Mini kegs

While getting ready for a party recently, I dropped a case of Coors in the shopping cart and was headed for the aisle when I paused in front of a Heineken mini keg.

These have been in stores for a while, but you don’t seem them at parties much. They hold five liters of beer, which is equivalent to about a 12 pack, but I’ve never seen them in frequent use.

I wanted to bring something different to this party so I put the case of Coors back on the shelf and picked up the keg. I have to say that after enjoying the keg, I may be buying more of them.

The kegs have an improved tap that is inserted into the top of the keg. The tap has a small needle that pops a tiny seal at the top of the keg. The pressurized beer pours out smooth and foamy. These new taps are a huge improvement over the crappy, red pull-out tabs that used to be at the bottom of these small kegs. Those tabs leaked beer and pressure so after about two beers you had a wet counter and flat beer. I think those weak taps is what kept these kegs out of the mainstream. You may have purchased one for the novelty, but were soon disappointed by the lame reality of the product.

The improved tap actually delivers a real “mini keg” experience. I had prepared to be let down by the keg and it’s $20 price tag, but all the beer that the keg dispensed was fresh, lively and better than a beer from a bottle.The last few pints from the keg came out slowly, but still had plenty of carbonation. If I recall correctly, the keg’s packaging claims you can keep it up to 10 days in the fridge, and based on my experience I think that could be possible.

A lack of variety is a problem. So far, I’ve only seen Heineken or Becks in the mini keg. It would be great if I could pick up a stellar micro brew like a North Coast Great White, but I just don’t think that is going to happen any time soon. Cans and bottles are the industry norm, and you can still find more beer for less money on the shelves. For example, I was in Rite Aid yesterday and saw they had 12 packs of Heineken for less than one of the kegs.If there was more variety, it might actually be worth it to drop a couple hundred bucks for one of those countertop kegerators that keep mini kegs carbonated for a while.

The countertop kegerator or BeerTender may be billed as the "ultimate at home draught beer experience" but it really isn't worth the money.

The mini keg seems to be a great option for a small tailgate party, picnic or softball game. It provides a sense of the keg experience, without the cost, hassle or risk of wasted beer that a traditional keg brings. You can have that fresh beer taste out of plastic cups that make a keg so much fun, but you and your buddies don’t have to drink 18 beers each not to waste money. (Now of course this can be fun in of itself … I remember a lost weekend in Eugene, Ore. when myself and my roommates decided we could and needed to drink a full quarter barrel and failed in heroic fashion.)

Napa Valley Tip: My favorite brewery in Napa Valley, Silverado Brewing Company, sells 5 gallon kegs for the insanely cheap price of $55 bucks with no deposit. You just need to put in your order 48 hours in advance.

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