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:
- 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
- Finding Smaller Homebrew Kegs
- Coolers and Ice Packs
- Chilling and Keeping Your Keg Cold
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 and other unique offerings.
Pictured: ApolloSmart Growler Beer Keg & Dispenser 170oz w/Pressure Regulator Cap Stainless Steel Double Wall Vacuum Insulation (CO2 Cartridges Included) – Good for Soda, Cold Brew, Juice, Sparkling Wine
- Stanley Classic Vacuum Insulated Growler – several color options available. I have this growler and it’s awesome. See: [Hands on Review]
- Corny Keg – 64 oz Ball Lock Keg KEG443 – Growler-sized ball lock keg! – Hands on Review
- Tahoe Trails Bottle, 64 oz
- The 2L Ultimate Growler – Double Walled GL750
- DrinkTanks Growlers
- These are generally cheap enough to leave behind and give as gifts… 2.5 Liter PET Growler Bottles (Case of 9) – Hands on Review
- Lots Of Options! There are many manufacturers and models of stainless steel growlers. Try this search to see what’s out there “vacuum insulated stainless steel growler” on Amazon
About Vacuum Insulation: 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.
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 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.
Stainless Steel Carbonator Caps. These are threaded for use with standard 2L and 1L bottes and have a built in ball lock connection so you can hook it right up to your [ball lock] kegerator CO2 lines.
Some models have a barb, which can be used for DIY draft line cleaning builds and more
Similar, but may not be identical to pictured cap…
- Ferroday Stainless Carbonation Cap Counter Pressure Bottle Filling With 5/16″ Barb，CO2 Coupling To Carbonate Soda Beer Fruit Juice Water AND Hands on Review
- 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
Lots More Options! These come and go regularly. Search Amazon for “Stainless Steel Carbonation Cap” to shop around
Related: Our Line Cleaning Builds:
- Build A Recirculating Draft Line Cleaning Pump
- Mark II Keg and Carboy Cleaner Draft Line Cleaning Pump Conversion
- Building a Simple Ball Lock Draft Line Flushing Setup
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.
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.
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.
Sources: William’s Brewing – similar, but may not be identical to pictured
A Growler Sized Ball Lock Keg!
This growler sized ball lock keg straddles the line between growler and small draft system. Add on a faucet and CO2 source and you have a small draft system. It’s actually a littler larger than growler size. Check out my Hands on Review for lots more info.
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. General sizes are 5L, 1.5 gallon, 1.75 gallon and 2.5 gallon.
- Paramount Kegging System from William’s Brewing – This uses Sodastream CO2 tanks which are small and portable but contain lots more CO2 compared to smaller 16 gram and 74 gram cartridges that are used in many portable systems. This is a viable option for both everyday kegerator and portable serving.
- 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 Torpedo Keg Party Bomb from MoreBeer – Available in 1.5, 2.5 and 5 gallon sizes – this system uses MoreBeer’s Torpedo Kegs – Hands on Review
- Kegging Systems at MoreBeer – includes numerous 2.5 gallon options
- Kegging Systems at Adventures in Homebrewing – includes 1.75 and 2.5 gallon options
- Mini Keg Systems at Adventures in Homebrewing – Economical 5L kegging system
- GrowlerWerks SS uKeg 128 Pressurized Growler for Craft Beer, 128 oz, Stainless Steel – 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
- Lots More Options! New designs pop up all the time. Search Amazon for “1 gallon stainless steel growler and regulator” to see what options are available.
Benefits of Smaller Kegs Beyond Portable Serving: Smaller 2.5 to 3 gallon kegs are great for splitting batches, small batch brewers, doing one-off beers from split from a 5 gallon batch… and for easily serving on the go.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- As your beer gets close to the top lower the growler to withdraw the tubing and top up.
- 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.
- Stainless Steel Growler Filler – Fits Perlick 630SS & 650SS
- Stainless Steel Growler Filler – Fits Intertap Faucets – also works with Nukatap
- MoreBeer offers a filler for “standard” faucets… D1222
- Growler Filler for Perlick 600 Series Faucets via Amazon – Perlick 600 Series compatible growler filler and 12″ tubing. The tubing allows you to fill from the bottom up – helping to decrease foam and oxygen pickup.
- Intertap Faucets have a unique threaded design that allows you to swap out different accessories and spouts. Intertap has an accessory specifically for filling growlers – Intertap Growler Filling Spout – MoreBeer also has an unthreaded model designed to work with Intertaps
- Nukatap Faucets have a unique threaded design that allows you to swap out different accessories and spouts. Nukataps are compatible with Intertap accessories
- Growler filler attachments pop up all the time. Search “growler filler attachment” on Amazon to see what else may be out there.
Tapcooler & Nukatap Counter Pressure Fillers!
- Hands on Review: Tapcooler Counter Pressure Bottle Filler for Forward Sealing Faucets!
- Nukatap Counter Pressure Bottle Filler at William’s Brewing
- Nukatap Counter Pressure Bottle Filler at MoreBeer
Looking for an easy way to bottle from your forward sealing faucet? The Tapcooler and Nukatap Counter Pressure Bottle Fillers allow you to easily counter pressure fill bottles from compatible forward sealing faucets without a lot of tubing and cleanup. You can also use these without pressure to larger vessels like growlers.
Techniques and equipment for dispensing full corny kegs of beer
Now we transition into solutions for serving full 5 gallon corny 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.
- Nukatap Keg Faucet – via William’s Brewing
- Beer Faucet, Chrome, Cornelius Ball Lock Disconnect Attached – via Amazon
- Faucet Quick Disconnect Assembly – Ball Lock – via MoreBeer
- Faucet Quick Disconnect Assembly – Pin Lock – via MoreBeer
Make Your Own!
Converters and QDs are available that allow you to connect your compatible faucet to a keg QD.
- KegLand Ball Lock With Shank
- Quick Disconnect Beer Faucet Adapter – 2 PCS Standard FFL Adapter Connect Faucet to Beer Keg Quick Disconnect, For Homebrewing Keg Beer Tap – Multiple variations of this product may be available, as such a different version may appear at this link
Other Faucet Options:
Flow 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.
- Single Faucet – Sources: Adventures in Homebrewing | Keg Connection | More Beer – please note that the linked models, are similar but not necessarily identical
- Double Faucet – Sources: Adventures in Homebrewing | Keg Connection | More Beer – please note that the linked models, are similar but not necessarily identical
- 1 tap, 2 tap, SS coils to build your own
Build Your Own Jockey Box via Keg Connection – Get (and pay for) exactly the configuration you’re looking for… lots of options to customize
A New Electric Jockey Box Option…
Since this post was written MoreBeer has released KRYO Inline Beer Chillers. These allow you to serve draft beer without a kegerator. The Nomad model is portable and essentially functions as an electric jockey box.
- KRYO Inline Draft Beer Chiller | KOMOS® D1941
- KRYO Nomad Portable Inline Draft Beer Chiller | KOMOS® D1942
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.
- Homebrew Hack! One relatively cheap fitting let’s you re-purpose a spare keg for use as a portable CO2 source! Using a Keg as a CO2 Source for Portable Serving!
- KegLand Core 360 Mini C02 Regulator – works with Sodastream tanks and 16 gram cartridges!
- William’s Brewing has an extensive lineup of 74g regulators, accessories and parts. Mini Regulators and Parts at William’s Brewing
- Mini CO2 Regulator from MoreBeer. CO2 cartridge on this is more than 4 times larger than the 16 gram cartridges generally use. The regulator also means it takes care of itself. I have one of these and love it. It’s good for more than just portable serving, but that is one application. Check out my Hands on Review. It has come in handy as a backup CO2 source when my main tank ran empty. You could also use this to keep an already carbonated keg at a different pressure/carbonation level from your main CO2 source. Also: with Ball Lock QD or with Pin Lock QD and 74g CO2 Cartridges
- Handheld CO2 Injector Charger – via MoreBeer
- Genuine Innovations G5040 Beer Keg CO2 Charger via Amazon
- CO2 Injector Pin Lock – via MoreBeer
- Torpedo Pressure Pack from MoreBeer. The Torpedo Pressure Pack includes a mini CO2 regulator that uses 74 gram cartridges along with a stainless ball lock QD. All the features (and more with the SS QD) of the previously mentioned regulator.
- New mini regulators pop up all the time. Search “mini co2 regulator” on Amazon to see what else may be out there.
More Related to Pressurization:
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.
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
Finding Smaller Homebrew Kegs
Smaller, 1.75 to 3 gallon kegs are 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’s Line of Brand New Ball Lock Kegs includes 1.75, 2.5 and 3 gallon options – Hands on Review
- Kegs at William’s Homebrewing. William’s has 1.75 and 2.5 gallon ball lock kegs.
- Torpedo Kegs from MoreBeer are available in 1.5, 2.5 and 5 gallon sizes. These are brand new ball lock kegs. The neat thing about this is that they stack with fittings on. That means you can get multiple kegs in the same footprint as one. Typically small ball lock kegs cost more than 5 gallon kegs. Torpedo Kegs are an exception. Also, all sizes ship for free to most US addresses.
- Corny Keg – 64 oz Ball Lock Keg KEG443 – Hands on Review
Chilling and Keeping Your Keg Cold
- The pictured Igloo Mini Keg Cooler from AIH is designed to hold a 2.5 gallon keg. It has a spigot for easy draining and includes a faucet and the needed modifications and hardware. Just add your compatible keg and a CO2 source and you’re up and going.
- A 5 to 7 gallon bucket filled with ice.
- A Jockey box
- Insulating keg wraps
- 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
Coolers and Ice Packs:
Sometimes you just want to throw some beer or a growler into a cooler.
Lots of different models of coolers out there. See Amazon Best Sellers in Camping Coolers for current popular models
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.
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. 🙂
- Get it in place ahead of time and let it settle.
- Filter it. Hands on Review
- Transfer clear beer to a new keg and leave yeast and trub behind.
- A tool that can be helpful for serving clear beer is the Top Draw Beer Pick Up Tube from William’s Brewing. That pick up tube features a float and draws beer off the top of your keg. That means anything that has been stirred up at the bottom of the keg remains at the bottom of the keg and gives it some additional time to settle.
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Make sure the components you use are compatible and rated for your intended application. Contact manufacturer with questions about suitability or a specific application. Always read and follow manufacturer directions. toppost:portabledraftoptions tag:tpr rs:6