A full keg of suds is the best way to kick your Super Bowl party up to the next level. And while it can seem daunting to deal with so much beer, buying, tapping and serving craft beer from a keg is really pretty simple.
Homebrewers and people serious about serving beer from a keg in the best way will have a refrigerator dedicated to holding their keg. These “kegerators,” as they’re commonly known, can be as simple as a modified mini fridge or they can be custom-built units that hold several kegs. You can buy pre-built kegerators from Best Buy or appliance stores, or you can buy kits that include all the plumbing and faucets to convert an existing fridge into a home for kegs.
Of course you can always just keep the keg in a tub of ice for the duration of the party and use a “party pump” to serve the beer too.
No matter which method you employ, there will be a few common elements that you need to know about. Namely the faucet that actually dispenses the beer, some way to keep the keg pressurized so the beer will flow out of the keg, and a coupler that attaches to the keg and makes it all work.
The party taps — you may remember pumping these at house parties — commonly available to rent when you pick up a keg, work, but they expose the beer to the atmosphere (that’s what you’re pumping into the keg), which means the beer’s flavor will hold for only a couple of days before it starts to oxidize (and begins to taste like a stack of wet newspapers).
How much beer is actually in a keg anyway? The most common sizes for craft beer kegs are half-barrel kegs (which hold about 15 gallons of beer) and sixth-barrel kegs (also called “sixtels,” they hold about 5 gallons of beer). This equals about 165 or 54 12-ounce servings of brew, respectively. (As a comparison, the typical 2-liter growler holds just over five 12-ounce servings.)
The “pony kegs” (also called quarter-barrels) from your college days are much more common when you're buying American macro brewed lagers, though some craft breweries also offer them.
It’s a lot of brew to be sure, but it won’t do you any good if you can’t get the beer out of the keg, so make sure that you have a compatible tap (ask the keg retailer about renting one), and you know how to use it. Wired has a good primer on what you need to know to tap the keg and get the beer out.
There are a few options for retail sales of craft beer kegs. The big chain superstores, like BevMo and Total Wine, stock craft kegs — and they can hook you up with the necessary hardware as well. Call your closest location for details on what’s available and pricing. Ramirez Liquors has a few locations around East L.A. that offer craft beer in kegs, as does Beverage Warehouse near Culver City (they even list what’s available online).
Here are some local breweries who have confirmed that they offer retail kegs of their brews through their tasting rooms. Call well in advance of the big game to see what's available:
Absolution Brewing: 878 Columbia St., Torrance, (310) 490-4860.
Angel City Brewery: 216 Alameda St., Los Angeles, (213) 622-1261.
Bravery Brewing Co.: 42705 8th St. West, Lancaster, (661) 951-4677.
El Segundo Brewing Co.: 140 Main St., El Segundo, (310) 529-3882.
Eagle Rock Brewing: 3056 Roswell St., Los Angeles, (323) 257-7866.
Golden Road Brewing: 5410 W. San Fernando Road, Los Angeles, (213) 542-6039.
Ladyface Ale Co.: 29281 Agoura Road, Agoura Hills, (818) 477-4566.
MacLeod Ale Brewing Co.: 14741 Calvert St., Van Nuys, (818) 631-1963.
Ohana Brewing Co.: 7 S. 1st St., Alhambra, (626) 282-2337.
Pacific Plate Brewing: 1999 S. Myrtle Ave., Monrovia, (626) 239-8456.
Timeless Pints: 3671 Industry Ave., Lakewood, (562) 490-0099.