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Three Pint Stance - Turn a summer party into a keg party!

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So you’re having some friends over for an end-of-summer blow out party and you are going to go stock up on beer for the occasion. With the vast array of breweries all around the state and region offering a multitude of styles in all kinds of convenient packaging, it can be tempting to just start buying all kinds of different beers and offering a wide assortment for your guests. That’s totally acceptable and everyone will love you for it.

However, if you are like me and don’t want to deal with the added cost, the “fallen soldiers” (half-finished beers) in the morning and the inevitable redemption center smell that will take over your house if you get lazy about cleanup, I have a better solution.

Enter the beer keg. 

We have discussed the beer keg in these pages before, but mostly as an item to put into your well maintained kegerator to enjoy over a period of time like a classy person with draft beer available at their house. I still 100 percent support that life choice, should you choose it, so keep that in mind. For today, lets focus on the other way the keg can be a cumbersome but ultimately useful took in party facilitation - the keg party!

If you are currently in college, or a recent graduate, you’re no stranger to a keg party. Really, if you have had any sort of social life, you should at least be aware of what a keg party is. It’s simple to figure out, someone (usually the host) orders a keg of beer, puts it on ice and hooks up a hand pump and leave a stack of cups (with a sharpie to mark your name on it!) and a cup for donations next to said keg and that’s that. Drink till it’s gone! Responsibly, of course.

So, how do you go about ordering a keg? There are a couple ways to achieve this. In Maine, beer distributors can only sell to licensed alcohol retailers, so you will have to either order through your local bottle shop (call ahead and ask if they have a keg program) or you can order direct from a local brewery if they offer “private sale” kegs (again, a phone call or e-mail to confirm is always recommended).

Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding if a keg party is right for you:

Kegs are best kept cold. If you decide on a keg, pick it up the day of the party and be prepared to surround the entire keg in ice while it is being served. Warm beer is foamy beer, so keep that keg as cold as possible.

If you are using a hand pump (this is the most convenient way to serve from a keg at a party), remember that you are replacing the CO2 in the keg with ambient air, which contains oxygen - beer’s greatest nemesis. Only use a hand pump if you are confident the keg will be done within 48 hours of tapping.

Most breweries sell beer in 1/2 Barrel (15.5 gallon/roughly 120 pints) and 1/6 Barrel (5.16 gallon/roughly 40 pints) kegs, so you’ll have to decide which is the right size for your party. Some breweries also sell 1/4 Barrel (7.5 gallon/roughly 60 pints), so be sure to ask which sizes they have available.

Be prepared to pay a keg deposit. These usually run $30-$50 and are completely refundable upon return of the keg. Breweries do this so there’s a good reason to bring the (very expensive) keg back, so the brewery can refill it and send it back to another party/bar/tasting room!

Also be prepared to fill out some paperwork and leave your license or other state-issued ID number on file at the place of purchase. This is a Maine state law and recently breweries have been required to conform to this policy.

If you can, give guests a quick primer on the best way to pour beer from a hand pump. Here is my quick rundown. First, there are only three settings on a beer tap, all the way on, all the way off, and foam. When you pour, open the tap all the way for the best results. Only pump the keg when the beer slows to a trickle. If you over pump, you will get foam and have a bad time.

Keg parties have a different energy than your average bash. The communal refill spot becomes like a way more fun work water cooler. Everyone is drinking the same libation, so people tend to stay on the same page. If nothing else, it’s a great way to force people to drink a beer you really like!

So that’s it, my quick and dirty intro to throwing a keg party. Remember to drink responsibly and never allow any underage drinking at your house, because it is wrong and illegal and all that stuff. Next week, maybe we will discuss keg stands, but probably not. Just google it.

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