If you’re planning a big party, you might be considering purchasing a keg of beer for your guests. But how do you know how much beer you’re actually getting? Will it be enough for all of your guests? Will you have too much or run out?
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about different keg sizes and how much beer actually comes in each one.
What is a keg?
The technical definition of a keg is “a small cask or barrel having a capacity of 30 gallons or less.” The word keg is commonly associated with beer, as beer kegs are popular at bars, parties, and other social events. When you order a draft beer at a bar, it is usually served from a keg.
Kegs are the vessel of choice for large quantities of beer, which is why they’re so commonly seen at bars and parties. In fact, more than 60 million gallons of beer are sold in kegs each year. Kegs are extremely durable and can be rolled around for easy moving. There’s no need for a cap, and kegs themselves are recyclable. Plus, they’re usually more cost-effective for a large number of people.
What are the different types of kegs?
Contrary to popular belief, there is more than one size when it comes to kegs. Each keg size holds a different amount of beer and is best suited to a different purpose.
The Cornelius Keg, also known as the Corny Keg, Homebrew Keg, or Soda Keg, is the smallest sized keg you’ll regularly see on the market. Cornelius Kegs are tall and cylindrical and were originally developed to store, distribute, and dispense soda. Cornelius Kegs have a five-gallon capacity, which is the size of a standard batch of homebrew beer. They are designed to be easy to fill, clean, and maintain. This makes them very popular with homebrewers who don’t want to go through the hassle of bottling their beer and would rather keep in on draft.
The Cornelius Keg measures 23 inches tall by 9 inches wide and has a capacity of five gallons or 18 liters. Each Cornelius Kegs can hold 53 12 oz. servings of beer, the standard size of a bottle or can, or 40 16 oz. pints.
Sixth Barrel Keg
The sixth Barrel Keg, also known as the Sixtel, the ⅙ Barrel, or the ⅙ BBL, is the sixth-largest standard keg. The Sixth Barrel is similar in size, shape, and capacity to a Cornelius Keg, only slightly bigger. The Cornelius Keg has five gallons, while the Sixth has a capacity of 5.16 gallons.
Sixth Barrels are becoming increasingly popular as many craft breweries sell their small-batch beers in them. They’re also popular in bars, as they don’t take up as much space as larger kegs, so bartenders can offer their customers a wider variety of beers.
Each Sixth Barrel Keg can hold 5.16 gallons of beer, aka 20 liters, and measures about 23 ⅜ inches tall by 9 ¼ inches wise. Each Sixth serves 55 12 oz. beers, or 41 16 oz. pints.
Quarter Barrel Keg
The Quarter Barrel Keg is known as the Pony Keg, the Stubby Quarter, or the ¼ BBL. It looks just like the standard keg you’re used to seeing at parties and events but much shorter, hence the “stubby” descriptor. It holds 7.75 gallons, perfect for a small party or gathering.
The Quarter Barrel Keg measures 13 ⅞ inches tall by 16 ⅛ inches wide and holds 7.75 gallons, equivalent to 30 liters. Each Quarter Barrel can hold 82 12 oz. servings of beer, or 62 16 oz. pints.
Slim Quarter Keg
The Slim Quarter Keg holds exactly the same amount of beer as the Quarter Barrel Keg, but the dimensions are different. The Slim Quarter Keg measures 23 ⅜ inches tall by 11 ⅛ wide, giving it a much taller, slimmer appearance, hence the name. This option is preferable for some bars because it’s easier to store multiple Slim Quarters side by side.
Like the Quarter Barrel Keg, the Slim Quarter holds 7.75 gallons, which is equivalent to 30 liters, and pours 82 12 oz. servings of beer, or 62 16 oz. pints.
Half Barrel Keg
The Half Barrel Keg, also known as the Full Size, Full Barrel, or ½ BBL, is the most common type of keg you’ll come across, and probably the image that pops into your head when you think of the word “keg.” Half Barrel Kegs have been used to serve draft beer for generations and are the size most bars and restaurants use to serve brews. This size is great for a large event or party or keeping a large supply of your favorite beer on hand. However, if you’re trying a new beer for the first time, we recommend one of the smaller sizes first.
The Half Barrel Keg measures 23 ⅜ inches tall by 16 ⅛ inches wide and holds 15.5 gallons or 15.7 liters. Each Half Barrel Keg serves 165 12 oz. servings of beer, or 124 16 oz. pints.
50 Litre Keg
The 50 Litre Keg, also known as the Import Keg, European Barrel, 50 Liter, is the standard keg size used by European breweries, hence the nickname “Import Keg.” It’s similar in size and capacity to the Half Barrel Keg, only slightly smaller. Popular brands that import their beer in kegs of this size include Heineken, Newcastle, and Stella Artois.
The 50 Litre Keg holds 13.2 gallons, or 50 liters, just slightly less than the Half-Barrel Keg. Each 50 Litre serves 140 12 oz. glasses of beer, or 105 16 oz. pints.
The Mini Keg isn’t all too common, but as the name suggests, it’s a miniature keg that holds around 14 beers. It has the same barrel shape as a regular keg, but it’s much smaller, making it very portable and convenient. The Mini is great for parties you’d normally bring a 12-pack to. The most popular and easy-to-find beer in a Mini Keg is Heineken, but you can also purchase this size in some craft beer and import varieties.
The Mini Keg measures 9 ⅞ inches tall by 6 ¾ inches wide and holds about 1.32 gallons of beer or 5 liters. Each Mini Keg dispenses 14 12 oz servings or about 10 16 oz pints.
Which size keg should I purchase for my party?
When deciding which size keg you need to buy, it’s important to first do your research. Figure out where you’re going to actually purchase your keg from, and see what sizes and beer varieties they offer in keg-form. It can be difficult to find certain beers in smaller keg sizes, as most large companies only sell the standard Half Barrel Keg size.
Next, determine if a keg is cost-effective in this instance. Kegs are great for large parties or events because they allow you to serve tons of people efficiently. However, if you’re having a smaller gathering, it may be cheaper to purchase beer in bottles or cans, as you don’t want to be stuck with half a keg full of beer nobody drank.
You should also try to consider the transportation aspect of a keg. While they are sturdy and easy to roll, they can be extremely heavy and tricky to move upstairs or around other obstacles.
Once you’ve determined you want to purchase a keg, begin calculating how many guests you intend to invite to your party and what percentage of those guests will drink beer. Consider the type of event you’re throwing when trying to guesstimate this number. For example, more people are likely to drink beer at a Superbowl party than at a New Year’s Eve party.
To calculate the quantity of beer you need, you’ll need to do a little math. Multiply your number of beer-drinking guests by the number of beers you expect everyone will drink. For instance, if you’re having 20 guests over and expect each guest to have four beers, you’ll need 80 servings of beer, about the size of a Quarter Barrel Keg.
In general, for a 10-25 guests party, we recommend having about 50 12 oz. servings of beer. For a gathering of 25-35 guests, plan to have 75 servings. For 35-60 guests, about 80 servings of beer. For 60-100 guests, plan to have 100 servings of beer or more. It’s better to err on the side of caution and order a bit more than you think you’ll need, as there’s nothing worse than running out of beer at a party.
Kegs are a great tool for serving beer to a large group of people. They’re sturdy, convenient to move, and usually fairly cost-effective. Contrary to popular belief, there are multiple sizes of kegs, each of which serves a different amount of beer. Before purchasing a keg for your next party, make sure to do your research, so you get exactly the right amount of beer to please your guests.
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