Special Ordering Kegs of Beer

Ask the Beer Geek by | Oct 2008 | Issue #21

Hello, and thanks for taking the time to read this. I have been battling with my local beer shops and distributors to order 1/6- and 1/2-barrel kegs for my home bar. They want to sell me Bud, but I’m looking for craft beers, micros and the like. Every time I ask to see their distributor list so that I might pick something, they freak out and make me give them three choices. And so I turn to you. Are there any online shops where I might be able to special order these kegs or at least get an idea of what is available in the sizes I need (i.e., what breweries ship in 1/6 vs. 1/2 vs. only bottles) rather than tempting fate with the locals? At this point it takes 3-4 weeks to come to an agreement!! I am pulling my hair out!! —Mike Lock

Without knowing where you live, I can’t recommend any specific shops for special ordering the kegs you’re looking for, and I’ve never heard of an online shop selling and shipping kegs—the cost to you wouldn’t be worth it. However, I have a couple of suggestions that may help clear up that bloodied scalp and give your hair a chance to grow back. Oh… and maybe get you some decent kegs for a change.

You could be talking to the wrong people.
Not to insult anyone who works at a store or reps for a distributor, but you could be talking to folk who don’t give a rat’s ass, are craft beer haters (some reps from larger brewers fall into this category), aren’t as beer savvy as you, or are simply not empowered with the ability to get you what you want. Next time you talk to one of these types and it gets you nowhere, don’t waste your time. Ask to talk to someone else. Work your way up the chain until you find someone who can give you the level of service you’re looking for. More than often you will, so long as you keep a cool head and remain polite about it.

Find buying power in numbers.
Maybe they see your request for a smaller keg here or there as a hassle? Up the ante. Find some friends to pool together and place a larger order, or place a larger order yourself, or ask if they might be willing to order kegs on a scheduled basis—provided you blow through kegs on a regular basis and don’t mind paying in advance.

Contact your local brewery.
Depending on your local laws, breweries and brewpubs in your area might be able to sell you a keg direct or as a—ahem—“favor.” Or try contacting a brewery directly and see if they can hit your local store or rep from their end. Having the brewer put pressure directly on their distributor can often yield instant results, and it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Take your business elsewhere.
If you’re still not having luck locally, broaden your radius and start searching elsewhere. Local is great and whatnot, but if your locale sucks because no one is willing to help you with such a simple request, then perhaps it’s time to move on. And when you do find someone who can help you, make sure to rub it in the faces of those who opted not to—tactfully, of course. Maybe they’ll change their minds.

And if all else fails, learn how to brew and keg your own.

Happy craft brew keg hunting!