Portable Draft Beer Serving Options!

Pictured: Micro Kegging System from William’s Brewing

Looking for options to serve your draft beer home brew on the go?  Here’s a roundup of some of the available options for your next tailgate, party or get together.

Included in this Post:

  • Growlers
  • Carbonation Caps – used with PET Bottles
  • Small Draft Systems
  • Tips and Tools for Filling Growlers and Small Draft Containers
  • Techniques and equipment for dispensing full corny kegs of beer
  • Portable Kegs and Systems
  • Coolers and Ice Packs
  • Other Issues: Chilling and Cloudiness

Growlers

One of the easiest options to serve your homebrew on the go is filling up a growler.  See below for tips on getting a good growler fill.

Standard growlers are easy to be had and… easy to break.  This section focuses on stainless steel models.  All of these are vacuum insulated.  Vacuum insulation helps keep beer cold for a long, long time (I’ve seen quoted times of 24+ hours – that’s going to be dependent upon conditions) and also resists or completely eliminates sweating.  These also generally look amazing.  They’re also great because you can take them to the park, beach or pool without being concerned about broken glass.

Stanley Classic Vacuum Insulated Growler – several color options available.  I have this growler and it’s awesome.  See: [Hands on Review]

Klean Kanteen Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Growler with Leak Proof Stainless Steel Swing Lok Cap – 64oz


YETI Rambler 64oz Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Bottle with Cap


Hydro Flask 64 oz Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Leak Proof Sports Water Bottle, Wide Mouth with BPA Free Flex Cap, Black


MiiR Stainless Steel Insulated Growler Bottle, 64-Ounce – available in a variety of colors


Complete Ultimate Growler via William’s Brewing.  Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Growler along with dispensing head, tap and CO2 injector cartridge.

 

 

Neoprene Growler Carriers: These add an additional layer of insulation and protection to your growler.  A number of models and sizes are available.  Some offer additional features like shoulder straps and storage compartments.  Make sure the one you buy is compatible with your growler.  Search “neoprene growler carrier” on Amazon


Carbonation Caps

Carbonation caps allow you to pressurize your beer inside of a compatible 1 or 2 Liter PET bottle for quick carbonation and transport.  Fill the 1L or 2L Bottle just like you would a growler, put on a carbonating cap and pressurize for easy transport.  You can squeeze the bottle to expel extra head space prior to pressurizing with CO2.  When you pressurize the head space is filled up with CO2.  You can also use carbonation caps to help fine tune carbonation levels or force carbonate quickly.

Note: When multiple suppliers are mentioned, products may not be identical to the pictured item.

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The Carbonator (sometimes called the CarbaCap) – Plastic.  Fits 28mm PET Bottles.  This has a built in ball lock connection so you can hook it right up to your [ball lock] kegerator CO2 lines.

Sources: AIH | Amazon | Austin HomerewMoreBeer

 

Kent Systems Carbonation Cap

Kent Systems Soda Bottle Cap and QD via MoreBeer.   This system works with both ball and pin lock setups.  Just add a tee to your CO2 line [or otherwise hook the QD up to your gas system] and use to pressurize.  The QD and caps are available separately so you can obtain multiple caps economically.  One QD can work with as many caps as you need.

 

Stainless Steel Carbonator Cap.CarbonatorSSbarb-2  Same idea as other carbonation caps… just made out of much sturdier stainless steel.  Some models have a barb, which can be used for DIY draft line cleaning builds and more

Amazon – Stainless Carbonation Cap with 5/16″ Barb Ball Lock Type, Fit Most Soft Drink PET Bottles & UP100 Line Cleaning Cap Stainless Carbonation Cap Counter Pressure Bottle Filling,w/ 5/16″ Barb | Austin HomebrewBrew HardwareWilliam’s Brewing

38 MM Carbonator Caps – Similar in function to the smaller caps mentioned above, 38 mm caps fit on Tap A Draft bottles and many 3 Liter PET Bottles.

SourcesAustin Homebrew: | William’s Brewing

 


Small Draft Systems

Small kegging setups that lend themselves to easy transport.  You can either fill from your kegerator or bottle condition directly in these.

the beerbox

The BeerBox uses 2.75 Gallon food grade HDPE Containers.  These are sized to easily fit in a refrigerator or cooler.  Each container contains an integrated port for a CO2 injector.  Multiple tap styles are available.  You can condition and carbonate directly in these or fill from your larger kegging system.

Sources: AIH | Amazon | love2brew

Small and Micro Kegging Systems at William’s Brewing.  Available in 1.75 and 2.5 gallon sizes, these setups include a small ball lock keg, faucet and regulator.  Everything you need to serve your keg on the go.

 

 

The Party Pig uses 2.5 Gallon PET Bottles along with pressure pouches.  The pouches take the place of CO2 that would normally be required.

GrowlerWerks uKeg 128 oz Pressurized Growler – although this is a growler it could also be called a mini draft system.  The uKeg is vacuum insulated, has a 1 gallon capacity (also available in a more standard 64 ounce size), is pressurized and has a built in tap.  That makes it an on the go mini keg that, in most cases, won’t need to be refrigerated.  See: Hands on Review: GrowlerWerks uKeg 128 Pressurized Growler


Tips and Tools for Filling Growlers and Small Draft Containers

Filling a growler or small draft dispenser from your draft setup is an easy and straightforward process.

  1. Start with a clean growler.  Use some growler cleaning tabs, PBW or your favorite homebrewing cleanser.  Refrain from using dish soaps and the like.  Thoroughly rinse your growler after cleaning.  If you’re not going to use it right away, let it air dry.  I always store my growlers with the cap off.  Starting with a clean growler is important for general cleanliness and food safety, but it also makes filling your growler easier.  Spots and such can serve as nucleation points causing unnecessary foam during the fill.
  2. A warm growler can lead to excessive foaming.  Start with a cold growler.  I suggest putting your growler directly in your kegerator so it’s the same temperature as your beer.  This will help to reduce foaming.
  3. Having a wet growler also helps reduce foam.  Put properly mixed Star San solution in your growler prior to chilling, swirl it around to coat all surfaces and discard just prior to filling.  If you’ll be drinking the growler right away, you can skip the Star San and just use fresh, cold tap water.
  4. Turn down the pressure.  Serving pressure is generally around 10 PSI, depending on how your system is tuned.  That makes for too quick of a fill and too much foam.  Turn down the pressure on your CO2 regulator to 3 or 4 psi to fill your growler slowly.  Remember to purge keg headspace after decreasing your regulator’s PSI setting.
  5. Affix a growler filler or length of tubing to your faucet.  If you’re using picnic taps a 3/8″ ID section of tubing should fit nicely on the end of your taps.  If you’re using a Perlick style faucet, a section of 1/2″ ID tubing should fit on your faucet.  Make sure the tubing is long enough to hit the bottom of the growler.  Filling from the bottom up should reduce oxygen pickup and foaming.
  6. As your beer gets close to the top lower the growler to withdraw the tubing and top up.
  7. Cap on foam.  When you cap on foam the head space is essentially purged with CO2.  Have a clean towel or rag available to clean up the excess and any spills.

Growler Fillers: These allow you to easily attach a length of tubing to your faucet for the purpose of filling a growler.  They can just as easily be used to fill a small kegging system or small keg.  Just use a longer piece of tubing.

 


Techniques and equipment for dispensing full corny kegs of beer

Now we transition into solutions for serving full Cornelius kegs of beer.  Combine your keg full of homebrew with some sort of faucet and a CO2 source.

Quick Disconnect Faucet Assemblies:
These are nice because they generally look and work great and take up minimal space.

Other Faucet Options:

Flow Control Beer Gun FaucetFlow Control Faucet via Keg Connection.  This handheld faucet has built in flow control.  Variable flow control means you can change the resistance that this faucet provides.  That’s great for high carbonation beers and it also means less tubing.

 

Stainless Draft Beer Gun – from William’s Brewing.  A high quality replacement for a picnic or cobra style faucet.

 

 

Draft Jockey Boxes: These are for serving beer that isn’t necessarily cold yet.  Ice in the cooler gets beer down to serving temperature quickly.

jockey box

Single Faucet – Sources: Adventures in Homebrewing | Austin Homebrew SupplyKeg Connection | More Beer

Double Faucet – Sources: Adventures in Homebrewing | Austin Homebrew SupplyKeg Connection | More Beer

Keg Connection Build Your Own Jockey Box

 

Build Your Own Jockey Box via Keg Connection – lots of options to customize

 

CO2/Pressure Options:

Now that we have a faucet that works on the go, we need some sort of pressurization system.  Of course you could lug around your full size CO2 tank and regulator, but this section focuses on options that are easy to transport.

There are two main types of solutions are mini/micro regulators and hand held injectors.  Mini regulators generally have the ability to maintain a set pressure vs injectors have no such control.  If you go with the generally less expensive injector option, I recommend running the thing yourself.  Guests tend to squeeze it for fun and sport and empty out the cartridge in short order.  You just need a couple of taps to keep the pressure at an acceptable level for serving.=

More Related to Pressurization:

The Adapter II Paintball Gauge

The Adapter II Paintball Gauge.  Use a compact Paintball CO2 tank to dispense your beer using this CO2 regulator designed for the task.  Much more portable than your 5, 10 or 20 lb tank.

 

Misc Tank Adapters.  Adventures in Homebrewing has a number of adapters that allow you use use other types of tanks and regulators together.  The selection includes the pictured adapter that allows you to use a Sodastream tank with your CO2 Regulator and adapters that allow you to use paintball tanks with your CO2 Regulator.

Check out AIH’s CO2 Tanks and Accessories Page for more info.

Cornelius Keg Hand Pump

Ball Lock Cornelius Keg Hand Pump.  If you know you’re going to go through a whole keg, or multiple kegs, this hand pump is a great option.  No tubing or CO2 to bother with.  Of course, it’s going to cause oxidation, but that doesn’t matter if you’re drinking the beer quickly.

Keg Connection has an extensive lineup of Sanke Style Hands Pumps

 

 

 


Portable Kegs and Systems

Smaller Kegs:
Smaller, typically 2.5 to 3 gallon, more portable versions of the Cornelius-style kegs you know and love.  These kegs usually fit well in a 5 gallon bucket.  Fill with ice and you’re good to go.

AIH New Double Rubber Handle 2.5 Gal Keg

Portable Systems:
There are some systems on the market that are designed with portability in mind.

2.5 gallon portable keg system


Coolers and Ice Packs:

Sometimes you just want to throw some beer or a growler into a cooler.

Some Coolers to Consider: (24) Cooler Shock 24 hr. Ice Free Coolers 24 or 48 Can | Stanley Adventure Cooler | Engel Cooler/Dry Box | ORCA Coolers | Igloo Products Sportsman Cooler

Cooler Shock Gel Packs – In my opinion… these are amazing.  The are made of thick mylar and come in several sizes and configurations.  Some are pre-made and others are DIY.  For the DIY versions you add the water to finish them off.


Other Issues:

Chilling and Keeping Your Keg Cold
A 5-6 gallon bucket with ice has worked well for me.  Some of the cube and beverage coolers fit smaller 2.5 and 3 gallon kegs well.  Jockey Boxes are also an option.  Some insulating keg wraps are available as well.  One of those to take a look at would be Great Fermentations Xtreme Keg Wrap.  That is a lot thicker than most on the market and as such keeps 5 gallon kegs colder for longer.

cool brewing keg cooler bag review

Home brew Keg Cooler. Beer Cooler for 5 gallon Keg, Corny and Cornelius Kegs from Cool Brewing. CoolBrewCorny – via Amazon – is a bag designed specifically for keeping your keg cold on the go.  See: Hands on Review: Cool Brewing Corny Keg Cooler Bag

 

 

Cloudiness
If you don’t filter your beer and decide to strap your keg on the back of an ATV and take off, you’ll soon figure out why people filter their beer as your guests remark at how Budweiser doesn’t have the same chunks of yeast that your beer has. 🙂

Options…

  1. Get it in place ahead of time and let it settle.
  2. Filter it.  Hands on Review
  3. Transfer clear beer to a new keg and leave yeast and trub behind.

Also: Kegerator Tips & Gear | Keg Repair Part #s | Recent Keg Finds

Our Top Draft Resources

 

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