Not everyone has a tap system at home. This is a common mistake, not just for craft beer lovers, but really for anyone anywhere. There is a certain college-dorm mystique in having lots of kegs just lying around, but as you get older you’ll find that the people who come to your house have less and less desire to frolic on top of wet, smelly kegs of beer. Hence the need to hide them out of sight.
A tap system is both cheap and easy to get. I received mine when a local brewery decided that just giving me one was a very good investment in the future. You, however, will likely have to purchase one. This is not all bad, as having to do so also likely means you’ll make it to 50 on one liver.
Check out KegWorks.com for a broad selection of tap and fridge conversion options. You will require a tap, shank, keg coupler and regulator. Hoses, couplers and clamps are also handy if you don’t want to spray beer all over the place, but hey, maybe that’s your thing. I’m not judging. Okay, I kinda am. Just a little, though.
Now you’ll need an old fridge. Check your basement; look behind the Christmas lights you always say you’ll put up but never do. If there’s nothing there, you can always call around and pretend to be BC Hydro. Tell folks that they’ll get a $50 credit on their next Hydro bill if they put an old fridge out on their curb for collection, then go peruse the results and pick a fridge. It is probably best to do this from a pay phone for, uh, tax reasons.
Next up is compressed gas. Unlike bottles, cans, and casks, kegs required pressurized gas to convince the beer to move up the serving line and into your glass. Non-gas options are available, but all come in the form of hand pumps, which make you do all the work to get the pressure up. In addition to requiring detestable physical labour to procure beer, these pumps also have the nasty side-affect of pumping bacteria into your beer along with lots of oxygen. If you plan on drinking your keg tonight that’s not an issue, but keep that beer around much longer and you’re sharing it with nasty free-loading micro-organisms.
Most places that sell you keg kits or even pre-fab fridges also try and sell you a small 5lb CO2 canister, which is just fine and dandy if you plan on not drinking much beer. At some point during the sales process they seem to have missed the word “keg” on the receipt. You need at least a 20lb gas canister, and you need it outside the fridge (so you can fit a 50 litre keg or two 30 litre kegs *inside*). Call your local gas supplier and see what their lease rates are; expect about $50-$75 per year plus filling charges. Hook it all together and you have a living, breathing beer-serving machine.
Lastly, you’ll need the beer itself. Call a local brewery and ask if they have a “cash price.” This is industry code for “under the table.” Despite being a very tightly regulated industry, brewing beer is an inexact process, and the government allows breweries a certain percentage of their production for “spillage,” which is a fancy way of saying “fucked up for one of a million reasons, but most likely because the staff got drunk and swam in the beer.” As breweries get better, though, they use less and less of their spillage allotment (and take showers BEFORE beer swims), and are willing to part with some of this for cold, hard, cash, and often at a significant discount from their credit card, or “taxes-in” price.
Now that you have an old fridge that can serve beer, you might want to beautify it a little and maybe even stick it in your living room. Be careful, though, as going a bit too far with this can peg you as a bit of a nutter, and ward off non-beer geeks (aka “normal people”). It’s important to strike a balance between “prettying up” and “obsessively polishing.”