This review has now been updated with a full video
At first glance this is absolute beer geek porn, this contraption just looks so impressive and makes such a bold statement. You have two options, you can either purchase just the growler itself or you can also add the CO2 pressured tapping system.
So the brown delivery box turned up on my office desk and I immediately knew what was inside. Now most times when I get deliveries at work they just get shoved to the side and opened once I’m home, but not today my friend. Out came the knife and soon I was into the packaging and bubble wrap. This is where I have my first positive and negative. Positive: everything was wrapped and well packaged to ensure no damage during the delivery process. Negative: no assembly instructions, now this is just a minor issue as a quick look at a photo on the website coupled with the Lego skills of a 5 year old and I had the whole thing assembled in a couple of minutes.
Once assembled it’s a very striking piece of equipment and makes a very bold statement “I have arrived and I am here to drink”. Fully assembled it stands tall and whilst it does feel a bit top heavy, with the tapping system attached, it sat nice and stable and I have had no issue with it falling or being knocked over. Now my next positive and negative, positive: everything looks great and has a high quality feel and finish to it, especially the tap. Negative: when screwing in the tapping system to the growler it was lining up with the handle which just looked wrong and awkward. I have noted since that it doesn’t need to be as tight as I was doing it up, but for me the tap still sits at a funny angle (see pic). It would be better if it was lined up with the opposite side of the handle.
IKegger claim that the growler will hold your beer cold for 6+ hours without the need for an esky so that was first thing I decided to test when I got home. Now, not wanting to waste 2 litres of beer I decided to do the test with water. I simply filled the vessel with water at 6pm and took the temperature and then took the temperature again at 6am the following morning. The initial temperature was 6ºC and the following morning, 12 hours later, it had risen to 7º. Temperature over night was a fairly consistent 24ºC. Armed with that knowledge I was happy to venture further afield and have had no issues with the beer warming up. The biggest test was taking it out on a 30º day and the beer was still cold after 6 hours when the last drink was poured. *The growler was never stored in direct sunlight through any testing so I can’t comment on its temperature keeping abilities if it was to spend the day in full sunlight, but I would be confident.
Now as for filling the growler you have two options, you can either pour in your beer from bottles or cans and it holds bang on 2 litres which means it will hold a 6 pack. Your other option is to fill straight from a keg and there are a number of places that do this now, including some bottle shops but….. Here’s your next hurdle, most places will only fill a glass growler with a mark on it showing the 1.9L measure. This is to do with the sale and taxation of alcohol and the vendor being able to be accountable.
Now I can completely understand this as the iKegger has no markings and the vendor really has no way of knowing how much they are selling you. If you plan on filling your iKegger straight from a keg, which to me represents the best value and taste, then you will need to have a glass growler. Most places that do growler fills sell glass ones for less than $15 or you can get them 2nd hand through gumtree. At one place I went we simply filled a glass one, transferred the contents to the iKegger and then refilled the glass one with a different beer. Now for some people transferring between vessels has the problem of adding oxygen to the beer, meaning it won’t last as long. I found that if I added the tapping system, primed it, then vented it before re-pressurising the system it was one way to remove any oxygen. *All of my testing was done in Queensland and you would need to check with your local supplier on their requirements for filling growlers. One place I went didn’t mind and filled the iKegger without question.
Right so now your ultimate beer wanker (acceptable replacement for the term beer geek) accessory is filled and ready to use what next. Well if you’re just using the growler you can seal it up and it should keep your beer fresh for around a week, providing you don’t open it and keep it refrigerated. Once opened you probably want to consume it within 24hrs, that shouldn’t be too hard for a six pack between a few friends. If you attach the tapping system and apply pressure through with the CO2 system you should get more like 3 weeks out of your beer. You will need a bit of space for this as the unit is really tall with the tap attached, so tall that to keep it in a normal fridge I needed to remove shelves and it was too wide to fit in the fridge door. It was also too tall to fit in a little bar fridge that I had. Without the tap attached I had no issues with height for storage.
Remember earlier the mention of no instructions, this is also became a bit of a problem when it comes to using the system. Now it would seem self-explanatory to just turn the dial and start pouring but I noted that the regulator on the system had a green zone between 30-40psi. Now with my limited experience in pressure, I related that to the same pressure as a car tyre and could only imagine the rate at which my precious golden fluid would come screaming out of the tap. I decided to get in contact with iKegger and had an email back within 30 minutes with the correct procedure. This is a quick process to follow to prime the system and set the correct pressure, which will be different depending on the style of beer you are drinking. The system runs off small 16g CO2 bottles and you can pick these up from your local bike shop for $3 – $4 or you can buy them in bulk off eBay for just over $1 each delivered. *The iKegger now comes with a full set of instructions with pictures.
So now you have your growler filled, primed and ready to go what do you do? You take that sucker to your mates Australia Day party and sit that bad boy in prime location for all to admire. You also have to fill it with an appropriately matched beer geek beer and for me that was Bacchus Brewing’s Sex Drugs & Rocky Road (http://www.bacchusbrewing.com.au/). This thing certainly drew a lot of attention and also a lot of questions. A few people had a turn and found it easy to use. From there you refill it and head to your local BYO and put it on the table for you and your friends to enjoy a few glasses of your favourite IIPA or vanilla oatmeal stout while getting strange and envious looks from Joe Public. It’s also great when you just have friends over to have this sitting on the table for guests to help themselves. You can also fill it with soft drink if you wanted.
Despite a few teething problems this is a fantastic product once you get used to using it, and it does take a bit of practice with adjusting pressure. I found that it works best by only having a few psi and pouring slowly. The team are currently working with their supplier to get a more exact regulator to help this. It feels like a solid and well-made product but be prepared for everyone to want a look and a few questions if you take it out in public.
So now the big question, how much? Well the growler costs $79 and the tapping system is another $99 and both are available through the iKegger website iKegger.com they also do other sizes. Now I know that seems expensive so I did some research, can you buy a stainless steel growler cheaper? Yes, you can get them for $40 but the ones I have seen at that price have not been up to this quality in my opinion and the ones that match the iKegger in quality are at least $60. As for the tapping system, you could buy all the components (same quality) from a home brew shop for about $90 but that doesn’t include the lid so you would have to modify one to fit, and considering the solid one you get with this system, I think it would be more hassle than it’s worth. So yes you could buy, modify and build your own cheaper, just, but given that these are constructed to all work together and the quality of the components I feel the price is fair. If you are after a cheaper one you can buy a complete system for a bit over $100 from kegking.com.au but I can’t comment on the quality or abilities of this unit and it uses a party hose instead of a solid tap like the iKegger.
So there you go, your ultimate beer wanker accessory to impress all your friends. This really comes into its own if you’re heading out and about and want to take quality beer with you without the need for an esky. Think afternoons in the park or beach, BYO restaurants, heading to a friend’s house for dinner or just a nice way to serve beer to your guests.
Right now you can win your very own iKegger growler and tap, simply head to iKegger.myshopify.com/pages/free-growler for all the details. Competition closes 1 March 2016. All prices in AUD and from the iKegger website at the time of publishing.