Kegerators or glycol beer systems – which is the best draft beer system to buy?
If you’re confused over which draft beer system to purchase, here’s the costs and comparisons of each.
MAKE AN EDUCATED DECISION
For restaurant or hotel owners in the market for a draft beer system, what’s the best recommendation? Which are better – kegerators or glycol beer systems? Many claim that the glycol chilled draft beer system is the only practical choice. While this is my hands-down favorite, draft beer systems is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. A new twist of an age-old product happens to provide another option – custom kegerators. Let’s dive a bit deeper into this so everyone can understand all of today’s considerations for making an educated decision.
ADVANTAGES OF GLYCOL BEER SYSTEMS
Glycol beer systems offer many ownership advantages, such as:
- Deliver high-quality draft beer over long distances
- Service multiple bars and/or draft beer towers
- Large quantity of draft beer products
- Optimize location of the walk-in cooler
- Large quantity of tower designs
- Minimize pour cost
- Superior cost justification
BAR DESIGN TIP:
According to Micro Matic, the industry leader in cutting-edge draft beer systems, for a glycol beer system costing $10,000, the return-on-investment (ROI) can be realized in the first 19 kegs sold! For some venues, this could be one week!
ARE GLYCOL BEER SYSTEMS FOR EVERYONE?
Given all the above, why would anyone would want to consider anything but a glycol system? You certainly couldn’t go wrong. However, to make the investment worth while, buyers need the following:
BAR DESIGN TIP:
- Dedicated walk-in cooler.
- Supporting infrastructure.
These are the most critical fundamentals of any draft beer system. The dedicated walk-in cooler assures the delicate temperature of the draft beer is maintained (referenced in the article below). Not every hotel, restaurant or bar can support both criteria. The architectural plan shown here is of a recent hotel bar we designed. This bar was included as part of a multi-million dollar facility renovation.
SPACE CAN BE A DECIDING FACTOR WHEN IT COMES TO BEER SYSTEMS
At first glance, one would have to believe that in a facility as large as this, finding space for an extra 8’ x 10’ walk-in cooler would be easy. This just wasn’t the case, despite the hotel’s significant size – not uncommon with many existing facilities. When planning a glycol-cooled system, we also have to accommodate the installation of the trunkline. This can also be a deal-breaker for those who don’t want to open-cut concrete floors. What alternatives do bar owners have for selling draft beer? Actually, kegerators can be a viable option, but I’m not referring to the traditional oversized kegerators, such as the one shown in the photo below, right.
SOME FACTS ABOUT KEGERATORS
Here’s some background information about kegerator beer systems:
- Kegerators were invented in 1936 for U.S. domestic barrels
- At 27” – 29”, traditional kegerators are too deep to fit into the middle of any front bar or back bar
- The traditional draft beer towers lack the visual appeal demanded by today’s buyers
- Since the emergence of craft beer, nobody has formally marketed a customized beer kegerator
THE EMERGENCE OF CRAFT BEER
What are people drinking nowadays? Craft beer! Over the past few years, craft beer has turned the beer industry upside down. However, the most popular bars are using sexy, innovative draft beer towers to sell their craft beer, which is packaged in small kegs. So, while some still have the old style kegerators with their blaize’ towers, why would anyone want to continue using them? With emerging new marketing, buyers now have two choices: custom kegerators or glycol draft beer systems.
CRAFT BEER vs DOMESTIC BEER
The real problem for bar owners selling U.S. domestics is the profit model: it isn’t nearly as profitable as selling craft beer – which is what everyone is drinking nowadays, right? To illustrate this point, consider the following excerpt from the November 7, 2018 edition of the blog “Bottom Line,”
“….you might realize a profit of between $250 and $300 selling a keg of beer with national brands such as Budweiser, Coors, Miller and others, whereas serving a keg of popular craft beer brewed locally might net you between $400 and $500….it makes you wonder why every establishment in the country doesn’t take advantage of this money-making proposition.”
THE EMERGENCE OF CUSTOM KEGERATORS
The craft beer craze has paved the way for a modern kegerator that works beautifully and meets all my checkpoints. Ditch those behemoth kegerators of yesteryear. It’s time for new thinking, my friends! The core of this design is a back bar cooler that has an overall depth of 24”.
BAR DESIGN TIP:
We refer to 24″ coolers as “built-in” because they work with standard underbar equipment, thereby preserving the bartender aisle width.
The draft beer tower and controls round-out the picture, but this requires professional assistance, which I’ll discuss later.
NEARLY ANY 24″ BACK BAR COOLER CAN BE CONVERTED
An example of the custom kegerator we specified is shown in the photo above, right. This is a Glastender C1FB84-R, which is an 84” x 24” back bar cooler. This cooler was the building block for the kegerators I designed as part of the subject hotel bar design. Any 24” deep back bar cooler can be used to build a craft beer kegerator; however, only a few manufacturers offer these, such as:
- Beverage Air
DISADVANTAGES OF CRAFT BEER KEGERATORS
BAR DESIGN TIP:
Kegerators are air-cooled draft beer systems, which require a draft beer tower that differs from those of glycol-cooled systems.
Part of the appeal of glycol systems is the endless array of the very stylish draft beer towers. Many feel that this has contributed to the craft beer boom. The selection of draft beer tower designs for air-cooled systems was never exploited and likely never will as glycol systems continue to proliferate.
- CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING
- The majority of beer towers for air-cooled systems are either the double-pedestal tower, as shown in the above photo, or the mushroom tower.
- Most stylish towers is only available in 6-or-8 faucets, so for those interested in a larger product offering, you’ll be limited to the double-pedestal tower.
- The nuisance factor of continuous barrel-changing. The barrels (kegs) are small (the sixth barrel – the most common size – contains little more than five gallons). However, if purchasing an 84” unit with an 8-faucet tower, one could have as much as six barrels of cold backup stock on-hand (more on this below).
- Where to place the kegerator? If placed on the front bar as we did with this project (shown here), the bar must be long enough to accommodate all other necessary underbar stainless equipment. Placing kegerators on the back bar can cause inefficient movement for the bartender, so careful planning is necessary.
COST OF KEGERATOR BEER SYSTEMS
In terms of overall investment, a single 84” x 24” back bar cooler with an 8-faucet tower and conversion hardware will cost between $8,000 – $10,000, installed (approximately $1,000 – $1,250 per faucet). The variation in cost is primarily dependent on tower selection.
COST OF GLYCOL BEER SYSTEMS
Here’s some cost information on glycol draft beer systems in 2019:
- An average 8-faucet glycol-cooled draft beer system will range in cost from $10,000 – $14,000, installed, for systems with standard beer towers (approximately $1,250 – $1,500 per faucet).
- The cost per faucet can decrease with larger systems, but will increase with special tower designs.
- However, controlling the temperature of draft beer within the walk-in cooler is of the utmost importance. Therefore, anyone committed to this investment must also factor the cost of the dedicated walk-in cooler, or your profit model will suffer. The average cost of a 6’ x 8’ x 8’ walk-in cooler is $7,500 – $10,000, wired and installed.
In summary, an 8-faucet glycol draft beer system with walk-in cooler will cost between $17,500 – $21,500, which is $9,000 – $12,000 more than the equivalent craft beer kegerator system.
KEGERATORS or GLYCOL BEER SYSTEMS: WHICH IS BETTER?
Given all the above, which is better: kegerators or glycol beer systems? Both systems have far more merits than drawbacks. I contend that glycol beer systems are the best for those who can afford and manage them. Craft beer kegerators offer a cost advantage, but having adequate backup cold product and constant keg-changing can be challenging.
HOW TO PURCHASE A CUSTOM KEGERATOR BEER SYSTEM
The kegerator with the custom draft beer tower shown above is a custom-designed kegerator and isn’t available on any website that I know of. Kegerators such as this need to be designed and specified, which is a service we provide. While kegerators may appear simple, there’s a lot to know. If you’d like more information about this please contact us.
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