Last summer I had the opportunity to bring together some friends, a keg of beer, and a bunch of trail growlers which led to the now classic “Growlerpalooza.” The timing was perfect for such an event as a bunch of different insulated growlers had just hit the market, it was summer, and I know a lot of us “Outdoorians” enjoy craft beer. While that was all going on, another segment was emerging in the “beer vessel for outdoor carry” category and that is something I like to refer to as the “travel keg”.
What’s a travel keg you ask? Well, to keep it simple, it’s a growler that features a pressurized tap system that is designed to give you a premium beer drinking experience while away from the bar or your kegerator. Generally available in 64oz and 128oz, they are designed to be filled at your favorite watering hole and feature a tap system that uses CO2 cartridges to deliver a heady pour each time.
I’ll be honest –I have zero experience with any of the following travel kegs – but I am definitely intrigued. If they do what they claim to do, this could really bring up our beer drinking experience on the trail, in a kayak, or just about anywhere else. With that in mind, here’s a sampling of the travel kegs available on the market today.
The Expert: GrowlerWerks uKeg
The GrowlerWerks uKeg is double-walled, vacuum-insulated container available in both 64oz and 128oz models. Claiming to be able to keep beer fresh “for weeks,” it is available in an all-stainless steel version and a classically designed copper-plated version with stainless steel lining. All iterations of the uKeg feature their VPR Cap for automatically regulating pressure, a pressure gauge to confirm that the cap is working, and a sight glass tube which lets you know how much ale you have left in the vessel. Additionally, the uKeg allows you to customize your tap handle, which I happen to think is pretty gnarly myself.
Packed with more features than you may know what to do with, the GrowlerWerks uKeg line is the most premium of the assortment in this article. Either one of these beauties would pair nicely with après ski or with friends over a game of Apples to Apples by the backyard fire pit. I’ve got my eye on that copper version as it looks like a damn dandy!
The Natural: DrinkTanks Insulated Growler with Keg Cap
DrinkTanks Insulated Growler is just that – an insulated growler designed to keep your beer cold for up to 24 hours. It’s available in the 64oz Classic and 128oz Juggernaut versions and can be easily transformed into a pressured trail keg with the addition of their Keg Cap. DrinkTanks recommends that you transport their vessels with the standard cap and install the Keg Cap when you reach your destination and are ready to imbibe the frothy goodness within. Once the Keg Cap is installed, DrinkTanks guarantees about a week of freshness.
These DrinkTank Insulated Growlers came to my attention right after Growlerpalooza last year, so I haven’t had a chance to test one of them out just yet. But looking at the design, I have a feeling that these might be the true “travel keg”, when coupled with their Keg Cap. If you follow their recommendation of installing the Keg Cap after travel, you can probably balance out the excitement of the carbonation with the introduction of the CO2 canister. But I am not a scientist, I am a craft beer lover.
A Familiar Friend: The ManCan
The ManCan was originally designed as a 64oz growler that looks just like a keg but obviously much smaller and more portable. This version of the ManCan was built so you can remove the cap and pour your beer like a traditional growler. As long as you didn’t open it, ManCan claimed you could get more than a month of freshness out of the little fella, which has since been substantiated across their product line. Following the 64oz’s success the company developed a 128oz version which poured the same way as the 64oz, as well as two tapped versions: The 128oz Machismo Kit and the 128oz Flex Kit – all of these are made from rugged stainless steel construction and are designed to fit in your fridge or go wherever you go.
The Flex Kit version is literally a scaled down party keg but with a CO2 infuser instead of a hand pump. The Machismo Kit is an all-around upgrade, featuring 304 Stainless steel construction, as well as a traditional bar tap which allows you to swap out the tap handle like a rock star. Like all of the kegs that I have ever encountered, both of these units – as well as the standard 64oz and 128oz “growler” models –are not insulated, relying instead on a fridge, cooler, or scaled down bucket of ice.
So there you have it, folks – the future of beer drinking for us outdoor enthusiasts is here, it looks cool, and functions even better. I’ve never been one to shy away from even a warm beer after a long day of bouldering or hiking, but I won’t lie – all the while I was saying over and over in my head “Oh man, I can’t believe how icy cold this is. Oh this is awesome” all in an attempt to con myself. And you’ve done it too – don’t lie. It’s because of fond memories like that, and an undying appreciation for a good craft beer, I would recommend checking any one of these vessels out as they’ll definitely improve your drinking experience when you’re out there, in it.