Is a Keg beer worth it

Discussion in 'Home Bar' started by mcaulifww, Sep 18, 2012.

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  1. mcaulifww

    mcaulifww Initiate (0) Aug 18, 2011 Virginia

    SO I've been looking around on the home bar forum for a while, thinking about building my own home bar.

    My question is simply: Is building a kegerator and buying kegs of beer worth it?

    I realize the costs associated to building a kegerator, about 500ish. The real question is, is buying kegs of beer worth it? I'm seeing 1/6th kegs of founder's for between 140- to something like 300. On the low end that's like 2.50 a brew. doesn't seem like a great deal when I can buy a four pack for 10 bucks.

    Help me here. I want to build a kegerator and have home draft beer, but is it really worth it?
  2. htomsirveaux

    htomsirveaux Poo-Bah (1,611) Feb 8, 2002 Texas
    Beer Trader

  3. leedorham

    leedorham Crusader (701) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    For homebrew it's definitely worth it, but I wouldn't have a draft setup if I didn't homebrew. With commercial beer I like variety all the time and rarely buy the same six-pack twice in a row.
  4. paulhargus

    paulhargus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2012 Pennsylvania

    in my opinion, kegerators ARE worth it. you pay the extra for better taste. also, less trash associated with empty bottles and cans. you do also save on making less trips to the distributor.

    i would suggest checking craigslist for used kegerators, rather than building one. i was able to find a beverage aire quartermaster (holds 1/4s or two 1/6s) for $200 on craigslist WITH a (half full) CO2 tank included as well as the keg coupler and beer line. i was drinking beer from it 2 days after purchase. i've had little to no problem with it and i've had it for almost 3 months. granted, my experience may not be all that common, but you might be able to find a decent machine for a similar price. the cleaning kit/solution runs around $50 from micromatic and there is enough cleaning solution to last a long time. it used to take me a while to clean the line, but now i can knock it out quickly.

    also, the most i've paid for a 1/6th keg is $60 (plus keg deposit). 1/6th's hold about 55 12oz beers, so we're talking only a few bucks more than buying 2 1/2 cases. if you plan on drinking something that's $140-$300 per keg, you might need to pick a new favorite beer. either way, the fresh taste of draft beer is absolutely worth it. i'm at the point where i don't want to drink bottles anymore, regardless of the beer.

    go for it!
  5. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (305) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    This is a broad statement but, generally speaking, I've found that 1/6 kegs are not priced significantly different than bottles. Bigger kegs save money, but they have the downside of getting boring after a few hundred pints. On the other hand, if you're happy with Bud Light or any of its clones, then go for it. Regarding building versus buying, grab hold of a 'donated' fridge (you'd be surprised at how many people throw out aging, but perfectly serviceable refrigerators), add about $100 in parts, and build your own. The internet is virtually overflowing with plans.
    leedorham likes this.
  6. mcaulifww

    mcaulifww Initiate (0) Aug 18, 2011 Virginia

    I'd noticed that 1/6ths weren't much different than bottles, and variety is the spice of life.

    Note: I do homebrew, but I don't homebrew a whole whole lot about 6 times a year
  7. IceAce

    IceAce Champion (869) Jan 8, 2004 California

    If you are looking purely at cost, breaking it down to $.$$/ounce is the easiest.

    Let's use a local (to me) Retailer who sells Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in all three configurations:

    Case (24 x 12 oz): $33.96 / 288 oz. = 11.79¢/Oz. 12 oz. = $1.42

    1/6 Barrel: $89.95 / 661.333 oz. = 13.60¢/Oz. 12 oz. = $1.63

    1/2 Barrel: $174.95 / 1984 oz. = 8.81¢/Oz. 12 oz. = $1.06

    The analysis shows that a 1/6 Barrel is more expensive that buying bottles while a 1/2 Barrel is like buying three six-packs and getting one free.

    Disclaimer: There are a few small inherent costs associated with draught beer, such as CO² and cleaning chemicals, but they tend to be pretty negligible.

    I love the convenience of draught and feel it is the closest thing to getting beer just as the brewer intended it to taste.
  8. Kadonny

    Kadonny Meyvn (1,254) Sep 5, 2007 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I agree on the bottle thing. Once you are used to draft, it's the only way to go.

    My question to you paul, is what are you buying to only spend about $ 60 on a sixtel? That's probably the cheapest sixtel here in PA, not the norm. Here is some rough pricing I've paid recently.

    Sixtel of local HopDevil. $ 65
    Sixtel of Great Lakes Elliot Ness. $ 65
    Sixtel of Smuttynose Finest Kind. $ 75
    Sixtel of Stone AB. $ 105
    Sixtel of Founders Breakfast Stout. $ 110
    Sixtel of Pumking. $ 105
    Sixtel of Sam Adams (pick it) $ 70ish
    Sixtel of DFH 60 Minute $ 90 (won't pay that, too high)

    So is your state cheaper or are just drinking locals all the time. I see nothing but beer sixtel prices going up and up.
    schteve and FatBoyGotSwagger like this.
  9. paulhargus

    paulhargus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2012 Pennsylvania

    i see you're from SEPA. i'm from NEPA. admittedly, i tend to drink the local stuff (susquehanna, stegmaier) which are both $60 for a 1/6. however, my distributor carries a lot of 1/6s in the $60-$80 range (victory stuff is 75-90). they have a decent enough draft list as well:
  10. Kadonny

    Kadonny Meyvn (1,254) Sep 5, 2007 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Well that makes sense then. Any larger well known craft brewery aren't selling their sixtels for $60.
  11. kudzu

    kudzu Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2008 South Carolina

    IceAce, would you mind expanding on that?
  12. IceAce

    IceAce Champion (869) Jan 8, 2004 California

    No sweat...

    Draught beer kegs are filled directly off a brewers bright tanks (as are bottles) and are immediately refrigerated while bottled beer is generally held at a warmer temperature.

    At a distributors warehouse, draught is kept under refrigeration (35-39°) while bottles and cans may be kept cool, but seldom cold. Even at Retail, kegs are kept refrigerated while bottles and cans may be put on display or held in a back room before going into the cooler and being put on a shelf.

    So, in comparison with packaged beer, draught is kept refrigerated virtually all of the time, while packaged beer has not. As a result, draught is the closest thing to drinking right off a brewers bright tanks.
  13. cpferris

    cpferris Initiate (175) Jan 22, 2008 Indiana
    Beer Trader

    One other aspect of a kegerator that I have always enjoyed is the fact that if I want a 4oz pour, I can do that. Or if I want to pour a taster for a friend, I can do that without committing to another 12oz bottle/bomber or can. I find myself getting half pours all the time...especially later in the evening.

    I switched to a dual tap system about a year ago and found that ever since I switched to running two 1/6 barrels, I spend alot more...and it's probably not cost effective at this point. It is neat to have two different styles running at the same time, but I am strongly considering switching back to 1/2 barrels for day to day usage.
  14. mcaulifww

    mcaulifww Initiate (0) Aug 18, 2011 Virginia

    That is a great point. At this point I'm looking at getting a two tap system. Would I be better off just getting a one tap? I guess I can always just run one 1/2 barrel on a two tap and then use 1/6s if I want variety. is this wise??
  15. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (305) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    That's an excellent strategy. 1/2 bbl of something you won't tire of and that will be popular with guests - something like a Boston Lager, for example - and a 1/6 of craft beer.
  16. cubbyswans

    cubbyswans Aspirant (238) Jun 10, 2008 Missouri
    Beer Trader

    i buy 1/2 barrels of 'standard' beers, like an IPA or APA that are my staple go to drink. Bell's Two Hearted or Schlafly Dry Hopped APA are the norm for my kegerator. To hell with guests. It's my kegerator and I'm drinking most of it. I'm buying something I really want. If they don't like what I'm serving, good then, more for me. I mean, if you like Boston Lager enough to have a 1/2 barrel of it, by all means do so. But I wouldn't lighten up my beer choice to make it more popular with guests, at all.

    I'll buy a 1/6 only when there's something I want that isn't available in bottles also, since 1/6 barrels are generally around the same per serving as bottles.
    htomsirveaux and Mid like this.
  17. CellarGimp

    CellarGimp Disciple (335) Sep 14, 2011 Missouri

    So how long does a 1/2 barrel of Two-Hearted last you?
  18. canoale

    canoale Initiate (0) Apr 9, 2010 Ohio

    I know I am not who you ask but , 36 days ,been looking for new keg
    It's a pain , alot of calls ,alot of driving , and compromise

  19. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Defender (637) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    either way, the fresh taste of draft beer is absolutely worth it. i'm at the point where i don't want to drink bottles anymore, regardless of the beer.

    go for it![/quote]

    I prefer draft beer but this is my biggest fear about having a kegerator at home. And not only would I miss my bottle [much like a baby does, I cry when I want one], I may not feel like going out anymore [and I don't get out much to begin with].
  20. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (305) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    I used Boston Lager only as an example. I meant to suggest a beer that is not too stimulating on the taste buds. I love Two Hearted, but I fear that it would become bland after 1/2 bbl - hop fatigue sets in pretty quickly for me to the point that I simply can't taste them (I recently ordered a DFH 90 minute at a bar that has pretty good turnover. It was a malt bomb!). Obviously, YMMV.
  21. CellarGimp

    CellarGimp Disciple (335) Sep 14, 2011 Missouri

    Well, that rate solves my concerns about maintaining freshness. Raises a lot of other questions though.
    mcaulifww likes this.
  22. canoale

    canoale Initiate (0) Apr 9, 2010 Ohio

    I had the same ipa on tap for 4 months / 3/ 1/2 kegs told my friends it's gone, may not hear from them again .
    I find a lot of ipa kegs very old at the dist. Rejected 2 from same one,8 months old
    And they cut me off for rejecting them.
    Also the other beer I got on tap is another ipa , but not for long
    When I don't have a good ipa on tap I get jones'n for them bad end up buying bottles & blowin my budget to hell

  23. canoale

    canoale Initiate (0) Apr 9, 2010 Ohio

    Only the tip of the ice burg my friend

  24. cubbyswans

    cubbyswans Aspirant (238) Jun 10, 2008 Missouri
    Beer Trader

    2 months or so? Still plenty tasty at 2 months, IMO.
    IceAce likes this.
  25. Kadonny

    Kadonny Meyvn (1,254) Sep 5, 2007 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Agreed, I have not had a hoppy IPA on tap for over six months now and I'm having lupulin deficiency syndrome. I'm hoping Ithaca gets their crap together and gets some Flower Power back into distributors hands so I can get a hand on one myself. I'm craving that hop bomb.
  26. Wymaar

    Wymaar Initiate (0) Mar 28, 2014 Pennsylvania

    Draft setup is definitely worth it, especially if you build your own, homebrew, or really like a specific beer. Buy a chest freezer and get a temp control. Your electric bill won't even know you have it. Save exotic stuff for cases and 6-packs. Get kegs that have good, solid session beers that you and friends will just want to keep drinking. I built my own from an old freezer. It was so old that met height requirements straight away. It holds 4 1/6 kegs and all the CO2. I can also use it to lager.
  27. DougC123

    DougC123 Disciple (374) Aug 21, 2012 Connecticut

    If by worth it you mean cost effective, you need to be buying commercial keg in halfs. Very little, if any, cost benefit in commercial 1/6th, probably a push in quarters. If by worth it you mean really cool, better tasting beer, and no bottling homebrew then it is definitely worth it.
    mikehartigan likes this.
  28. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (305) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    Conservation of energy (the law) dictates that 100% of the electricity your freezer consumes is dissipated into your living space as heat. During the heting season, each watt consumed by the freezer will reduce the demand on your furnace by 3.412142 BTU, with a corresponding reduction in your heating bill. Indeed, if you heat with electricity, your net cost to operate the freezer is exactly zero - regardless of the efficiency (age) of the freezer.

    Obviously, during the cooling season, none of this applies.:grimacing:
    fineout likes this.
  29. paulys55

    paulys55 Zealot (587) Aug 2, 2010 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Sixtels are definitely one of the most expensive per ounce ways to buy beer. Unfortunately, some limited beers are only available in sixtels. How much beer are you drinking? Sixtels are expensive but you don't have to drink 125 pints of beer to go through it like you do with a half so it kind of depends on your situation. I paid $170 for a sixtel of World Wide Stout...what the hell are you paying $300 for?....Cantillon? EDIT: Oooops. Just saw you said Founders....CBS?
    #29 paulys55, Mar 28, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2014
  30. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (330) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    except for the compressor, which uses energy to pump refrigerant, then yeah. the freezer is a heat dump. but it does not convert 100% of the electrical energy consumed into heat energy. I know you were not serious by suggesting the kegerator as heater is good way to appease the spouse. can't let a technicality go by though because there is no free lunch with energy.

    (this is a good time to discuss efficiency, while we are at it. a radiant coil is 100% efficient. all of the electricity delivered to the input becomes heat, there are no moving parts. of course that is not equivalent to economical, as the creation and distribution of electricity is rather expensive and results is an increase in the cost of BTU that is unrelated to the efficiency of the machine.)
    Cheers Mike.
  31. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (305) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    Every watt of electricity that is consumed in your home is dissipated into the living space as heat, including the heat generated by the compressor through friction as well as inefficiencies in the windings. (I'm assuming, of course, that the compressor is inside the heated space). If not, then where does the energy go?

    Granted, it costs more to heat your home this way, but that's because electricity costs a boatload more per unit of energy than gas, not because of inefficiencies at your end. 100% of the electricity that is consumed in your home is converted to heat. Light, motion, and all the other stuff electric devices do are free byproducts.
  32. pest

    pest Disciple (373) Sep 2, 2007 Ohio
    Beer Trader

  33. Enteroctopus

    Enteroctopus Initiate (0) Jul 27, 2015

    Value of 1/6 is dependent on your tastes, I guess. I personally like Belgian quite a bit, and a decent Belgian bottle can cost you! Also, such a fine drinking experience is worth tasting the way it was intended. Buying a local Belgian I am actually saving 47% 1/6-barrel vs bottles or cans, and the taste is, as one of my buddies described it, "a mouth-gasm."

    Truly a superior flavor experience, and I agree with cpferris above, pouring a couple ounces is a nice advantage!

    Finished mowing the lawn on a hot day and immediately took a shot, 3-4 oz of the Belgian, and it was exactly what the doctor ordered. Stepped in the shower, got out and felt great! No need to put away 12 or 16 oz anymore. Why? Especially with the Belgian.
  34. DougC123

    DougC123 Disciple (374) Aug 21, 2012 Connecticut

    You aren't comparing apples to apples. You are comparing bottle prices of a true Belgian to a sixth keg of a local Belgian. What is the cost benefit of bottles of the local Belgian to the sixth keg of the local Belgian?
  35. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (330) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Yeah, a Belgian from Belgium isn't the same as a Belgian from, Ommegang for example.
    An imported keg of Belgian beer will be pasteurized and therefore no better and probably worse than the imported bottle. If it is bottle conditioned then the bottle wins hands down. Plus the cost is ridiculous for small format import kegs.

    Domestic sixtels, no matter the variety are usually not more economical than the bottles ounce to ounce. This has been confirmed on many occasions. What variety are you are saving 47% in sixtels over bottle? That is a big difference.
  36. Enteroctopus

    Enteroctopus Initiate (0) Jul 27, 2015

    Comparing can price of same product to keg price. The way it's running (just about perfect head and only slight foam first pour) I expect that to be pretty accurate (not much waste).

    Costs about $15 for a four-pack of cans, ridiculous, right? Got tired of paying that $3.75 (roughly) per beer.

    The 1/6th is $120, so I calculate about $2.25 per 12 oz beer. About 60% of cost.

    Anyway, did the math and yes seems to be pretty good savings, at least for this brewery. Seems a good value to me, but of course this is a local brewer in my home state. Haven't priced, like, Heineken or Sam Adams, nor am I really interested in that stuff.

    Sierra Nevada maybe. I've also considered like a Negra Modelo for summer, have to commit to a 1/2 barrel, though. (Bye bye tap #2)

    At this point money is not a giant problem for me. $2.25 is a killer price if I were to order that at a pub, though. Happy Hour PBR price for a 10% Belgian?


    I'm happy.

    Edit: 47% figure came from supplier. My own estimate was close enough (40% in this case) I didn't call foul.
    #36 Enteroctopus, Jul 27, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2015
  37. DougC123

    DougC123 Disciple (374) Aug 21, 2012 Connecticut

    Well that's a very unique situation, something is off in their pricing structure, maybe the cost of canning for them is very high. More typically a sixth saves you next to nothing.
  38. Enteroctopus

    Enteroctopus Initiate (0) Jul 27, 2015

    I suspect it has to do with where I live (Oklahoma) where cold beer CAN NOT be legally sold anywhere outside of a bar or restaurant with a liquor license, i.e. you gotta buy warm beer... unless it's in a keg!

    Anyway, I figure local brewers prefer to sell in 1/6ths because they can work around Mary Fallin and her stupid beer laws.

    Coop is a great brewer, though! Not as impressed with their IPA's and other hoppy products as I have been stuff from the west coast, or even great lakes, but when it comes to malty? They know what they're doing.
  39. drew7777

    drew7777 Initiate (165) May 10, 2009 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    Just put our first keg (Sculpin) in our newsed kegerator. Was very surprised to find the pricing was higher than bottles. It seems to me there's less packaging, less time/resources, less weight, and a reusable vessel involved in kegging. As such this just does not make sense to me. What's the rationale on this?

    Does the same hold true at a wholesale level (just wondering about profit margins at bars of kegs vs bottles/cans)?
  40. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (305) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    It's the Free Market. The price is set by the consumer. If someone is willing to pay more per ounce for the keg than for bottles, as you did, then why would they offer to sell it to you for less?

    I'm not in the business, so I don't speak with authority, and I could well be wrong. But my understanding is that the bars don't pay a whole lot less then the retail consumer for the same keg.
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