Kegs of beer are no longer the sole province of college students. A huge variety of beer types and brands now come in kegs. Beer cans and bottles may be convenient, but for flavor and value, nothing beats a beer keg. If your next social event or gathering can be improved with a keg of beer (hint: it probably can), here’s everything you need to know about purchasing a keg of beer, including types of kegs, the most popular types of beer for a keg and, of course, the prices for the keg and the beer itself.

In This Article:

  • Estimating How Much Beer to Buy

  • Types of Kegs

  • Keg Equipment and Accessories

  • Keg Prices for Domestic, Craft, and Imported Beers

  • Laws Surrounding Kegs

  • National and Regional Places that Sell or Rent Kegs

Estimating How Much Beer to Buy

Kegs come in many shapes and sizes. Before you pick which one to buy, tally up how many people will be partaking. A keg of beer tastes great, but that flavor may not last long. Without proper storage, a keg tapped with a hand pump will become extremely stale and unpleasant after just a few days. Even kegs dispensed with a CO2 dispenser require refrigeration, although they do stay fresh for a much longer period.

So, how much beer is enough beer? As a rough estimate, a full keg will hold about 165 12 oz. servings of beer (the amount in a standard beer bottle). A Cornelius keg will hold about 53 servings, and a pony keg will be in between with about 82 servings.

Martha Stewart recommends calculating two beers per hour per guest. Evite’s drink calculator makes the same recommendation for “average drinkers.” However, determining the necessary amount of beer goes beyond simple statistics. The answer will largely depend on the type of gathering, as well as the people attending. A full (half-barrel) keg should be sufficient for a typical backyard BBQ party with 30 to 50 guests. Then again, if some of the guests are not beer drinkers, or, conversely, if your guest list includes a lot of accomplished beer drinkers, that amount may vary.

Types of Kegs

Kegs come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Here’s a quick breakdown of common keg types:

  • Mini Kegs:
    • 5 liter (14 pint) capacity
    • Great for tailgating or camping
    • 13 lbs.
  • Cornelius Kegs:
    • 6.6 gallon (53 pint) capacity
    • Often used by home brewers
    • 49 lbs.
  • Log Kegs (a.k.a. Sixth Barrels):
    • 5 gallon (41 pint) capacity
    • Commonly used by craft brewers
    • 58 lbs.
  • Pony Kegs (a.k.a. Quarter Barrels)
    • 5 gallon (62 pint) capacity
    • Nice for smaller gatherings
    • 87 lbs.
  • Slim Quarter:
    • 5 gallon (62 pint) capacity
    • Good size for smaller parties; compact and stackable
    • 87 lbs
  • Full Keg (Half Barrel):
    • 15 gallon (124 pint) capacity
    • Most common size of keg
    • 161 lbs.

Keg Equipment and Accessories

Buying a keg requires renting or purchasing other items, as well. You’ll also need to account for the following in your party-planning endeavors:

Keg Taps

The most vital accessory is the tap. Without it, dispensing beer from a keg is nearly impossible. Keg taps vary per the size or national origin of the keg. However, for those who often purchase kegs of the same size and type, purchasing a keg tap may be a good investment. A four-inch D system lever handle metal keg pump costs less than $50. A D System pony hand keg pump costs less than $25.

The cost of renting a tap varies by region and type. A good estimate is a $10-$15 rental fee, plus a $45-$50 deposit to ensure the tap’s safe return. Of course, more elaborate taps cost more to rent or purchase. Some fancier taps permit dispensing two or more servings at a time, some are larger, or some just look prettier.

Party taps are the most basic and least effective means of getting beer out of a keg. The gas used to pressurize the keg comes from hand pumping regular air into the keg. The downside to party taps is that the air pumped into the keg may carry things such as yeast and bacteria that cause more rapid spoilage of the beer.

CO2 or Nitrogen Canisters and Regulators

The solution to rapid beer spoilage involves using canisters of carbon dioxide or nitrogen, a regulator, a faucet, and a coupler. This is the system used in most bars, as well as Kegerators. Properly connecting the components to the keg results in beer that tastes better and lasts longer.

Coolers

Most Americans want their beer cold. The simplest means of achieving this is sticking a keg in a tub full of ice. This method is cheap and reasonably effective. However, there are more reliable ways of keeping beer cold. Kegerators — combination beer dispenser and refrigerator units — are one option. However, they are not cheap. Some enterprising beer connoisseurs have developed (or hacked) draft beer systems, using everything from old mini-fridges to Igloo coolers.

Cups

One last thing: Whether you’re using your finest crystal or you’re more of a red Solo crowd, don’t forget the cups!

Keg Prices for Domestic, Craft, and Imported Beers

The price of a keg of beer depends on several factors. Obviously, the volume of beer plays a part in pricing. The brand of beer is another huge aspect of beer keg costs. The following is a list of the average costs for a full (half barrel) keg of popular beer brands in the United States:

  • Bud Light: $87
  • Blue Moon: $175
  • Budweiser: $80
  • Coors Light: $90
  • Corona Light: $165
  • Heineken (13.2 gal): $130
  • Guinness (13.2 gal): $200
  • Keystone Light: $70
  • Miller Lite: $88
  • Michelob Ultra: $135
  • Natural Light: $80
  • Pabst: $100

Keep in mind that even if you pay for the keg in cash, some places may require you to present a credit card for the rental deposit. Be sure to ask the establishment you’re planning to buy from if a credit card will be required. Some places may also charge a non-refundable cleaning fee, often around $15. In total, a full keg of popular domestic beer, including fees and additional equipment, will likely cost $110 – $150, and may include an additional deposit of $50 or more.

State Laws Surrounding Kegs

Individual states have specific laws and regulations on the sale of beer. In some places, kegs of beer are available in grocery stores. Other states only permit sales of cases and kegs at beer distributors. In most states, beer kegs can be purchased at liquor stores.

In certain states, keg registration laws (sometimes called keg tagging laws) require wholesalers and retailers to attach some kind of identification to kegs (typically tags, stickers, or engravings). The rationale behind such laws is to discourage serving underage drinkers, since the keg identification allows law enforcement to trace the purchaser of the keg. These laws generally require that retailers do the following:

  • Record identifying information about the purchaser (e.g., name, address, telephone number, and driver’s license).
  • Collect refundable deposits for kegs and tap systems, with no refund if keg identification is destroyed.

Thirty states, plus the District of Columbia, require keg registration. Utah prohibits the sale of kegs, and 19 states require no keg registration. Pennsylvania allows beer purchases only at licensed beer retailers, bars, and beer distributors. The important takeaway here is that keg purchasers must be aware of the rules of the state in which they are purchasing a keg. A quick Google search for “laws for purchasing a keg in [your state]” should provide an answer.

Be aware that states may have numerous “dry” counties. This means that no type of alcohol may be purchased within the county, regardless of the statewide alcohol laws.

Regional Places that Sell or Rent Kegs

Due to variations in alcohol laws from state to state, there aren’t many national places that rent kegs of beer. Check your local party store, liquor store, or convenience store for keg rentals, or check out our list of regional places below.

Binny’s Beverage Depot (Illinois only)

Triboro Beverage (New York City only)

  • Locations: Triboro is in Astoria, NY, and they deliver.
  • Keg sizes available: 1/6 keg up to ½ keg
  • Beer types available: Ale, lager, flavored, hard cider, malt beverage. This place appears to carry every type of beer imaginable.
  • Prices: Varies by type and brand of beer and size of keg. From $65 for a 7.75 gallon Bud Light to $289.99 for a half barrel of Allagash

King Keg (Los Angeles only)

  • Locations: King Keg has one location and it’s in Los Angeles, CA.
  • Keg sizes available: 1/6 keg up to ½ keg
  • Beer types available: Ale, IPA, red ale, pilsner, stout, amber, both imported and exported.
  • Prices: Varies by brand of beer and size of keg but range from $155.99 for a half barrel of Bud Light to a $289.99 ½ keg of Ballast Point. There are three different rental packages available depending on what accessories you wish to rent.

Party Kegs (Miami only)

  • Locations: Party Kegs has 2 locations in Miami, FL.
  • Keg sizes available: 1/6 keg up to ½ keg
  • Beer types available: Domestic and imported beers are available.
  • Prices: Varies by size of keg and brand of beer. From $43.99 for a 1/6 barrel of Bud Light to $179.99 for a half barrel of Stella. Party Kegs also offers a huge list of special-order beer selections. Deposit for keg is $100. Tap rental is $10, tub rental is $3.

Metro Convenience & Liquor (Phoenix, AZ only)

  • Locations: Metro Convenience & Liquor has one location in Phoenix, AZ.
  • Keg sizes available: 1/6 keg up to ½ keg
  • Beer types available: Lagers and light lagers
  • Prices: Varies by brand of beer and size of keg but range from $64.99 for a 1/6 keg of Budweiser to $320.99 for a ½ keg of Papago Oude Zuipers. In addition, there is a $40 deposit for every keg, $50 deposit for the tap and $10 deposit for the bucket — or $100 deposit for all three items.

Belmont Station (Portland, OR only)

  • Locations: Belmont Station has one location in Portland, OR.
  • Keg sizes available: 1/6 keg up to ½ keg
  • Beer types available: This place appears to specialize in local and craft beers from smaller breweries. Ale, IPA, red ale, pilsner, stout, amber, etc.
  • Prices: Varies by brand of beer and size of keg but range from $47.99 for a ¼ keg of Bud Light to a $330 ½ keg of Ballast Dorado. In addition, there is a $30 deposit for every keg, $60 deposit for the tap and $30 deposit for the bucket.

Liquor Barn (Denver, CO only)

  • Locations: Liquor Barn has one location in Denver, CO.
  • Keg sizes available: 1/6 keg up to ½ keg
  • Beer types available: This place also specializes in local and craft beers from smaller breweries. Ale, IPA, red ale, pilsner, stout, amber, etc.
  • Prices: Varies by brand of beer and size of keg but range from $65 for a ¼ keg of Budweiser to $179.99 for a 13.2-gallon (50L) keg of Guinness. In addition, there is a $40 deposit for every keg, $45 deposit for the tap or $100 total for a bucket, tap and keg.

National Places that Sell or Rent Kegs

Although renting a keg of beer is a huge convenience for the customer, there aren’t many national retailers that rent kegs. It can be a hassle for a retailer to manage rentals. Accounting for deposits, refunding deposits, and assessing damage to a returned keg or tap can become a headache. Not to mention the various state by state keg laws and keg registrations that a national retailer would have to keep up with. Below are two national places that do rent or sell kegs.

Total Wine & More.com

  • Locations: Total Wine & More has stores in 20 states and is an online site but finds your nearest location for pick up based on your zip code. Due to regulations, beer is not eligible for shipping.
  • Keg sizes available: ¼ keg up to ½ keg
  • Beer types available: Amber, red ale, American all-malt lager, American amber, American red ale, American wild ale, American style lager
  • Prices: Varies by brand of beer and size of keg. Low end is a Goose Island IPA 1/6 keg for $39.99 to the high end of $279.99 for a ½ keg of Southern Tier Pumpkin Ale. A deposit will also be charged and refunded upon return of keg.

Walmart

  • Locations: Walmart has locations nationwide. Find your nearest one.
  • Keg sizes available: 1/6 keg up to ½ keg
  • Beer types available: Rolling Rock, Budweiser, Coors Light, Michelob Ultra Superior Light Beer
  • Prices: Walmart.com does not list keg prices; kegs are an in-store purchase only. In addition, there may be deposits for the keg and the tap. Check with your nearest location.

In Summary

If you’re hosting an event, a keg of beer can be a fun and surprisingly cost-efficient social lubricant. It’s important to know the local and state laws regarding keg purchases — but in most places, you can easily purchase a full keg of beer for under $100 (plus a little more for the tap rental and equipment deposit). The best places to buy kegs are local party stores, liquor stores, or convenience stores. Gather up some friends, pick your brand of beer, and raise a glass!