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Kegging Beer: I’m a convert!

In December, we had a party that was the perfect opportunity to figure out the kegging equipment that arrived at my house. After that one experience, I’m a convert! Here’s more about kegging and my experience, which will hopefully be helpful for any other homebrewers curious about what it means to take the step to keg.

Why kegging made sense

The month before our party, I was traveling a bunch. I brewed several batches of beer to ensure we had some for the end of the year merriments, but leading up to the party, I didn’t have the party beer done yet. With only a month to go (and a recipe that asked for 6 weeks), I went for it anyway.

The beer came out fine and finished fermenting and I racked it to hang out. With just barely enough time till the party, kegging also meant I could wait a little longer before getting it ready for the party. Generally, you just transfer your beer to the keg and put on the C02 tank and let it sit for a 2-3 days to take its carbonation (as opposed to bottling, where you put extra sugar in the bottle and wait a week for it to carbonate in the bottle).

One other reason kegging made sense – it is cold! The keg was fine outside (was in 30s day of the party, so didn’t even need ice or kegarator).

The Complication

I had an extra business trip thrown in for the 3 days before the party. Since I was still trying to work out the CO2 (getting it filled, finding the washers), there was no way to get it all in time to have the beer carbonated with the tank. As it was, it was a lot just to get the CO2 tank filled – there are few options for filling CO2 in town in Atlanta and so it meant working it into a busy work schedule.

So Tirza got the tank filled while I was on my last trip. But that meant I would have to carbonate it with sugar in the keg, and then use the C02 tank just for the serving. But this basically means mixing two big variables:

  • I hadn’t ever used the equipment before
  • I had no idea how much sugar to use for the kegging setup (all I knew was it should be less than when bottling)

And I had no margin for error with the party right around the corner! I served at around 10 PSI and put at 2/3 of the normal sugar into the keg for the carbonation. The keg wasn’t under pressure from the CO2 until time to serve.

Show time

Day of the party, I pulled a beer off the keg. Perfect! Lovely tiny bubbles and great pressure (despite the fact I was guessing on most of the variables!).

Beers were pouring great for the first dozen or so, and then I noticed it had slowed. I pondered increasing the pressure but instead decided to go over the setup, and OOPS! Operator error – I had somehow switched off the main valve! So the beer was coming out by its own carbonation (and was going flat in the process). I cranked back on the tank and away we went, with slightly flat beers for the next hour or so. All in all, I was very pleased with the evening and got lots of compliments on the beer 😀

Cleanup and Review

A few days after the party, I figured I should finish cleanup so I don’t get left with any nasty messes. To my delight, it was a cinch! Pop open the keg, rinse, clean and then store. Wow, that was easy. And efficient – there was probably about 2 tablespoons worth of liquid in the bottom of the keg!

So, in summary, kegging was:

  • Fast
  • Easy
  • Clean
  • Very party-friendly!

Thanks to my local homebrew club (FinalGravity) for support in working out some of the logistics!

Future of Kegging for Me

As I type, I’m waiting on another beer to transfer into the keg :D. For at least the cold season, this will be a great treat for me. I’m not sure what I’ll do when the heat comes back, as I don’t have a kegarator (and don’t really have space for one at the moment). I guess I’ll worry about that when I get there! For now, here’s to easy serving of beer!

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