The kegerator, an individualized refrigerator for the beer keg, has become a popular home brewing accessory among frat boys and amateur hop heads of all stripes. A quick search of the internet will reveal a number of sellers catering directly to this amateur demographic with everything from pre-fab kegerators to conversion kits that allow refrigerators to be transformed into home beer dispensers of “pub quality.” It is a virtual Renaissance for the home entertainer.
Usually when you find a kegerator in a pub, bar or nightclub, it is as an answer to a problem in the establishment’s beer dispenser system. The classic beer dispenser set-up is to either house the kegs in a cellar or in a walk-in cooler. These set-ups have the advantage of keeping the kegs both out of sight and out of bartenders’ ways. Often the cooler in a pub set-up will be located right behind the back wall opposite the bar counter so that the kegs are literally only inches away from their taps–though they need not be. You could just as easily have the tapped kegs in the cellar beneath the bar with the tap line running all the way up to the bar (or bars). The only limitation is due to pressure. The pressure must be enough to reach the tap.
So why would someone opt for an under bar kegerator instead? The most common reason why some bars resort to the under bar kegorator is due to either the lack of a cellar or cooler room, or because of difficulties running lines to these rooms.
Benefits of an Under Bar Kegerator
There are however a few distinct advantages to the under bar kegerator
Cost: Buying and setting up an under bar kegerator beer dispenser system is a lot cheaper than building a cooler as an attachment onto your bar.
Lower Maintenance: Because the tap lines are so short between the keg and the tap on a kegerator beer dispenser set-up, cleaning the lines is really quite easy and barely an issue. If you have very long lines between your kegs and the taps, the lines require at least weakly cleaning. (Your beer supplier will often clean his line for free when he delivers your weekly shipment in order to ensure quality controls—be sure to ask when setting your shipments up.) In addition, the lines themselves must be kept insulated to retain cool temperatures and to make sure they don’t wear out over time.
Better Temperature Controls: Although the space requirements usually make having multiple kegerator kegs going at the same time difficult, there is one benefit to having kegs individually refrigerated: a more accurate temperature control for serving. Since different kinds of beer have different parameters both for storage and for serving, the individualized kegerator offers you the opportunity to serve beer of very different qualities from dark Belgian beers that require 55 degrees for serving temperature to well-chilled Australian lagers that require 45 degree serving temperatures. With individual kegerators you don’t have to limit your selection to beers within the same temperature palate, nor compromise the integrity of your service to accommodate different beers.
Drawbacks of Kegerator Beer Dispensers
There are also some pretty bad drawbacks to these kinds of beer dispensers however.
Space Requirements: Liquor well space tends to be an issue in virtually all bars. Bartenders are working in tight spaces as it is, and placing a kegerator—or a number of kegerators—underneath the bar means not putting bar supplies or ice trays or sinks in those spots. If you are already a small bar, this can quickly become an organizational headache.
In addition, you should not forget that although a kegerator can keep the tapped keg refrigerated, it cannot keep the back-up cool, so whole new space problems arise concerning what to do with the second keg.
Aesthetic Considerations: The other problem with kegerators is that they are bit of an eyesore. They just make the under bar look ugly. Also, when you have a new keg delivered your keg will roll right through your bar to get to its spot under the bar which can be a bit of pain if you already have tight spacing.
Messy: You should also consider the messes that you will expose your under bar to. When you change the lines on the kegerator you will tend to get a bit of spray as you attach and separate the pressurized tap lines. This spray can be a bit of mess to deal with every time you have to install a new keg.
If you are still determined to buy a kegerator, here are the specs of it.
Size: In terms of dimensions, the kegerator is like a small refrigerator. So that means, a kegerator runs anywhere from 33’ to 48’ in height. If you want it under the bar you will need the smaller one if you don’t intend it to become part of the bar counter.
Price: A kegerator can run you anywhere from $500 to $1500. You could, of course, convert a regular refrigerator, though I would not recommend this unless you are mechanically inclined.
Where a beer dispenser of this kind works best is in tiny postage stamp bars that specialize in mixed drinks but want to still have one or two beers to serve to customers who must have beers. For these places the kegerator will do just fine.
Tip from The Pros: Finally, one other condition under which a kegerator might be a good idea is if you host a lot of outdoor or venue parties where you want to sell beer away from your usual setting. A kegerator can be an easy way to serve chilled tap beer in unusual locations.
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