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Published September 17 2012

Tap setups bring draft beer from the bar to the home

MOORHEAD - When Dustin Lamppa wants a nice cold tap beer, he doesn’t have to go far.

In fact, he doesn’t even have to leave his house for his very own special brew.

Lamppa, who has brewed his own beer for three years, set up beer taps in the door of his basement refrigerator. The taps are each hooked up to kegs of his beer, also stored in the fridge.

At-home taps aren’t necessarily a new thing, but as the popularity of beer, especially craft or home-brewed beer, continues to tick upward, the concept might become more common in area homes.

For Lamppa, the idea to switch to his own tap system came after he realized just how much work it can be to store the beer that he brews.

“There’s really only two ways as a home brewer to store beer,” he says. “In bottles or in a keg.”

A five gallon batch of beer produces 50 bottles, each of which needs to be cleaned, sanitized and filled with beer. Or, alternatively, a brewer can store all that beer in one single keg.

“So, (putting the beer in a keg) cuts the time down by a third,” Lamppa says. “That’s the main reason most home brewers move to kegs, because bottles suck.”

After deciding to go with a keg, Lamppa needed to make sure he had a place large enough to keep the beer cool.

His next step was to decide what kind of keg and tap setups to buy. There are different options available online at websites like kegconnection.com, and more basic starter kits are available at stores like Menards or Home Depot.

With the system in hand, this is where it starts get to pretty complicated.

Home brews need to make several different calculations to correctly hook up a kegged homebrew to a tap, Lamppa says.

To get it right, he needed to take into account the length of the lines necessary to go from the keg to the tap and the amount of pressure needed to properly carbonate and serve the beer.

“There are a lot of numbers involved,” Lamppa says. “It’s not that hard to figure out, but it took me a while.”

With his taps set in the door of his fridge, Lamppa admits that his system is pretty basic. He’s seen some people who have taps set up in their wall, like a professional bar, with three or more taps on it.

Even though there are various instructions and guidelines available online to get people started, Lamppa says, the whole thing – from home brewing to getting the tap system set up – can be pretty difficult to get right.

“Normally, the type of people who make beer well for an extended period of time, in my experience, are usually math and computer type of guys,” says Lamppa, who works as a mechanic. “You have to have a fairly good understanding of basic chemical sciences, and you need to understand some basic math.”

For those who might not be quite as adept at math or science, there’s luckily a simpler alternative – just go out and buy yourself a keg for your tap.

An easier solution

Brian Frank, manager of Happy Harry’s Bottle Shop on 45th Street in Fargo, says it’s easy for someone to purchase their own keg from stores like his.

The availability of kegged beers that people can buy is a little limited, Frank says, but if a customer knows what kind of beer they want and is able to order it ahead of time, the store can probably help work around that.

“If the consumer gives us enough time, we can order almost anything,” he says, adding that kegs typically cost around $100-110, depending on the type of beer.

The customer’s next step would be to ensure that they have a place to keep the keg cool, whether it’s a refrigerator or a keg cooler.

They’ll need a carbon dioxide tank to regulate the keg’s pressure, a hose and the tap itself, all of which are easy to purchase online or in stores.

In the last five to eight years, Frank says he’s probably seen an increase in people with at-home taps simply because the system is easier to buy than ever.

“What’s happened is, it’s more accessible for common folk to buy a beer tap system,” he says. “It’s more readily available than it has been in the past.”

Additionally, Frank thinks that people are entertaining at home more often these days, which could also explain the increase in the at-home setups.

Regardless, there’s no arguing that a fresh tap in the comfort of one’s own home is about as good as it gets.

Cheers to that.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535