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For beer enthusiasts, there’s something undeniably satisfying about savoring a perfectly poured pint of draft beer. But have you ever wondered about the magic happening behind the scenes? Enter kegs—the vessels responsible for storing and delivering that delightful liquid gold. From mini kegs to half barrel behemoths, today you are going to explore the various sizes of kegs available throughout the world. So grab your favorite pint glass, get comfortable, and let’s dive into the ultimate guide to keg sizes.
Table of Contents
- What is a Keg?
- What is a Sanke Keg?
- Overview of Keg Sizes
- Quick Reference for Keg Sizes and Dimensions
- Keg Sizes Described
- How Many Beers Are In a Keg?
- Non-Typical Keg Sizes
- How Many Kegs are in 1 BBL of Beer?
- Now You’ll Ace Keg Size Trivia
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Keg?
Kegs are containers used to store and transport beer or other beverages in a pressurized environment. They come in various sizes, such as half barrels, quarter barrels, or mini kegs, and are typically made of stainless steel or other durable materials. Kegs are designed to maintain the freshness and carbonation of the beer until it is ready to be dispensed.
Now, this may go without saying, but kegs and kegerators are not the same thing. A kegerator is a specialized refrigeration unit or appliance that is used to store and dispense draft beer directly from kegs. It combines a refrigerator or cooling unit with a dispensing system. Kegerators are equipped with taps, CO2 systems or air compressors, and other components necessary for tapping and serving beer. They provide a controlled and convenient way to keep kegs chilled and deliver draft beer to consumers.
For those who are curious, mini kegerators are available to make your life as a home brewer easier than ever.
What is a Sanke Keg?
While you don’t need to know this, it is a cool bit of trivia to dredge up during parties when no else is talking about beer. Did you know that most kegs are known as Sanke kegs, based on their style? Sanke kegs, also known as Sankey kegs, which is short for “sanitary key,” are a kind of stainless steel keg that is designed for the storage, distribution, and dispensation of commercial beer. Sanke kegs are different from the kind you may see as a homeowner, as they have a single valve at the top that allows for gas to enter and for beer to exit.
The valve or opening of the keg connects to the spear—a metal tube—that then connects to the draft system. This system helps pull the beer from the bottom of the keg and out. Carbon dioxide (CO2) or Nitrogen is pumped through the valve to draw the beer into the spear and then out.
If you plan on using a Sanke keg, you are going to need a coupler, which is also known as a sanitary key (now you see where the name comes from). Depending on where you are in the world or what kind of keg you are using, you may need a different coupler.
In the United States, most Sanke kegs use a D-style coupler. European kegs have S-style, German kegs use A-style, and U-style couplers are reserved for kegs that come from Europe but do not use the S-style.
Overview of Keg Sizes
Let’s take a quick look at available keg sizes before going more in-depth:
- 1.32-gallon keg (mini keg)
- 2.5-gallon keg
- 3-gallon keg
- 5-gallon keg
- 7.75-gallon keg
- 13.2-gallon keg (50-liter)
- 15.5-gallon keg (half-barrel)
- 20-gallon keg
- 30-gallon keg
- 50-gallon keg
Quick Reference for Keg Sizes and Dimensions
Need to look up the different measures and volume of each keg commonly available in the US and Europe? You’re covered.
|Sixth Barrel Keg
|Quarter Barrel Keg
|Slim Quarter Keg
|50 Liter Keg
|Half Barrel Keg
|Corny Keg, Homebrew Keg, Soda Keg
|Pony Keg, Stubby Quarter
|Import Keg, European Barrel
|Full Size Keg, Full Keg
Keg Sizes Described
Different keg sizes have unique purposes, meaning that some are only available for specific situations. Whether you plan on sticking to home brewing, having an event, or starting your own brewery, you can use the information below to select the right keg for your needs.
This video has loads of information about the various types of kegs and their sizes, if you’d prefer to listen rather than read:
Small but mighty, mini kegs are the size that you will see most often when buying a keg for personal use. Mini kegs come in various sizes, but they typically range from 1.3 to 5.0 gallons (5 to 19 liters) in capacity. The most common mini keg size is around 5 liters, which is equivalent to approximately 1.32 U.S. gallons or 169 fluid ounces. This size typically holds around 14 to 15 12-ounce servings of beer. They provide a convenient way to enjoy draft beer without the need for a full-scale kegerator or large quantities of beer.
Mini kegs often come with an integrated tap or spout for easy dispensing. Some mini kegs use a self-contained pressurized system, while others require an external CO2 cartridge or manual pumping to dispense the beer.
Meet the opposite of Sanke kegs: the Cornelius keg, also known as a Corny keg. This style of keg is tall and cylindrical and does not use a coupler. Interestingly, this keg was originally designed for the distribution and dispensation of sodas like Coca Cola and Pepsi. However, because Corny kegs are the ideal size of 5 gallons or 18 liters, it has become the standard for homebrewing and home kegging. Another plus side is that Corny kegs are very easy to clean and fill. You can also count on these kegs for their portability.
The standard for Corny kegs is the ball-lock style of connection, but you may be able to find older versions with a pin-lock connection.
Ball-Lock Corny Kegs
Here are some features of the ball-lock corny keg:
- Design: The ball-lock connection consists of two parts: the ball-lock post and the corresponding ball-lock disconnect. The post is permanently attached to the keg, while the disconnect is attached to the end of the gas or liquid line.
- Quick-disconnect mechanism: The ball-lock connection features a simple and efficient quick-disconnect mechanism. The disconnect has a collar with two small spring-loaded stainless steel balls that fit into corresponding slots on the post. When the disconnect is pushed onto the post, the balls lock into place, creating a secure and sealed connection.
- Gas and liquid differentiation: The ball-lock connection allows for easy identification and differentiation between the gas (inlet) and liquid (outlet) connections on the keg. The gas post typically has a shorter stem, while the liquid post has a slightly longer stem.
- Compatibility: Ball-lock connections on corny kegs are standardized, meaning they are designed to be compatible with other ball-lock fittings. This allows for interchangeability between kegs, gas lines, liquid lines, and various dispensing equipment that use ball-lock connections.
- Easy disconnection: The ball-lock connection can be quickly and easily disconnected by pulling back on the collar of the disconnect, releasing the balls from the slots on the post. This enables convenient removal of gas and liquid lines for cleaning, maintenance, or keg swapping.
- Reliability and durability: The secure locking mechanism and sturdy stainless steel construction of the posts and disconnects ensure a tight and leak-free connection during carbonation, storage, and dispensing.
Pin-Lock Corny Kegs
Take a look at the distinct features of the pin-lock design, which is most common with kegs made for Coca-Cola:
- Design: The pin-lock connection is another type of quick-disconnect fitting used on corny kegs. Similar to the ball-lock connection, it consists of two parts: the pin-lock post and the corresponding pin-lock disconnect.
- Quick-disconnect mechanism: The pin-lock connection utilizes a different quick-disconnect mechanism compared to the ball-lock connection. The disconnect has a collar with two or three pins that fit into corresponding holes or slots on the post. When the disconnect is pushed onto the post, the pins lock into place, establishing a secure and sealed connection.
- Gas and liquid differentiation: Like the ball-lock connection, pin-lock connections allow for easy differentiation between the inlet and outlet sides of the keg. The gas post typically has two pins, while the liquid post usually has three pins.
- Compatibility: Pin-lock connections are designed to be compatible with other pin-lock fittings. However, it’s important to note that pin-lock connections are not interchangeable with ball-lock connections. Pin-lock kegs and fittings require specific pin-lock disconnects, posts, and lines.
- Disconnection process: To disconnect a pin-lock connection, the collar of the disconnect needs to be pulled back, which releases the pins from the holes or slots on the post. This allows for the removal of gas and liquid lines for cleaning, maintenance, or keg swapping.
Sixth Barrel Kegs
Also known as sixtels, log kegs, or torpedo kegs, these are a common find in homebrewing setups. Sixth barrel kegs are considered an upgrade from Cornelius kegs, because they look like a half-barrel but hold the same amount as a corny keg. Moreover, these are Sankey-style kegs that require a coupler to be able to use with your at-home kegerator.
A sixth barrel keg has a capacity of approximately 5.16 U.S. gallons or 19.5 liters. This is equivalent to 640 fluid ounces or around 54 12-ounce servings of beer.
Due to their smaller size, sixth-barrel kegs are relatively portable and easier to handle compared to larger kegs. They can fit into standard-sized refrigerators or kegerators, making them suitable for personal use or in venues with limited space. Aside from homebrewing, sixth-barrel kegs are often used for small-scale events, parties, or gatherings where a smaller quantity of beer or other beverages is needed. They are commonly employed in settings such as bars and restaurants.
Quarter Barrel Kegs
A quarter barrel keg, also known as a pony keg or a stubby quarter, is a popular keg size used in the beverage industry. You won’t see them much in homebrewing, but it is possible to incorporate one into your setup. Quarter barrel kegs typically have a cylindrical shape similar to other keg sizes. They are taller and narrower compared to sixth-barrel kegs but shorter and wider compared to half-barrel (full-size) kegs. Furthermore, they have a capacity of approximately 7.75 U.S. gallons or 29.3 liters. This is equivalent to 992 fluid ounces or approximately 82 12-ounce servings of beer.
Typically, this keg size is seen at smaller events or gatherings where a moderate quantity of beer or other beverages is required. They can also fit into some home kegerators or beverage coolers. Since these kegs provide a decent amount of beer while maintaining manageability, craft breweries and microbreweries commonly sell this keg size to customers.
Slim Quarter Keg
Slim quarter kegs have a taller and slimmer profile compared to regular quarter barrel kegs. The dimensions of a slim quarter keg typically allow it to be more easily accommodated in narrow spaces or specialized kegerators designed for slim kegs. A regular quarter barrel keg has a height of around 13.5 inches (34.3 cm) and a diameter of approximately 16.1 inches (40.9 cm). In contrast, a slim quarter keg is taller, with a height of around 23.25 inches (59.1 cm), but narrower, with a diameter of approximately 11.75 inches (29.8 cm). The capacity remains the same.
Although quarter barrel kegs are still more popular than the slim variation, they are becoming more prevalent. If you are looking to optimize your space, consider getting a slim quarter keg instead of a regular-sized one.
13.2 gallon or 50 Liter Keg
These kegs, commonly called European kegs, are mainly seen in European countries. Among all keg sizes, these are frequently found in pubs, bars, and venues where larger quantities of beer are consumed or where keg storage space is a consideration. Due to their larger size, 13.2-gallon kegs can be heavy and less portable compared to smaller keg sizes. They are typically utilized in venues where a steady supply of beer is needed rather than for personal or home use.
Half Barrel Kegs
Coming in at 15.5 gallons, the half barrel keg is technically a full keg, or half the size of a brewer’s barrel of beer. When you imagine a beer keg, this is most likely the one that comes to mind. Half barrel kegs are commonly used in commercial settings, such as bars, restaurants, and large-scale events. They are suitable for high-volume consumption or situations where continuous supply is required. In other words, these are kegs under the bar at your favorite taproom.
How Many Beers Are In a Keg?
Interested at how many beers each keg size can hold? Here is a nifty chart for you to review:
|Sixth Barrel Keg
|Quarter Barrel Keg
|Slim Quarter Keg
|50 Liter Keg
|Half Barrel Keg
661 oz 19.55 liters
992 oz 29.34 liters
|16 oz Pint
|12 oz Bottles/Cans
|64 oz Growlers
So, let’s say you are planning an event with 100 people, and you know that those people will probably have 1-2 beers each. You may want to purchase a 13.2 gal/50 liter keg or a half barrel to accommodate your guests.
Non-Typical Keg Sizes
Having seen the common keg sizes lined up, you may be wondering if others exist. Indeed there are! Industrial keg sizes—20 gallon, 30 gallon, and 50 gallon—can be found in larger macro-breweries. As a home brewer, you probably won’t be seeing these unless you go touring a commercial brewery that exports hundreds of thousands of barrels of beer each year. Regardless, here is some information about these less common keg sizes:
- Size: This keg size is approximately 20 U.S. gallons or 75.7 liters of liquid. This is equivalent to about 2,560 fluid ounces or around 213 12-ounce servings of beer.
- Usage: 20-gallon kegs are often used in larger-scale events, such as festivals or large parties, where a substantial quantity of beer or other beverages is required. Think Coachella. They are also utilized in some commercial settings that have higher demand or specialized dispensing setups.
- Handling: Due to their larger size and weight when full, 20-gallon kegs can be more challenging to handle and require specialized equipment for transportation and storage.
- Size: A 30-gallon keg holds approximately 30 U.S. gallons or 113.6 liters of liquid, making it equivalent to about 3,840 fluid ounces or around 320 12-ounce servings of beer.
- Usage: 30-gallon kegs are less common and usually employed in industrial or large-scale commercial settings, such as breweries, production facilities, or venues with high-volume beverage requirements.
- Handling: 30-gallon kegs can be quite heavy and require specialized equipment, such as keg lifts or pallet jacks, for safe handling and transportation.
Now, do keep in mind that a 31-gallon barrel of beer is not the same as a 30-gallon keg. The terms “barrel” and “keg” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they refer to different measurements in the context of beer. A 31-gallon barrel (or 1 BBL) is 31 US gallons or 117.3 liters of beer. “Barrel” is a historical measurement and is not a keg size.
Another fun fact: The standard keg size used at Oktoberfest is called a “Munich-style Oktoberfestbier” keg, which holds approximately 31 U.S. gallons of beer. These kegs are equivalent to a full barrel in the United States.
- Size: A 50-gallon keg, also known as a barrel keg, holds approximately 50 U.S. gallons or 189.3 liters of liquid. This is equivalent to about 6,400 fluid ounces or around 533 12-ounce servings of beer.
- Usage: This keg size is primarily used in industrial settings, such as large breweries, production facilities, or events with exceptionally high beverage demand. They are less common in commercial establishments due to their large size and handling requirements.
- Handling: 50-gallon kegs, being the largest keg size, are quite heavy and require specialized equipment and facilities for storage, handling, and transportation. They are typically handled using forklifts or other heavy-duty equipment.
How Many Kegs are in 1 BBL of Beer?
In the beer industry, the abbreviation “BBL” stands for “barrel” and represents a volume measurement equivalent to 31 U.S. gallons or 117.3 liters. The number of kegs in 1 BBL of beer depends on the keg size being used.
If you consider the standard half barrel keg size of 15.5 U.S. gallons or 58.67 liters, then there are approximately 2 kegs in 1 BBL. That means there are 4 quarter barrel kegs and about 6.9 mini kegs of beer in a 31-gallon barrel.
Now You’ll Ace Keg Size Trivia
By understanding the various keg sizes and their unique properties, you can make informed choices when purchasing kegged beverages for an event. Additionally, as a home brewer, you can better choose a keg for storing your creations or serving them to your friends. Cheers to the wonderful world of kegs and the joy they bring to beer lovers everywhere!
Frequently Asked Questions
The amount of beer you can get from a keg depends on the size of the keg. A standard 15.5-gallon keg (also known as a “half barrel” keg) can provide around 165 12-ounce servings of beer, while a smaller 5-gallon keg (also known as a “sixth barrel” keg) can provide around 55 servings.
Aside from Corny kegs for brewing beer at home, the most popular keg size is the 15.5-gallon keg, which is commonly used in commercial settings and at large events.
The keg size you choose will depend on the number of guests you expect and how much beer you anticipate them drinking. A general rule of thumb is to estimate that each guest will drink 2-3 beers over the course of the event, and then choose a keg size accordingly.
Kegs should be stored upright in a cool, dry place. If the keg contains beer, it should be kept at a temperature between 38 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain freshness. If the keg is not being used immediately, it should be kept under pressure to prevent the beer from going flat. Once the keg has been tapped, it should be consumed within a few days to ensure the best taste and quality.
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