What Is the Origin of the 5-Liter Mini Keg?

Written by jessica herring
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What Is the Origin of the 5-Liter Mini Keg?
Old wooden mini kegs did not keep the beer chilled, so beer would spoil if not consumed immediately. (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

A keg is a cylindrical container used to store, transport and serve beer. Traditionally, the term "keg" referred to a small barrel used to transport gunpowder and nails. Today it is used mostly in reference to beer containers that are made out of steel, aluminium or wood. Although kegs are used primarily for beer, they can also be used to store and transport non-alcoholic, carbonated or non-carbonated drinks. The liquids inside a keg are usually kept under pressure. Five-litre mini kegs are smaller, reusable beer kegs made and sold for retail by beer companies.

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Keg History

Although the history of beer drinking spans 4,000 years, kegs were not always used to store beer. In Europe, beer was traditionally stored in clay urns and pots. Around the mid-19th century, the discovery was made that beer could be carbonated by sealing it in a bottle and allowing the yeast to ferment. The bottle used to store the beer was the first incarnation of the beer keg. Beer in Germany and England was first kegged in wooden casks made of a non-toxic hardwood such as oak. Beer was then stored in aluminium or stainless steel casks, due to the advent of pasteurisation in the 1860s, which killed potentially harmful organisms.

The Modern Mini Keg

Although there is not an exact year as to the advent of the first mini keg, they were introduced in America around the late 19th century. Five-litre mini keg material evolved from wood to electrolytically treated tin-plate. The modern mini keg's inside has gold lacquering protection that protects the beer's freshness and preserves the taste. The tap can easily be cleaned with warm water and a mild cleaner (not corrosive chemicals). The modern mini keg also has a CO2 cap and regulator to control the amount of CO2 that is put in the keg. The keg is kept at a cool, consistent temperature to prevent carbonation fluctuations and keep the beer fresh.

Advantages of the Mini Keg

Mini kegs were created to allow for the easier storage and transportation of beer. The 5-liter keg is easier for transportation because it's lightweight, and it is easier for storage because of its small size. Mini kegs are also ideal for home-brewing because brewers can buy a CO2 canister and manually attach it to force beer out while keeping it fresh. Many mini kegs also have self-tapping cans for the automatic extraction and preservation of beer. The tin-plated mini keg can be cleaned and stored for reuse.

Mini Keg Beers

There is an array of beers available for purchase in mini keg form. Many German beers come in five litres, such as Paulaner, which is a Munich beer company founded by Paulist monks in 1634. Their famous Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen Pilsner retails in the mini keg for around £10. Other German beers such as Beck's, Grolsch and Warsteiner also come in 5-liter mini kegs. Perhaps the most famous retailer of mini kegs is Heineken, which has the "DraughtKeg," a mini keg that has its own tap, stands upright in the refrigerator, and stays fresh for 30 days.

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