg?

It might feel like the only question you should have to ask, but choosing a keg extends far beyond the simple question of how many beers in a keg.

Choosing a draft beer system and picking a keg can seem overwhelming with the number of options available. The good news is that, even though there's a lot of information, beer is fairly straightforward. Using this guide, you'll be on the right path towards not only choosing the right keg for your party but crafting a unique experience that your guests will be sure to remember.

Check out our blog for all of the answers to your beer questions. From kegs to glassware, we've got you covered.


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