How To Tap a Keg
Be a hero on your own back patio.
Got a big party tonight with lots of draft beer? Tapping those kegs can be a little intimidating—given the importance of the task—and messy. Tapping a keg isn’t rocket science, but a little forethought and practice will go a long way toward making your bash a blast. Learn the basics and you, too, can be a party savior and wear the badge of beer spray with honor. Here are a few considerations.
The Correct Fittings. Most important, of course, is getting the proper tap to fit your keg. No secret there. When you pick up your keg, you will be given a tap to go with it. Before you leave the store, ask the person you dealt with to show you how to attach the tap. This will ensure that they have given you the proper, and properly functioning, device. He/she might even demonstrate on an empty keg.
Some tap/keg matings are designed differently even though they will fit the same keg. For example, a Sankey type, the most common kind for American kegs, has a threaded, twist mechanism that seats when turned, much like a sprinkler. Another Sankey tap has a release lever that must be manipulated to attach the tap. It is slightly more complicated, but there is less chance that it will loosen when some drunken brute tries too hard to get himself a brewski.
Another consideration is the pump mechanism. Some have a bulb, while others have a piston-like tube with a pump handle. The piston will deliver more gas with each stroke. As you can see, you have a choice in some cases. Exercise it!
Considering that there are many types of taps—my local store carries seven different kinds—it is possible to be given the wrong one, especially on a graduation or homecoming weekend when things get hectic. This is the only really important issue with a keg. Focus!
The Proper Technique. If you’ve never seen someone spritzed with beer while tapping a keg, you haven’t been to enough keg parties. It’s almost a given, like getting dirty while working in the garden, or getting sticky while brewing. Roll up your sleeves, bite your lip, make sure you have firm footing, stare directly into the eye of the monster, suck it up, and tap. Whew!
Assess the Flow. There is one more consideration—beer flow. Realize that the keg is under pressure already; it will not need any additional gas, and nobody likes too-foamy beer anyhow. A fully chilled keg will flow much more softly than a warm one.
Open the tap and assess the flow rate. You may draw several beers before the flow slows down. Pump as needed. If the keg continually loses pressure or is hard to draw from, you may need to re-tap the keg, as the seat may not be optimal. Common sense.
The curtain opens. You feel a rush of adrenaline as you prepare to deliver your much-anticipated, beery soliloquy. You take a deep breath, feign composure and proceed. It seems like minutes, but it’s over now. Was it a success? The din of the crowd tells you that you were marvelous. Bravo! Bravo! Let the festivities begin!
—K. Florian Klemp