Beer Dispenser/Kegerator Buyers' Guide
A beer dispenser, also called a kegerator, allows your bar or restaurant to serve draft beers straight from the keg. The popularity of draft beers can make this equipment a valuable addition, adding a handful of draft beers to the menu without the expense of a more complex system. Finding the right beer dispenser for your operation can help you make the most of the space you have to work with.
Beer dispensers have between one and three sections. Most units have one swinging door per section. Kegerators and can hold as little as one half-sized keg, or as many as five full-size kegs, which often includes a back-up keg for the most popular one on tap.
With the exception of custom-built pieces, a kegerator will rarely have more than four taps. Kegerators will generally have one or two towers, which extend from the top of the unit to dispense beer, with one or two taps per tower. The number of taps dictates how many different types of beer can be served from the unit. In some units, the towers will be refrigerated all the way to the top to ensure that beer is served as cold as possible. That's also purported to reduce foam, meaning you lose less product to line clearing.
Compressor Location and Exterior Finish
The size and shape of the location where you plan to install your beer dispenser will play a large role in determining which compressor location is best for you. Compressors mounted on the rear of the unit will limit the depth of storage available inside and require more clearance away from the wall behind the equipment. Side-mounted compressors allow more room for storage inside the unit, but make the unit wider and may prevent it from being installed flush against walls or other equipment.
All kegerators have a stainless steel top to prevent the beer from causing corrosion, but the sides and front have a little more variety. Stainless steel finishes are popular due to their durability and ease of cleaning. Also available is a black laminate finish, which some businesses prefer for its aesthetic appeal and because it generally does not need to be cleaned as often as steel. Black laminate is not as durable as steel, but scratches and other light damages are sometimes less obvious on a black finish than on the stainless steel.
Several specialty options are available to make serving easier or to improve your customers' experience.
- Built-in mug chillers can frost glasses and mugs, keeping the beer you serve in them colder for even longer. Units with them are sometimes called club tops.
- Some units are available on casters, making them more mobile for cleaning or relocation.
- Look for a beer dispenser that is outdoor approved if you will be using it at an outdoor bar or patio. These units are better able to withstand the elements and can keep beer cold even in hot weather.
- For serving bottles and cans in addition to draft beer, some models have a built-in bottle cooler section. This keeps those drinks close-at-hand for bartenders, and these often have glass doors for merchandising purposes.