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Food for Thought - Rapids' Blog
Serving keg beer at a party
How much beer do you need?
How much beer you need at your party depends on a few primary factors. First, how many people will be at the party? How many of those party goers are of legal drinking age? How long will the party be? And is beer the primary alcoholic beverage being served? If beer is going to be the main beverage, you can generally assume your beer drinking guests will consume 2 glasses of beer the first hour, and 1 glass of beer each hour after that (12 ounce glasses).
The standard "full size" keg in the US is called a 1/2 barrel keg. If a real barrel of beer is 31 gallons, a keg would have 15 1/2 gallons (1,984 ounces) of beer and a pony keg (1/4 barrel) holds 7.5 gallons (960 ounces) of beer. If you are serving the beer in twelve ounce cups, that would equal roughly 165 cups for a standard keg and 80 cups for a pony keg.
We do not want to burn too many brain cells, so for the sake of ease, let’s pretend 100 drinking adults are attending your party and the party is going to last 2 hours. That would be 3 glasses of beer each so: 3 (glasses) x 100 (people) x 12 (ounces) = 3600 ounces. A standard keg is 1984 ounces, so divide 3600/1984 =1.8 and you need 2 kegs of beer.
Too early for math? Use our handy-dandy beer calculator:
What equipment do you need?
This is very much dependent on how long your party is, if this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, or if you routinely serve beer at parties. In all scenarios, you need to cover these two essential factors:
1) A way to keep the beer cold.
2) A way to dispense the beer from the keg.
If the length of your party is less than 8 hours, and serving beer is a once in a lifetime event, then a party pump is perfect for dispensing the beer. Once air is introduced into a keg, you have about 8-12 hours before the beer turns stale or flat. A party pump pumps air from the outside into the keg to pressurize the contents so that you can dispense the beer.
If you are planning on drinking from your keg for two days or more, then you will need to use a portable beer dispensing system that uses CO2 gas to tap the beer from the keg. As long as your beer is kept cold, with this type of dispensing system you have 45 days or more before your beer starts to taste stale.You can rent a party pump where you purchase your keg. You will need to put a deposit on the pump. If you are concerned with cleanliness, you might want to purchase a brand new party pump. Bacteria can form inside a party pump and it is hard to know if the business renting you the pump has cleaned it correctly since the last party. If you do purchase your own brand new party pump, make certain the coupler system of the tap matches that of the beer keg. In the United States, most often the keg is a Sanke System D, but not always, so it is best to ask when your purchase the keg!
Keeping Your Party Keg Cold
For a one time event, you can rent a keg tub or insulated keg blanket or jacket to keep the beer cold. Keep it well iced at all times. When you are not pouring beer, put the tap and line into the ice as well. Keep it iced well throughout the party. If you are outside and can put the keg in shade, do so. The temperature you need to keep the beer is 35-38 degrees Fahrenheit. Taste and quality both suffer if the temperature rises above this. As we said before, you also loose beer as it becomes more foamy. Do not bother to throw a keg party if you are not prepared to keep the beer cold.
If your plan is for frequent beer parties, if you are catering events, or if you participate in tailgating parties and you supply the beer, then you will want to look at portable beer dispensing systems. This could be a portable kegerator that will require electricity or a portable beer coil cooler or "jockey box" system. One jockey box can be fitted with up to 4 different taps so that you can serve a selection of beers. You will need to add a CO2 tank and gas regulator to the system. It is still best to also keep the keg beer in a keg bucket of ice or inside an insulated jacket.
Where to Purchase A Beer Keg & Tap
Where you can purchase your kegs depends on state and local laws and regulations. In some states you can purchase kegs from bars, restaurants, and from craft pubs. In many states you can also purchase kegged beer from liquor stores or grocery stores. And in some states you can only purchase a keg from a wholesale beer distributor. If you do not know the laws in your state, either google it, or just call your favorite grocery store. They will know.
The place you purchase your keg will generally be able to rent you a tap and a keg tub. In some cases they will add on a charge for the tap and tub and also ask for a deposit. This is another good reason to just purchase these items. Of course you get the deposit back, but you will not get that charge back. If the charge for the tap is around $20.00, you are better off to purchase a brand new tap! With a brand new tap, you do not have to worry about bacteria, or poor maintenance issues that might cause the tap to fail when it comes time to dispense your beer. You will also need to put a deposit on the keg. They will want that keg back and the deposit will be enough you will want to bring it back. Deposit and charge rates are different everywhere, but plan on $100.00 in deposits and around $20.00 for a tap and keg bucket charge. The price of the keg depends on brand of beer and size of keg. Plan on $55 dollars on up to over $100.00 for a pony or sixth barrel keg and for a standard half-barrel keg plan on $80.00 on up to $175.00. Again, the brand of the beer decides the price and craft beer while delicious, can get pricey.
If you have never tapped a keg before, ask when you go to pick it up! They will be happy to show you. When you get it where you are going, you must let it sit for at least 1 hour before you try and tap it. Two hours is better. We know that is a long time when you are thirsty, but it is necessary. Tapping a keg that has been moved around is exactly like opening a bottle of beer that has been shook. Just don't do it!
The Number #1 Mistake Made Dispensing Beer With A Party Pump.
Almost everybody does this wrong. You are going to do it right, and because you do it right, you are going to taste better quality beer, will get more beer for your buck and the perfect amount of foam.
This seems backwards, but it is absolutely the right way to tap a keg with a party pump. Do not ever pump air into the keg unless the faucet is open! No Really! The Faucet needs to be open. Even the first time you pump air. The Faucet needs to be open!
1) Tap the Keg
2) Open the Faucet, this will relieve the pressure in the keg.
3) With the faucet still open, begin pumping until your perfect flow rate is reached.
4) Stop pumping.
5) When you need to pump again to get back to the perfect flow rate, OPEN THE FAUCET FIRST!