Bring a Keg of Beer Home

It may seem a simple thing to buy a keg of beer and bring it home for use, but there are certain steps you can follow that will allow you to avoid future problems with that keg and its contents.

If you are planning to bring a keg of beer home consider your options for serving it.

Will you be able to refrigerate it for the entire time it takes to serve it or will you be relying on ice? Are you planning on finishing off the keg in one day or will you be storing it? If you are storing it, do you have a beer frig or kegerator?

Finally, are you using a hand pump to serve the beer or will you have the advantage of pressurized carbon dioxide? If you are hand pumping the keg plan on serving all of the beer within 24 hours of tapping the keg. Beyond this time oxidation of the beer will begin and the beer will taste very bad. Consider this when selecting the size of your keg.

Be sure you select the proper size for your keg based on the number of pints you expect to serve. Furthermore, consider your capacity to carry the keg based on the size and weight. Are you able to gently lift and carry a keg? Will you need a helper? Learn about keg sizes.

Also, remember that a keg does have a shelf life so you must plan for that also. Read more about kegged beer shelf life.

Have an understanding of the different keg coupling systems for the different beers. Make sure that you have the proper coupler for the keg of beer that you are buying. North American domestic brewers almost always use a standard "American" Sanke coupler, but there are exceptions. Imports use a variety of coupler systems. Learn to make sense of the various keg couplers.

In most cases you will have to order the keg of beer in advance although in some locations, popular beers may be kept “in stock.” You will also have to put down a deposit on the keg and any equipment (such as a pump) that you are borrowing from your supplier.

The empty kegs are the property of the beer brewer and the deposit is put down in order to ensure that the empty keg is returned. Please do not keep the keg. Brewers invest a lot of money in kegs and when you keep a keg you are stealing from a brewer and thereby contributing to the cost of beer. Do the right thing and return the keg.

Once at your supplier:

1. Find out when the keg was delivered to your supplier. If it was delivered earlier that same day it could be slightly warm. This would effect how you treat the keg once you get it home.

Believe it or not, regardless of how much effort brewers and distributors put into keeping kegged beer cold, beer delivery trucks are almost never refrigerated. Also in very cold places the beer can arrive frozen!

If the keg has been at your supplier at least overnight the temperature should be OK.

2. In relation to number one above - assuming that the keg is the right temperature at pick-up time, get the keg home and refrigerated as soon as possible. If you are combining errands make the beer pick-up last. If you have a very long way to go - say more than a 30 minute drive, it might be worth your while to ice the keg down on the way home.

3. Secure the keg in your vehicle in such a way so that it is stable and upright. Don’t allow it to roll around or fall over. Too much agitation will lead to foamy pours later on because a keg is like a large soda can in this regard – shake it up and you will be forcing carbon dioxide out of solution. When the keg is opened look out! Learn more about carbonation in beer.

4. Once at home carefully lift the keg out of your vehicle and move it to its intended location with minimal jostling. Do not roll the keg to is destination! Many kegs now have built in handles to help you carry it. If you need help - get it. This is where smaller keg sizes can really be helpful. A quarter barrel is a lot lighter than a half barrel and can be carried by one person.

5. Once the keg is placed, it is best to allow it some time to settle in. This gives the temperature a chance to equalize to a uniform cold and also allows any carbon dioxide “break out” to return to solution.

How quickly you can tap the keg of beer depends on the factors mentioned above. The best way to tell is to test the beer a couple of hours after getting the keg home.

Assuming all you equipment is functioning properly and that your beer temperature and gas pressure are properly set - you should be able to serve the beer with minimal foam.

Be sure your beer temperature is below 40 degrees. Take the temperature of the beer.

Learn more about gas pressure.

Learn more about serving equipment choices.

Return to All About Draft Beer from Bring Home a Keg of Beer

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