Coolers, Kegs, and Serving at the Party

IMG_2378 IMG_2363 IMG_2364 IMG_2367Kyle announced to all in his invitation to the Crawfish Boil that I was supplying homebrew. While I was excited about bringing some beer, his public announcement freaked me out a bit. I am feeling the pressure to produce, especially with the South Side Hipster crowd.

We brewed the Crawdad Pale Ale, but with the added pressure I brewed a Red Rye as well. Maybe it will be too dark or heavy for the American Industrial Lager drinkers, but it will give the beer drinkers an option and a chance for me to exhibit my brewing skills, be they what they are.

I’ve been freakin’ mostly about the beer being carbonated properly. I figure free cold beer can’t be too bad, right? But last fall, at my first “party” for the guys at work, the hefe was cold but not carbonated. I knew that temperature and pressure were connected, but I’m still not sure that I’ve got all the answers.

 

I was thinking of getting a jockey box to serve the beer through, but theyare expensive (a two tapped version has a couple hundred feet of stainless steel tubing, which brings the prices to the $300+ range) and they brought new questions on the correct temp and pressure of the kegs.

 

Instead, I’ve built a cooler that will hold both kegs and the CO2 tank. I made it out of cattle mineral buckets I found at the farm. I’ve added a bunch of insulation and drilled holes for drainage and spigots. It looks pretty good, a big pink pod. I think it will do the trick to keep the beer cold with a minimum of ice.

I am still very concerned about the carbonation. I fear that it will be flat or all foam. I kegged the beers at 25 psi at room temp, which is what Snyder suggests. Last night, five days before the party, I put a manifold on the CO2 and now have both beers under solid 25 psi. Tonight I will ice down the kegs and reduce the pressure to 12 psi. That’ll give ’em a couple days to normalize, hopefully finding the right amount of carbonation at cold temps.

Friday- day before party

IMG_2371Christine, Charlie and I are gonna take the kegs over to Kyle’s tonight. I want to give them a chance to settle a bit before people start pulling draughts.  The weather has been relatively cooperative the last couple of days with cooler temps. The beer appears to be plenty cold. We’ll tap it tonight and see where it’s at. It’ll be colder than I would normally serve these types of ales, but the crowd will like the beer ice cold.

Saturday morning- day of party

Huzzah! I’m thrilled to report that both beers are cold and well carbonated (and quite tasty!). We dropped the cooler off at Kyle’s and tapped them. They were nearly perfect. I started with the Pale Ale and it poured well and produced a nice little head. The Red didn’t pour as well and as I started to trouble shoot, Charlie noted that there the needle on the regulator gauge read zero pressure! WTF? I played with it a bit and Christine saw the light come on as I figured it out. I had locked out the pressure in the CO2 tank at 10 psi, but that was at room temp. Since the tank was also in the ice bath, it dropped in pressure with the kegs. I simply opened up the regulator a little more and the pressure kicked up to 10-12 psi.

IMG_2380The beers were a little cloudy from the ride into the city. I’m glad took them down there the night before. It allowed me to discover the pressure problem and make the adjustment. It will also allow the beers to clear a little before getting served today.

Post Mortem-

The cooler pod and the beer were both a big success. I am thrilled that it went so well. The beer stayed cold and carbonated all day. It wasn’t a hot day, but the one bag of ice we put on it the night before was all that we used. I think even on a hot summer day, the beer would stay cold.

Both kegs were emptied by 9 pm. I received many compliments on the beer and heard a couple of comments that the pod itself was pretty cool. So success all around.

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