One of the questions I am asked constantly is ‘what’s the best portable kegerator available that I can take to a tailgate party?’ It seems to be a perennial problem for most of my hard-partying, beer-swilling funster-dude friends. They obsess over the details. Me, I used to be quite OK with slinging a few freshly filled growlers in a cooler and keeping life simple. After all, at the end of the day when the beer is warm and flat, you are generally in no condition to notice the quality of the brew. Oh, you are? Really? Well, OK then. The answer to keeping your brewski chilled, fresh-tasting and on tap is to transport it in a kegerator that you can set up in the shade (never in the sun) and fill it with a keg or two of your favorite beer.
There are not so many options in truly portable units so here are my three picks in large, medium and small size with a bonus improvisation that I recommend to the budget-challenged among us.
Let’s start at the ‘Go big or go home’ level. This assumes ownership or access to a Silverado or equivalent and maybe a canopy to erect to create shade over your dining experience. It also assumes that you will be sharing the tailgate party with a mob of your rowdiest friends that the designated driver is content to scrape up the remains of the party at the end of the day and hand out the hangover cures.
Yeah, well that’s most people isn’t it? Here’s the best one on the market. It is also a little pricey, but you will save its price in beer in just one sporting season if you are a committed Beerophile. You may even qualify for an environmental warrior award in some states, say, Portland Or. – just by virtue of the fact that you will be avoiding using so many bottles and cans. Your drinking is doing the world a favor ….
The Best Portable Kegerator – High Budget
Some might call the Summit Stainless Door Portable Beer Dispenser the ultimate in portable Kegerators. For some it’s aspirational. To us, it’s just simply the best portable kegerator and it’s perfect for outdoor tailgate parties.
The Summit Portable Beer Dispenser / Kegerator (SBC500SSST) is a freestanding full size beer dispenser with a stainless steel top and wrapped fingerprint resistant stainless steel door. It is very definitely portable and has been designed using really tough casters on which you can roll your kegerator to wherever you want it.
So for starters, you may need to invest in a dock plate, which can be adjusted as a ramp to wheel all the gear onto your truck.
This will make loading and unloading your gear an absolute breeze and really doesn’t cost much at all. You will find lots of uses for this nifty ramp around the party site.
The cheaper ones like the Eagle 1795 are made from heavy duty plastic but are still very durable.
But back to the kegerator. It is sleek and contemporary and will fit in with any décor so you can use it at the tailgate party, take it home and put it back in the man cave. By the way, in referring to ‘man’ cave, I am being in no way sexist. I appreciate that many women are great tailgate party givers and participants and have a beer-cetric corner in their mostly Martha Stewart kitchens. So please don’t judge me. It is just common terminology for a haven, a chapel to malt and hops. But I digress,
The Summit SBC500SSST Beer Dispenser/Kegerator comes with everything to enhance pulling a beer: a 5 pound CO2 tank, a Regulator, a Draft tower, a Sankey American tap which you can switch out for one of your liking, say a team logo tap or something cheeky or just one of those chalkboard taps where you can write the name of the brew, a top guard rail, wooden keg slats, drip tray and basic cleaning kit.
The SBC500SSST accepts half, quarter or mini kegs and allows you to serve ice cold beer on tap and the beer stays fresh for months. It is 100% CFC Free!
Oh, and just remember that if you are in the company of folk who recognize the name ‘Summit’ these are people of QUALITY. And if they recommend you upgrade to this little (or, should I say “big”) beauty, they are even more likeable IMHO.
The Summit SS Outdoor Serving Cart w/ Kegerator is probably better than the best portable kegerator in features and size. It outclasses them all – but, it’s also expensive! So, it can’t really take the place of the Summit SBC500SSST for poll position in the race for best portable kegerator. But, if you have the money… by all means – get this one!
The Summit company has a good name too and they stand behind every kegerator they make with a 1 year ‘parts and labor/5 years compressor’ warranty.
You supply the keg of your choice from the sizes mentioned – half, quarter and mini keg only. Don’t try to force a larger one into the interior as if you don’t keep the door shut snugly, you will never be able to keep the beer chilled. The result – one foamy mess. The appliance is quiet while operating and has been designed to run economically with an adjustable thermostat and regulator. I would highly recommend shelling out for a really great cleaning kit and build the cleaning regimen into your keg-maintenance routine. The other recommendation would be to make sure you have something soft (removalists’ blankets for instance) to protect it while on the road. I also would plug it into a battery pack to keep the cool happening till you set up at the tailgate party site.
The weight is 150 pounds without the beer and dimensions are 35 x 23 7/8 x 25 ¼ so you’d better have that Silverado as it won’t fit in a SmartCar.
Now let’s scale down to a small kegerator. This one may just squeeze into a SmartCar.
The Best Portable Kegerator For The Money – Low to Medium Budget
From time to time, you see an average-good appliance that has attracted some vicious negative reviews on selling sites. And other people have nothing but praise. In the kegerator world, the handling of the appliance is as important as the choice of which to buy. You need to keep them out of the sunlight, keep the lines and so on spotlessly clean and maintain it.
In other words, teach the designated driver some of these skills and most kegerators on the market, at any price point, will give you good service. Many problems could just be a maintenance/rough handling issue. Read the instructions and remember that cleanliness is next to beeriness.
So back to the Koolatron. It is neat, compact and eminently carryable. Will fit in the back of a car. My advice is to pack it in a box, cover that box so that sun doesn’t heat it up and also keep it plugged in during the journey to the parking lot. You can do that by purchasing a battery pack. We have a Duracell PowerPack and it runs for hours.
You will find this little beauty will keep any small kegerator chilled so that you will avoid the foaminess associated with a rise in temperatures. Handy as a light source and will charge your phone too.
But I digress …. The Koolatron Mini Beer Chiller is just 9.5 x 9.5 x 17.8 inches. It doesn’t hold a heap but gives you beer on tap. It has a removable drip-tray. It runs quietly and has been nicely designed with a bit of style to it. Only weighs 11.7 pounds without the beer so it’s a natural for a small car, small tailgate party. Will fit a mini keg.
The Best Portable Kegerator – Medium Budget
The similar sized Avanti 2 Mini Keg Portable Party Pub is such a great price (under $300) that everyone could bring their own when there’s large tailgate party happening. It may not be the best portable kegerator but, what it lacks in features, it makes up for in price! The Avanti is very popular for those who don’t want to make a massive investment in their kegerator and it will definitely get the job done without breaking the bank.
The company claims that you can bring the party with you wherever you go with the Avanti Portable Party Pub (CB350S-IS). Two (2) mini-kegs can be stashed in this little cutie and they can be different beers. Interior LED lighting with an on/off switch will light up the Avanti inside to make setting it up really easy. Some other kegs do not have this feature and it makes it quite hard to set up. Not for the Avanti which is a breeze! There’s a glass storage shelf to chill mugs/glasses and that is a really useful feature. The design is pretty nice and while there is a stylish draught style handle and tap for convenient pouring, you may like to switch that for something that supports your team. Hey, if you are tailgating, then dress your kegerator to match your party.
You’ll love the digital temperature control for easy temperature regulation. As it is really vital to keep the temperature chilled and constant, there’s a safety latch to ensure the door stays closed while you’re dispensing your brewski. Plus, it also has a see-through window to showcase and identify your beer menu as you can clearly see the side of the keg. It makes a good storage space for the kegs and so this means that when those ‘2 for 1’ offers happen at your beer store, you can take advantage of the cheap price and keep the beer a-coming for months. The CO2 regulator and pressure gauge may take a little bit of adjusting but all instructions are included. Do a test run before featuring this at the tailgate party.
Some users have reported problems with the Avanti. As with all others in this range of portable kegerators, I must emphasize that keeping the unit clean, out of the sun, plugged in at all times and chilled will avoid most of these dramas.
The warranty will ensure that any parts that may snap off (well, some of your drunken buddies may not be as gentle with the unit as you, the proud owner, are …) can be replaced by the manufacturer so keep all your paperwork handy.
Dimensions are 21 x 18.25 x 20 x 25 by the way and the input voltae is 115V/60 Hz. It weighs 35 pounds empty.
I think that this is a really great little unit suited particularly for a tailgate party where you may have guests who like different beers. You can give them a choice of two. At a low cost, this is a step up from the smallest unit but is not a massive outlay. A nice gift for that guy in your life as well. (Pick me, pick meeeee!).
Bonus round – the Low Tech Version: A Portable Growler Bag from KegWorks.
KegWorks Insulated Beer Growler Bag
The Best Portable Kegerator – Low Budget
From time to time, growlers come on the market at really low, low prices or in such cool shapes as to make them irresistable such as this cutie that looks like a real keg.
While it is not as awesome as having draft beer on tap with your own kegerator, it’s is a low cost insulted growler tote that keeps your beer at a reasonable temperature for the duration of the tailgate party. Sure, it’s not the best portable kegerator but, for some it’s better than the best of the best portable kegerators because it’s simple, ultra-portable and very convenient. You can buy a few of these and sling them over the back of your car’s headrest, but we all know that in most states of the US of A, this is a no-no. So here’s a warning to young and old, do pack these in the trunk of the vehicle as you cannot carry an open (or even refillable) bottle inside the car as it is against the Highway Code.
I know folk who take these when they go on micro-brewery crawls in the Portland Or. area, buying a growler or three on the way. One for each bottle of course. Anyway, they do keep the beer cold and require nothing in the way of power or technology. The dimensions are 7″W x 12″H x 6″D. Logically, you could sling a whole range of these into your picnic box and gently transport them to a parking lot where the merriment and beer menu will make your tailgate party memorable.
Ultimately, though, the beer is not a patch as good as draft beer no matter where you source it and the only way to get draft out on location is to transport a portable kegerator. The choice is yours as is the maximum fun!