Saturday, February 2, 2008

Keg Party

So you want to have a keg party? In prior two posts I have covered some of the basic information for getting a keg. In this post I am going to try and combine it into a more easily digested post.
Check this list for tips on buying a keg and dispensing the keg safely at your party.

    What size keg am I going to get?

    • Domestic US kegs come in three sizes

      • A 1/6 Barrel 5.23 gallon/19.80 liter provides 53 12oz servings 39 pints or 39 plus full red cups

      • A 1/4 Barrel 7.75 gallon/30 liter provides 82 12oz servings or 60 Pint servings ie. 60 full red cups

      • A 1/2 Barrel (American full size keg) 15.5 gallon/59.42 provides 165 12oz servings or 119 pints or 119 full red cups

    • While a smaller keg is cheaper then a larger keg, typically the smaller the keg the more expensive the beer is per drink (per unit of volume)

      • For example I was once quoted $60 for a 1/6 barrel of Sierra Nevada Summerfest and $97 for a 1/2 barrel of the same beer. Making the cost of the beer in the 1/6 keg $1.13 per 12 ounce serving while the cost of the same 12 ounce serving of beer from the 1/2 barrel keg was $0.58 making the beer in the 1/2 barrel keg 51% cheaper then the beer in the 1/6 barrel keg.

      • In Northern California Costco often sells bottled Sierra Nevada in cases of 24 for about $20. This makes the cost of each 12 ounce bottle roughly $0.83. Sometimes bottles are even cheaper then kegged beer.

    • The bottom line - the bigger the keg the cheaper the beer inside as compared to a smaller keg of the same beer.

    • But I am only going to have enough people to drink 2/3 of a full keg?

      • Often even if you think only a portion of a full keg is going to be consumed it is still cheaper to buy the 1/2 barrel keg then it is to get a smaller keg, even if you waste beer.

      • Buying the bigger keg also gives you more of a buffer so you don't run out of beer.

      • If your up to it, doing the math can save you money in the long run.

      • All you have to do is divide total cost of the keg you are planning on buying by the total number of drinks in that size keg to find the cost per drink.

    What kind of beer am I going to get?

    • How much money do you want to spend?

      • See my last post for a rough list of prices.

      • Budweiser and Bud Light are often surprisingly expensive I have known several people who have paid $100 and $120 dollars respectively for ½ baller kegs or Bud and Bud Light.

      • Pabst Blue Ribbon is often a steal at $60-70 per 1/2 barrel keg based on its quality and consistency.

      • Coors products tend to fall in the $70-100 range for a 1/2 barrel unless there is a sale.

      • Natural Ice, Keystone and Miller High Life will tend to run from $45 to $60 for a 1/2 barrel

      • Micro and craft brewed beer is going to start at around $100 per 1/2 barrel keg

      • Prices are going to vary based on your location in the country, your proximity to the brewery whose beer your going to buy, local taxes and fees and the supplier you get your keg from.

    • Buying for your parties demographic and season

      • Consider what kind of beer do the people who are coming to your party like to drink?

      • If your party goers are accustomed to Keystone Light and Coors Light and you provide them with a strong India Pale Ale from your local brewery they might not like it.

      • This goes the same for a group which is accustomed to drinking higher quality beer. They may not appreciate your keg of Natural Ice as much as you appreciated its price.

      • The exception for this is of course is beer for playing beer pong with, in which case most people don't tend care how crappy it is so long as it is not flat or sour (sour is bad).

      • Keep the season of your party in mind, buying a heavy stout or porter for a summer party might not go over as well as if you choose a lighter style beer like a blond or K├Âlsch.

    • Don't be afraid to ask for donations from party goers if you buy a high quality keg or any keg for that matter, just ask for more or less money depending on how much you spent. There is no such thing as free beer.

    Where am I going to buy the keg?

    • Think Local!

      • Once you have an idea of which brands of beer you might want to purchase for your party get out your phone book and call around to the various keg suppliers in your local area.

      • It has been my experience that BEVMO is not the cheapest place to get a keg under most circumstances. In fact it is often the most expensive.

      • When you call your local liquor store don't be afraid to ask the prices on several different kinds of beer.

      • If you can't understand what the clerk at the liquor store is saying, politely ask them to repeat themselves. Remember you never know who you are talking to, it could very well be the owner or a close relative of the owner.

      • If you treat the clerk with respect they will often be more willing to work with you or find you a hard to get keg (such as Magners,Chimey or Spaten). Sometimes they will make you a deal on a keg to, this is especially true if you know the prices of the same keg at their competitors store and you politely tell them that.

      • Keep in mind your local keg supplier won't have every brand or style of beer in stock. As a general rule. if the beer you are planing on getting in not on tap at most of the local bars town then the keg supplier probally will not have it in stock. A personal rule of mine is to always call at least a week ahead of time to order any keg. This ensures the supplier has enough time to get the keg from their distributer.

      • Also if your supplier knows you are coming in on Friday night for a keg of Coors Light, they will save you a keg. If they don't know your coming in for a keg, even if you are planning on purchasing a very common keg they might sell out of the beer you want. This is especially true on busy weekends and in college towns.

    • Be careful when you take the keg home.

      • Place the keg in your vehicle somewhere where it won't roll around and bang into things.

      • When you drive home stop slowly and accelerate gently.

      • Avoid sudden stops, don't be afraid to run over any kid who darts in front of you, you have to protect your beer (a joke!)

      • Go straight home, the longer you take to get home the warmer your keg is going to get.

      • The secret to keeping your keg from getting foamy is to keep it cold.

      • Don't let the keg get shaken up!

      • Once you are home take special care of the keg, by lifting it gently and not dropping it onto the ground. This is where a friend or two to help you carry the keg will help out a lot.

      • Often if you have to travel any distance from your car to where the keg will be dispensed a skate board makes for an excellent keg moving device.

    • Let the keg rest!

      • This means after you get the keg home and get the keg on ice let it sit for a while. At the shortest let it sit for an hour. If you can, let it set for three or four hours.

      • Personally I let kegs sit for four to twelve hours but I have tapped kegs right away without any foam. While at the same time I have tapped kegs right away and gotten lots of foam.

      • If you have the time, let your keg rest.

    How am I going to get the beer out of the keg?

    • You need a tap!

    • There are two basic kinds of tapping configurations for getting beer out of a keg and into your cup

    • The Common Hand Pump Party Tap

      • Basic Information

        • This device which has a tap unique to the keg it is meant to dispense. In the US this is most often a D style Sankey tap. There is a hand or foot pump built into or attached to this tap and some sort of hose or hoses to dispense the beer running out of the tap.

        • The most commonly seen form of this tap has a four to eight inch pump built into the top of the tap and a single hose with thumb valve at the end to dispense the beer running out the side of the tap.

        • Often one person will pump the tap while another pours beer into their cup.

        • Air is pumped into the keg by the pump will force the beer out into your cup.

        • Air exposes the beer to bacteria and oxygen, both which quickly (8 to 24 hours) spoil the beer and make it unfit for consumption (remember how sour beer is bad.)

        • A good party pump runs about $50 to $60 dollars to buy. If you are interested in buying one I suggest the purchasing the following party pump from Micromatic. If taken care of this party pump will last a long time and dispense many a keg of beer.

      • But I don't own a tap and I don't want to buy one

        • No problem, you can rent one at just about any keg supplier for around $10 to $25 dollars plus a $50-75 dollar deposit. Notice buying your own new tap doesn't take long to pay for its self.

    • A CO2 Powered Tapping System

      • Basic Information

        • This is the tapping system used in bars, pubs, kegerators and CO2 party dispensing systems.

        • No pumping is required as CO2 or a mix of CO2 and Nitrogen in the case of Guinness and other similar beers forces the beer out of the keg.

        • The quality of the beer is maintained because the beer is only exposed to a inert gas protecting it from oxygen and bacterial contamination.

        • Under proper refrigeration and pressure a keg dispensed using inert gas such as CO2 should last around 120 days.

        • These tapping setups are quite a bit more expensive then a common party pump.

        • A CO2 party dispensing system can use the same kind of faucet as at a bar to dispense beer. A faucet is the metal device the beer pours out of at a bar or on the front of a kegerator.

        • It has been my experience that the common party goer is unfamiliar with how to pour a beer using standard faucet on a CO2 party dispensing setup. In which case someone has to stand by the keg and pour beer for everyone or people will constantly pour a beer that is 70 to 80% foam.

        • The reason for this foamy tragic occurrence?

          • Party goers fail to fully open the tap causing the beer to sputter as it is dispensed.

          • Those who fully open the tap fail to let the beer run for a half of a second to a second to let the foam built up at the faucet to run out before placing their cup under the stream of beer.

          • Lastly people fail to hold their cup at anything close to the proper angle for tasty ratio of beer to head (foam.)

        • There are CO2 party dispensing setups which use the more familiar black hose to dispense the beer. This many be a more effective and universally understood method of beer dispensing.

        • A kegerator is going to cost anywhere from $300 to $1000 depending on what kind of fridge is used and the quality of the components. Generally though the components will run from $250 to $600 dollars depending on what beer is being dispensed, the quality of the components, the size of gas tanks, and the inclusion of a temperature regulator and gas filter (both of these increase the quality beer being dispensed.)

        • A CO2 party dispensing set up will run from about 120 in its simplest incarnation (including a 5 pound CO2 gas tank) to around 250 to 300 dollars for a setup with a bar style faucet, a duel gauge gas regulator and a ten pound gas tank.

        • A CO2 party dispensing set up for Guinness and other nitrogenized beers is going to coast about 330-400 dollars because of the special taps, faucets and gas tanks required.

        • There is also a device called a jokey box through which one runs often warmer beer through a coil in a cooler filled with ice water and then pours the beer out through a standard bar style faucet on the side of the cooler.

          • The problem with this set up is that the keg must be kept cold even though the beer is going to be chilled in the jokey box. This is because if the beer in the keg warms up the ratio of dissolved CO2 in the beer will change. In other words the beer will go flat and the taste will be compromised (in a bad way.)

    Where am I going to put the keg for the party?

    • You Need a Bucket!

      • Get a 55 gallon garbage can, these are the best because you can fully cover the keg with ice.

      • Smaller buckets such as the ones coming in different colors in which a ½ barrel keg is about half way exposed are okay. Their fault is that you can't fully cover the keg in ice.

    • Icing the Keg

      • You will need about three to four 20 pound bags of ice to keep a ½ barrel keg cold all night in a 55 gallon garbage can.

      • Don't skimp on ice, if your beer gets warm it will get foamy!

      • If you only put ice on the top of the keg the beer is going to still get warm. This is because the beer is drawn out of the keg from the bottom, if the ice is on the top it will not help keep the beer cold.

      • Before you put your keg in the bucket pour a 20 pound bag of ice into the bottom of the bucket. Do this even if you have a smaller bucket. Keeping the bottom of the keg warm is very important.

      • Put the keg in the bucket on top of the ice, you will probably need a friend to help you lift the keg into the bucket. Be careful not to hurt yourself or give yourself a hernia.

      • Pour a couple of bags of ice between the wall of the bucket and the keg.

      • Pour your last bag of ice on top of the keg to form a blanket of ice covering the whole keg. This much ice should keep your keg cold enough for about ten to twelve hours in 65 to 70 degree weather. This time will vary depending on the ambient temperature of the area the keg is in. In other words if it is 100 degrees outside the keg is going to get warmer faster then if it is 50 degrees outside.

    • Kegs are messy!

      • Places not to put a keg at a party include

        • Anywhere carpeted where you value the appearance of clean carpet.

        • On Hardwood Floors, beer stains anyone?

        • In the Kitchen next to the wall

          • If a lot of beer spills it can run under the baseboard and get soaked up by the drywall. This is bad especially in a rental. A solution to avoid this is to put towels around the keg bucket.

        • Putting down a tarp on carpet or a hardwood floor may not fully protect the floor. People still drop cups on the floor (wasted beer=bad) and if the spilled beer from the keg runs off the tarp your in trouble!

        • I recommend putting the keg in the garage or in the back yard.

        • Keep your keg off the front porch and out of the front yard, these locations are just asking for trouble from law enforcement.

        • A rule of thumb is to keep your keg out of sight from anyone who is on the street and from the view of someone who is standing at your front door.

    Common sense tips for buying and dispensing a keg at a party without getting a fine.

    • In all states in the US the legal Drinking age is 21.

    • When you go to buy your keg, make sure anyone who goes with you to pick up the keg has reached the age of 21. Often keg suppliers will card anyone with the buyer of the keg and anyone who is in the car being used to transport the keg.

      • If someone in your group is not 21 and the supplier checks IDs they will likely not sell you the keg, and they might not sell it to you when you come back a little later.

        • This means even if your underage roommate is going to drive his truck to get the keg the supplier might not sell it to you.

        • Talk to people you know who often buy kegs in your area to find out how strict your local suppliers are.

    • While many of us drank when we were underage from kegs at parties I am not encouraging or condoning underage consumption of alcohol.

    • Weather you agree with US law on this topic is unfortunately irrelevant. As of January of this year (2008) in California if you are caught providing a minor with alcohol the fine is $500 for the first offense and $1000 dollars for each offense after that.

    • In California and in 21 other states a keg identification system is used by law enforcement to determine who purchased any given keg. This is achieved by affixing each keg with a small sticker with a number unique to the individual purchaser of the keg.

    • In California the possession of a keg without this sticker is a misdemeanor and will most likely earn you a fine.

    • If you buy the keg, your responsible for who drinks from it. Even if your not at the party or you went to bed early.

    • A good way to avoid a fine is to make sure everyone who is drinking is over 21, wristbands are a cheap and easy way to identify who is good to drink beer and who is going to be sticking to soda.

    • This won't make you a the most popular person in town but it will keep the police happy and your bank account full.

    • Another solution is make sure the cops don't come, this isn't to say it makes it okay for minor to drink, you just don't need wrist bands.

    • When you turn your music on for your party, go out onto the street, if you can hear your music nice a clearly it is probably to loud and the police will be able to hear it clearly to.

    • Do your best to keep your neighbors from calling the cops, this means go over to their houses before the party and let them know you plans. Give them your cell phone number and tell them to call if it gets out of hand.

    • Better they call you then the police.

    • Keep people out of the front yard and in the house or in the back yard.

    The Police are here now what?

    • If and when the cops come do not let them in the house no matter what!

    • Tell them you will talk to them out front and will be happy to work with them but that they can't come in the house.

    • Walk out on your front porch and talk to the cops, be polite and understanding. Make sure to have your ID. They are probably going to give you a talk and maybe a ticket for a noise violation depending on your local rules. Most likely they will tell you to kill the music and disperse.

    • Treat the cops with respect no matter how rude they are to you.

    • Don't put your hands in your pockets when talking to the cops, this freaks them out for some reason, trust me on this one.

    • I once crossed my arms in front of a cop at my front door and the cop thought I was offended and he told me I was disrespecting him and threatened to call judicial affairs at the university, the moral of the story, watch your body language when you are talking to the cops.

    • Make sure to have a piece of paper and a pen handy to write down the officers names and badge numbers. This way if you feel they treat you rudely when you are polite you can talk to someone at the police station. Also if they treat you nicely you can always write a letter explaining what a good experience you had in dealing with the local police.

    • If the cops ask you to shut down the party do as they say, they have the upper hand and it is not worth fighting with them. Keep the following in mind

      • If you can wait for the cops to leave before sending everyone out do so.

      • If you have a back door have everyone go out that way

      • If you have to send people out with the cops out front be careful!

        • Don't let anyone take a cup containing any alcohol out front by the cops. To be on the safe side don't let anyone take a cup or bottle of anything with them when they leave!

        • If someone is to drunk to walk straight, is vomiting or falling down keep them at your place. Don't let them leave by the cops, especially if you have failed to regulate who is drinking and you have really drunk minors in your house.

        • If someone is to drunk to leave with the cops there they are probably to drunk to leave in general, unless they have a coherent friend to keep an eye on them don't let them leave. You don't want to be responsible for them should something happen to them.

        • If a clearly drunk person leaves the cops will likely check them out, if they are a minor you will get cited for furnishing alcohol to a minor and they will get a minor in possession citation.

        • Keep an eye on anyone to drunk to leave to make sure they don't have alcohol poisoning! Check them often as the night progresses.

        • Check out the following site for the signs of alcohol poisoning

    Someone is blacked out from alcohol, oh shit!

    • If someone is blacked out and you can't get them to respond it is time to call EMS (911). In the mean time pay attention to their breathing (if they stop breathing you may need to start CPR) and make sure if they vomit that they don't choke. What ever you do don't leave them!

    • If they are a minor and you supplied the alcohol at the party, you may be in trouble, but remember a citation and fine are better then living with the knowledge that you could have saved someone's life.

    • Try to keep an eye on people at your party to make sure no one drinks to much.

    • If your party is to big to keep an eye on everyone then you probably needed to get more then one keg and you need some other people to help you keep an eye on things.

    • It is hard to drink so much beer you blackout but it is very easy to drink to much hard liquor. If you choose to offer hard liquor make sure to be extra careful

    • If you offer hard liquor watch out for minors, especially because they often don't know how to drink or what their own tolerances are.

    Most important of all Have Fun!


homain said...

medically serious blacking out is for dickheads. this is the longest blog post I've ever seen; very thorough.

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