Caring for your Minikeg

It’s safe to say that 5 litre minikegs have been a real life-saver for us at Mad Cat Brewery. When the first Lockdown started we had almost 200 casks of ale stacked up in our stores and suddenly no pubs to sell them to. Shock horror! As I’m sure you can imagine, there was a bit of colourful language before we decided the best thing to do would be to transfer as much of that cask ale as we could into something people could carry home, and minikegs seemed the best option. But with so many of you kindly giving new homes to these silver cylinders of joy, in some cases for the first time, it was inevitable that some of you would have questions. So we’ve created this little guide about how to open a minikeg and how to look after it.

When you get it home

When you get your new arrival home, it’s best to store it somewhere cold, especially if you’re not planning to drink it right away. We appreciate they may be a bit big to fit in the fridge, and trying to do so may lead to a difficult conversation with your partner, so at this time of year your garage, shed or porch will do, even your backdoor step, just make sure it doesn’t freeze.

Before you open it

One of the questions we hear most is “do I need to let it settle before opening my minikeg?” The simple answer is no. We fill minikegs directly from casks that have already been settled at the brewery, so there is no sediment in it and the beer in your minikeg should be lovely and clear from the moment you open it. One thing you can do to make sure your beer is in tip-top shape before you tuck in is to check that it is at 11-13°C (52-55°F), as that is the ideal serving temperature for British ale.

How to open a minikeg

Okay, it’s beer time! But if you've never done it before, it may not be obvious how to open a minikeg. Fortunately, if you follow these simple instructions, you won’t go wrong.

  1. Place your minikeg on the edge of a table of work surface.
  2. Pull the red tap at the bottom of the minikeg straight out until it clicks.
  3. Hold your glass directly under the tap and tilt the tap downwards to start the beer flowing. Do not twist the tap (as you do with some other minikegs) as this may break it.
  4. When the flow of beer starts to slow down or stop, flip up the valve at the top of the minikeg to let air in. The beer should start flowing again.
  5. When you have filled your glass, tilt the tap back up to stop the beer and then flip the valve at the top back down again until it clicks. This will help to stop your beer from going flat between pours.
How to open minikeg

How many pints can you get from one of these?

Our minikegs hold 5 litres of beer, which is about 8.8 pints in old money. We have heard about customers who have managed to squeeze a full 9 pints out of one of these (we suspect a can-opener may have been involved!), but a bit less than that is more typical.

Can a minikeg be refilled?

Sadly we are unable to refill your minikeg. It basically boils down to the fact that it’s really tricky to remove the bung at the top without damaging the keg itself and it is difficult to properly clean them out so they can be used again safely. However, they are made from steel, so are fully recyclable and fine to put in your home recycling bin. We’ve also heard some great stories about people upcycling them into plant pots, bird feeders and camping stoves, so why not get creative?

My minikeg is leaking, is it broken?

The most likely explanation for a dripping minikeg is that the tap hasn’t been pulled all the way out. Please try pulling it further until it clicks, but if that doesn’t work, do get in touch.

How long will it last?

Unopened and kept cold, a minikeg will be fine until at least the best before date on the back, which is usually three months from the date it was filled. Once you open it, however, we recommend you finish it within three days. It may last longer than that, but we can’t guarantee it.

If you are missing the taste of real cask ale from the pub, our 5 litre minikegs really are the closest thing you can get at home, especially if they’ve been well looked after. We have a cracking selection available at the moment – from classic amber bitters to hoppy IPAs and roasty dark ales – so pop over to our online shop and take a look.

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