There is no question the draft beer keg is the most environmentally responsible beverage package in the brewing industry today. Think about it, the draft beer keg is returnable, refillable and recyclable. The keg fits the green profile.

Beer in kegs date back to our founding fathers who came over on the Mayflower in 1620. Departing from England in search of the New World, for more than two months the passengers and crew weathered storms, sickness and starvation without taking to land — until they ran out of beer. Even then, the draft beer keg had its rightful place as the ideal “on-premise” package, serving and sustaining the 100-plus passengers aboard the Mayflower.

The famous ale shipped to India was also delivered in kegs and it was only transferred to bottles for the civilian middle class. The troops drank their beer the same way they drank it back home — dispensed right from the keg.

When you consider this history, you start to realize the value of the draft beer keg then, and now. Even today, the draft beer keg remains at the forefront of sustainability and function.

27,000 glasses over a lifetime

The draft beer keg has a service life of more than 30 years, and when you work the math, the average keg serves 180 (12 ounce) glasses and turns five times per year. This means that over the life of the keg 27,000 glasses will be served from a single keg. That’s the equivalent to 1,125 cases (12 ounce bottles or cans, 24 units).

A profile of change

In the 1960s, it was quite common to find the average bar or restaurant serving four draft beers from a simple refrigerated direct draw draft beer system — two domestic and two imported brands.

Today, the number of beers on tap can reach 100-plus, and there are many outlets that feature 30 to 40 draft beers as a point of distinction to attract new customers. There is also a trend in many mainstream outlets to offer eight, 10 or 12 beers on tap to take advantage of the successful trend toward seasonal, craft and microbrew beers.

To satisfy the operator’s need to serve more choices while serving the coldest and best beer in town, the glycol-cooled long-draw system has become the industry’s standard. The glycol system offers a pre-engineered “plug-and-pour solution” that has taken the guesswork out of best practices and in the process delivers high quality and improved performance while reducing installation time and service cost.

Integral to the improved performance of the glycol system is the use of blended gas (CO2 and nitrogen) as the primary pressure source. Using blended gas preserves draft beer quality and offers the benefit of consistent pour quality from the first glass to the last glass which minimizes waste and maximizes keg yields.

The ‘Draft Beer Station’

Merchandising and marketing draft beer at the point-of-sale has always been a challenge. Now, with the addition of the integrated “Draft Beer Station,” operators can, for the first time, offer and promote draft beer with a high degree of eye appeal. The Draft Beer Station is efficient, functional and delivers the greatest return on investment in the smallest amount of space. For example, a 10-tap draft beer station measures 38 inches in width and is capable of dispensing up to 20,000 ounces of draft beer. That’s more than 1,300 pints dispensed by a single bartender.

Profitable for the retailer

In addition to its green attributes, draft beer keg is the most profitable on-premise package offered today. For the retailer, the economic high- margin profile of draft beer delivers a maximum return on investment.

Draft beer profits play a major role in the overall success of every bar and restaurant. Besides being profitable, it is one of the best products to enhance same store sales and increase “the average cost per check” — promoting draft beer delivers added value to every on-premise operator.

Winning new customers

With craft and microbrew beers growing in popularity across full-service restaurant segments, operators are promoting seasonal beers on tap because they offer differentiation and choice. Just look at the number of operators promoting specialty beers to complement the demand for expanded food choices. There is no doubt that the tech-savvy consumer is looking for beverage options, and with the variety of seasonal and craft draft beers on the market today, specialty draft beers are the perfect fit to help increase sales and profits.

For the brewery, draft beer is an ideal sampling tool to help promote new products and increase brand awareness. Considering the numerous brand choices available today, each tap handle offers a unique opportunity to gain visibility and trial in the brewer’s quest to build brand recognition.

Draft beer on the rise

Over the past three years, the U.S. brewing industry has enjoyed steady growth in draft beer sales. It is no coincidence that the draft beer keg, some 388 years after its introduction here, continues to deliver value throughout the distribution chain — from brewer, to wholesaler to retailer.

Over the history of the brewing industry, the benefits of marketing and promoting draft beer have been validated time and time again. The expectation is that the keg package will continue to grow in prominence as the world beer market looks for better ways to respond to the need for sustainable packaging.

There is no denying the draft beer keg is the “greenest of green” and draft beer profitability will continue to have a major influence on the growing demand for beer in keg. Green and profitable is the draft beer keg and the brewing industry’s contribution to environmentally sustainable packaging.