There is a tendency to push this brewing shit as far as it will go. From spaghetti pot to kettle to fridges to draft system homebrewers get drawn in. They buy a gadget here and there. Then they start looking through catalogs of brew systems and diddle themselves at the idea of having a Brutus 10 or a tippy dump.
I admire some brewers who have, with Amish resolve, decided, "Piss on it, I stop here with partial mash. No need to go on." Don't they wonder what lies on the next horizon? Don't they realize in some garage out there is a pasty and chubby beer dork, who has dialed a recipe to the single ounce of grain, mashing in an old cooler?
So with willpower common to brew geeks and meth whores I have decided to build a brew system. Regular readers know right now I brew like a common hobo. I use an old coffee pot, a cooler and a kettle on a turkey burner. It turns out pretty good beer but I want more. With a frothy, aching need I want something which will accomplish two things. It needs to heat, boil and move wort with NASA precision and it needs to be easy to clean, store and move. Of course, since I have little disposable income, it has to be obtained a piece at a time.
Last week I took the first steps on this harrowing journey. I had been perusing Craigslist and in two weeks found two different guys unloading tap systems cheap, complete with a few kegs, CO2 tank, regulators, and taps. Suddenly, I had seven stainless steel kegs.
The thing with kegs, is it is illegal to take one from behind a bar or just pay a deposit, drink the beer and keep the keg to make a 15 gallon kettle out of. The brewery still owns the kegs and destroying their property is stealing.
So I loaded up four of the kegs and took them to the local distributor for a multi-national brewing conglomerate. I anticipated turning them in for the deposit, taking the cash and buying a couple of kettles. Just like a damn boy scout.
Upon arrival the employees seemed surprised. Apparently, it is relatively rare someone returns a keg, let along four. They weren't even sure if they wanted them. A couple of the guys from the warehouse acted like total bitches about it. "These kegs are really old," they whined like a 16-year-old.
"Has the structure of kegs changed some way in the last 5 years that I am not aware of?" I asked. It has been awhile since I have purchased a keg of commercial beer. Were they square now?
"No," the warehouse guys said with pouty lower lips. "But they are too old to get a full deposit. Did you know you can make bookshelves out of them?"
I considered for a moment. My wife is very understanding of my brewing/beer drinking hobby/obsession but would she allow a bookcase made of old kegs to become a central keystone of our decor? Could a self-respecting homebrewer even allow a bookshelf made from macro-brew kegs in his house?
The simple truth is I just didn't need these kegs. Even if the distributor for the major beer company was acting like a total bitch I would rather have the 12 bucks a piece than a buttload of old kegs lying around.
Bottom line, don't steal a keg from behind a bar or jack one after paying a deposit. Go your local distributor and ask if they have any old ones because they are, apparently, worth less than ball cheese.
In further episodes, I will cut the kegs apart and install spouts. We will see if this can be accomplished without ruining them.