How to Tap an Oak Barrel

Written by simon green
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How to Tap an Oak Barrel
The spile is inserted to release pressure from the keg. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Today, the majority of kegs supplied to bars are made from lightweight corrosion-resistant alloys. The reason is purely for hygiene and due to the ability to reuse these types of kegs. Old-fashioned wooden kegs are still used to store wine and spirits, but there are very few beer brewers still selling oak kegs. The basic technique remains identical for tapping wooden and metal kegs.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Keg
  • Hard spile
  • Soft spile
  • Tap
  • Rubber mallet

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  1. 1

    Set up the cask on its side where it is going to be served from. Moving the cask will disturb the beer enough to shake up the sediment. Do not keep moving the beer around as it needs to settle before it is served.

  2. 2

    Locate the shive. It is a piece of hardware located on the side of the keg if it is designed to be laid horizontally, or on top if it stands vertically. Wipe away any dirt from around the shive so that it does not go into the beer.

  3. 3

    Drive a hard spile, a short plastic stud, into the shive using the rubber mallet. Because this is a wooden keg, no beer will escape as it is not under pressure.

  4. 4

    Remove the hard spile and replace it with the soft spile, a malleable plastic tube. This will allow the beer to breathe before it is served.

  5. 5

    Bang the tap into the keg using the rubber mallet, ensuring the tap is closed before insertion. For horizontal kegs the tap is on the top; for vertical kegs it is at the bottom.

  6. 6

    Allow the keg to sit for 24 hours before serving and pour off the first few pints into a jug. This will be mainly froth and therefore should not be drunk.

Tips and warnings

  • Be careful when moving a beer keg. When full they are quite heavy.
  • Do not be nervous about using force to tap the keg. If the tap is not hit in hard enough right away a lot of beer can be lost.

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