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The keg question



Kegs will represent a significant investment for us. Apparently stainless steel is the new black. And it’s worth its weight in gold. But while we have an idea of how much beer we will be able to sell, we still have to decide in what quantities we will be selling it.

There are 2 primary keg sizes: 1/2 barrel (BBL) an 1/6 BBL. A 1/2 BBL is 15.5 gallons, and 1/6 BBL is 5.16 gallons. There are also non-standard sizes such as 1/4 BBL, but we’ll leave those to the weirdos. Most craft breweries have a mix of 1/2 BBL and 1/6 BBL. Why?

  • 1/2 BBL kegs are the standard, and are best for bars or restaurants where they are moving through the beer fairly quickly. There is also less picking up/dropping off of empty/full kegs since you are leaving more at the establishment. And of equal importance, selling in larger volumes allows you to offer discounts to the establishment.
  • 1/6 BBL kegs are great because they take up much less space, don’t put as much pressure on an establishment to move a certain beer, and give an establishment a less costly (in absolute dollars) way to try a new beer.

So the question for us becomes: What mix of 1/2 and 1/6 BBL do we buy, given our goals and the type/number of establishments we want to be in? It’s a tough question. Which is why I’m going to leave it to Jeff, the spreadsheet guru.

Image source: dmmaus

5 thoughts on “The keg question

  1. Also note that the 1/6bbl are the “preferred” choice of home craft beer keg users. If you take a look at a local (to me) beer/homebrew store’s keg list, you’ll see that many of the small breweries on their list are selling in 1/6bbl sizes. For craft beer drinkers who like variety, buying a whole 1/2bbl of something (particularly if you have a small kegerator w/multiple taps) just takes up too much room.

    Does Georgia law allow you to fill homebrew corny kegs? I had heard that GA allows for “growler bars” which can fill 64oz non-brewery containers, but I’m sure filling customer’s cornies might not be legal. That might be an option at the brewery, though, and would give you a way to serve some of your earliest customers [i.e. fellow homebrewers] without requiring additional capital expenditure.

  2. I can tell you Back Forty Beer Co. — who started out contract brewing in summer of ’09 and who will soon be opening their own brewery in Gadsden, AL — used 1/6 bbls exclusively for over a year. They recently expanded to adding some 1/2s.

    1/6 bbls are great starting out because as you point out, the total on the invoice is lower than it would be for a 1/2, so bars are more likely to give you a try. And you’re selling the beer for a higher price per ounce, so you make more money on 1/6s than you do on 1/2s. So the bars like them, and they are more profitable for you.

    If I were you, I’d start out with 1/6s and only add 1/2s once certain bars are screaming for them because of the economics of it.

  3. Also, regarding the plastic kegs… They break way easier than stainless steel. Cheaper investment to begin with, but you’d be replacing them MUCH sooner, and more often than SS.

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