Beer brewing originated in Roman times, but it became highly developed in English monasteries around the 11th and 12th centuries. Monks brewed beer and stored it in timber barrels. As the demand for beer increased, wooden barrels were also used to transport it to consumers. Today, metal beer kegs store draft beer.
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Beer kegs come in varying sizes. In Europe, the standard keg size is 50 litres. In the United States, common keg sizes include the one-sixth barrel, the one-quarter barrel and the half barrel; these kegs are known as the torpedo keg, the pony keg and the full keg, respectively. A full half barrel keg weighs approximately 72.6kg. when full of beer, but only 13.6kg. when empty. Full kegs hold 15 ½ gallons of beer, which is enough to fill 488,318ml. glasses.
How Kegs Work
Kegs are primarily constructed of aluminium and stainless steel. Inside the keg, there is a tube that extends from the bottom to the top, where there is a self-closing valve that opens when a tapping key is inserted. When the key is inserted, a very small crevice releases carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide pushes the beer out of the keg through the tube.
Kegs require refrigeration between 1.67 and 6.67 degrees Celsius. If the temperature in which kegs are stored exceeds 44 degrees, the beer turns sour and cloudy. Within a few days, the beer will lose its taste and aroma, and bacteria will grow. In addition to maintaining appropriate temperature, retailers also must routinely clean keg equipment, including the tube. If the tube is dirty and beer cannot travel smoothly through the tube, the beer will foam.
Kegs are recycled by breweries. Brewers first pressure wash the keg with water and a detergent mixture. Then, they completely rinse the keg with fresh water and sanitise it to kill any residual bacteria. The keg is filled with new beer and sealed. Workers rinse the outside of the keg so that it is not sticky and move it to a cold storage room until it ships back to the retailer. This entire process takes only two to three weeks.
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