To bottle or to keg?
Probably every homebrewer since the hobby began has faced this question at one point or another. I've witnessed some rather heated arguments from both sides.
I am not anti-keg. There are reasons to use the system, good reasons. And since it's a hobby, if you want to, well, that's reason enough. There are, however, reasons why it's not for me. And that's what this post is about.
One point often made by homebrewers is time and convenience. When you bottle, it adds about two hours to the process. Each individual bottle must be filled, primed and capped, whereas filling, priming and sealing one keg, is -well- easier.
But, (and I'm only speaking for myself) I really don't find it that inconvenient or tedious. I really enjoy beer, almost every style, but I don't drink a lot. I average about 8 bottles a week. That comes to 96 ounces of beer a week. I brew in 4-gallon batches, which comes to 512 ounces. To finish each batch takes 5 1/3 weeks. Let's say I give away a few from each brew (Who doesn't?). That means I spend an extra two hours bottling every 5 weeks. That isn't too intrusive.
Um, and I like bottling. I enjoy the filling and capping. I like designing and printing labels for each beer. I especially like that when someone asks me to try my brew, I can bring him a bottle.
There's cost. Bottles are free. Either my wife or I will find a commercial beer we want to try, or friends or relatives save their bottles to give me. Caps are around 3 dollars a gross. So, I'm spending about 3 bucks every other month, plus the $35 I spent for a capper.
On the other hand, to start kegging, it would take a somewhat larger investment. Checking the online supplier I usually use, a complete kegging system would cost $155 or more. Um, I don't have $155. Oh, and that's for one keg. If you want to brew another beer, either wait for that keg to empty out, or buy another keg. If someone asks you to try one of your beers, your options are as follows, invite him over (I kinda like that one), carry your keg around town, buy something to allow you to fill a bottle. (Did I mention I already have bottles?)
Now, in looking back at what I've just written, I notice I seem to come across as anti-keg, so let me say a few words in defense of kegging. If you have the funds, and storage space, it is really nice to have several beers on tap in your own home. There is a substantial “wow” factor in saying “You want a beer?”, and pulling one right there. It's not a great inconvenience to fill a few bottles to bring with you.
It just isn't for me.