Hands on Review: TrailKeg 1 Gallon Growler, Regulator & Tap

This review is by Homebrew Finds Contributor Brad Probert.  Brad is an engineer, expert homebrewer and experienced reviewer.  Grab a link to Brad’s website at the end of this review.

TrailKeg 1 Gallon Pressurized Growler

I abandoned bottling quite a while ago for the same reason so many do- kegging is so much easier. And draft beer is much more rewarding/special than bottles when drinking at home, or hosting a party. Of course taking that beer to a party isn’t as simple as grabbing a few bottles and heading out the door, though. But like every problem in life that presents itself, solutions are found.

At breweries, their solution is the growler. You fill up your half gallon glass jug with your favorite beer, they put a lid on it, and you take it home. But this has limitations. Akin to pouring a glass of beer and then setting it in the fridge to drink later, beer in growlers lose carbonation and go stale tasting after a few days. The solution to this problem is the pressurized growler.

TrailKeg makes pressurized growlers. They come in half gallon and one gallon size. The half gallon is smaller and lighter, but only nets you about 4 beers. That works if you’re taking a beer to share with a friend or offer small tastings at a party. But the full gallon growler with its 8 beers is a much more social size. You’re obviously not going to fuel the whole party with that, but when the host tells you to bring a 6-pack of your favorite beer to share, you get bonus points.

What makes pressurized growlers “pressurized” is the fact that they have ports on them to let you pressurize with small CO2 cartridges. The small 16 gram cartridges contain enough CO2 to keep your beer pressurized and dispense all of your beer. Effectively, they turn your growler into a mini portable keg. The mini CO2 regulator has a tiny pressure gauge, and after you hook it up, you turn a pressure adjustment knob to dial in the serving pressure you want.

PerfectPour Dip TubePerfectPour Dip Tube Opening Comparison

And speaking of serving pressure, TrailKeg has an optional add-on accessory which was a dip tube with what they call a PerfectPour, which seems to be unique in the industry. It’s a cylindrical length of silicone that slides on over the bottom of their regular dip tube, and has a really small opening in it. With such a small hole, you have to be certain your beer doesn’t have hop bits floating around in it, but the concept solves a common problem on these small pressurized growlers. In the keg you probably carbonate at 10 psi or higher, but if you go over 5 psi in these growlers you get a foamy mess. With the PerfectPour restriction of the small hole, you can dispense out of your growler at the same pressure as you carbonate in your keg. No compromise.

Since your “mini keg” isn’t in your kegerator, it will get warm just sitting on the counter or tabletop. So TrailKeg made their growler insulated, by making it double-walled with an air cavity in between. As you may or may not know, air is an excellent insulator. For it to be effective, you have to trap the air and not let it move around, which is what you get when you hear “double walled insulated”. By trapping the air in between an inside layer (where your beer is) and an outside layer (where the warm air is trying to ruin your beer), you get great insulation. TrailKeg says their design keeps your liquid inside cold for 24 hours.

In transport mode

To get the cold beer out of this growler, the same lid that has the CO2 port also has a ball lock disconnect post, just like a Corny keg. This lets you keep it well sealed to avoid accidental spillage when transporting it to your party, and then you just pop on the ball lock fitting and are ready to go. Within the package that comes with the lid, TrailKeg has a cool set-up with a tap directly connected to a ball lock fitting. This completes the mini keg experience with a “kegerator on the go” delivery of your draft beer direct from an actual tap.


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Hands on Review

Excellent Quality Internal Weld Seams

The craftsmanship and quality of the TrailKeg parts is high. The stainless steel growler has a nice brushed surface that gives it a shiny look, but without fear of fingerprint smudges you get with a polished mirror surface. The anodized aluminum lid has a durable hardness to it that definitely should stand the test of time. And one feature that really epitomizes their understanding how this will be used, and actual real-life testing, is the dip tube.

Pressurized Lid L to R- PRV, Liquid Post, CO2

The dip tube is a soft silicone tube that connects to the bottom side of the ball lock disconnect in the lid and then drapes down to the bottom of the growler in order to pick up beer from the bottom. But on the top of this tube are a series of bumps and ridges on the end where you have to push-fit it over the ball lock end piece. Of course if you’ve ever taken a soft, pliable hose and tried to push it on over a tight fitting, you’ll know that’s a challenge. Since customers will likely be doing this after they’ve washed/sanitized the tube and hence it is wet and slippery, this task can become sheer aggravation. So they put grip ridges on there, to ease your frustrations.

The CO2 micro regulator worked really well. I’ve tried a lot of different ones on different products. There are two aspects on these regulators in my opinion that differentiate the good from the bad. The first is in attaching the CO2 cartridge. The cheap ones pierce the end of the cartridge before it is sealed to the regulator, so you get rush of your precious limited CO2 whooshing out as you try to screw it down as fast as you can. I did not have this issue with the TrailKeg regulator. The other common issue is the inability to really set/control your pressure- you’re either over or under pressurized. The TrailKeg regulator did not have this problem. I was able to set a low pressure of about 5 psi and it stayed and regulated there until the growler was empty. No re-adjustments of the knob were necessary.

I also tried out the Perfect Pour dip tube accessory to dispense beer at 10 psi. The pour speed was notably slow, but it did its job and kept me from having a glass full of foam. I didn’t get a chance to do a side by side of base dip tube with beer dispensed at 5 psi vs Perfect Pour tube with beer at 10 psi. But being able to dispense from the growler at the same pressure as I carbonate to in the keg seems like a solid idea.

The handle on the lid was another nice touch, showing they field tested their growler concept. A growler full of beer obviously isn’t as heavy as a keg, but without a handle, it can be awkward to carry. So with the lid handle, you avoid the awkward “carrying your beer like it’s your baby” syndrome when showing up to the party.

I really loved the tap. I’ve had the piston/slider taps on my kegerator in the past and hate them for their common flaw of sticking and freezing up. Luckily for a 1 gallon growler you take to a party, you’re unlikely to have to deal with beer drying up and freezing the slide mechanism. The tap had a built-in spring so that when you let go, it closed itself. I’m still amazed at how many people at parties don’t know how to work a tap, and end up not getting it shut off. The self-closing tap keeps your less-experienced friends from embarrassing themselves. I was also shocked that with such a short run of lines I didn’t have tons of beer foaming problems with just a tap screwed onto a ball lock disconnect. It poured great.

Conclusions

The TrailKeg pressurized growler set-up is a well thought out system.  It looks great and seems to be well-built.  All of the functions it provides, it does them well- from CO2 regulation, to beer dispensing, to keeping your beer cold.  It’s a great tool to have available to help you share you homebrew with others without having to go back to label peeling and all the hassles of bottling.

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Related: Portable Draft Serving Options

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More Photos

Contents of Pressurized Lid PackageSize Compared to Gallon of MilkPhotographic Proof of Successful Field TestDip Tube Grip Ridges

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Special Thanks to TrailKeg for providing the unit used for evaluation in this review.

By Brad Probert.  Check out Brad’s website – beersnobby.com

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