Build me a Beer Cooler (Part 1)

Kegerator – noun (keg-er-a-tor)

1. A device which was one a common refrigerator  but is now something entirely different and wonderful.
2. A place to cool kegs of beer in order to serve them (to yourself)

Right after I made the decision to get in on the beer keg bulk buy (corny kegs for anyone that wants specifics), I began to think about a kegerator. After all, if you’ve got close to 20 liters of beer in a keg, you’re presumably going to need to drink it cold. Imagine, warm beer. The humanity!

“Aha” I thought, “I know what I’ll do”. Christmas 2012 was approaching at a lumbering speed and I had the two kegs sitting there, unloved and unused. On a trip out to Mountmellick to buy some grain (and all that other brewing stuff) I picked up the first of the ‘keg bits’ I was going to need. Some time later I bought a used pub Co2 cylinder and a basic Co2 regulator. I finally got the cylinder filled before Christmas and we were all ready to drink the first batch of draught beer. That is of course, ‘the royal we’.

I was looking forward to a fine cold winter, keg of suitably coffee’d up stout sitting on the balcony, chilling it’s little heart out. Except, well, the fine cold winter never really happened. It got a bit cold, possibly cellar cold. The snow I thought my keg would be sitting in by New Years Eve never really arrived. So I ended up drinking some odd mish-mash hybrid of draught and cask stout. But it was draught, served from my very own corny keg. That was a win in itself.

The stout wasn’t bad now, don’t get me wrong. Every brew I do, I’m seeing the errors. I’m taking that as a good sign too. I now know what the taste of bad mashing temperature is. The body of the beer is a little light for a stout and as a result, I think it’s taken a lot of the kick out of the ohh, 250grams of espresso beans I cold brewed, filtered and dumped into the secondary fermentation. But enough about that…

My New Years Eve brew day left me with a ruby coloured ale. Not hugely hoppy, more caramel flavours. Think a bit like Old Hooky and you’re getting there. But where to put it once the fermentation was complete? In a keg of course but I couldn’t very well dump that keg out onto the balcony with the now half keg of stout and expect it to get cold. A fridge was needed.

I spent a few weeks scouring adverts.ie and donedeal.ie looking for the perfect fridge. Something big but not too big, preferably a tall larder fridge. Fridges came and fridges went but the perfect one was an elusive beast. Then one evening, I got sick of waiting and just bought one.

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A short, incoherent prayer was had and the fridge fit in the car with centimeters to spare. If not for the bizarre shape of my car’s boot lid, it wouldn’t have fit at all. Thanks for that Citroen. I got it home, pulled out most of the shelves and the door fittings and rejoiced at estimating that I’ll be able to fit three corny kegs and a large cylinder of Co2 in it.

The door came off to be reversed (as in, open the other way around) and 24 hours later, the kegerator was born when I plugged it into the mains.

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So, what’s next on the agenda?

Well, taps I suppose. That’ll be part 2 I guess. It looks like you can get tap, hose & liquid disconnect for in & around the €50 mark. Depending on funds, I’ll either get them one by one and build as I go or get them all (three) in one go and do the entire remainder of the build at once. So, fit the taps in the newly drilled door, run the hose down to the kegs and attach the disconnects. Sounds pretty easy. As long as I don’t screw up the drilling part it should all be plain sailing. Beer identification & facilitation of general doodling is also well in hand as Julie got some blackboard vinyl from Amazon. There I was going to paint the door with blackboard paint. Now I don’t need to.

Part 3 will most likely end up being all about gas. I’ll need some way to split the output from one Co2 cylinder to two (or three) kegs. Then, if I’m going to get really fancy about it, I could have a separate regulator for each keg supply so I can serve at different pressures per keg. Or force carbonate one while serving another.

Part 4 will mostly be me, drinking all the beer. All of it.

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