I've hosted my family's Thanksgiving for the last few years, and each year I use a secret weapon that makes our gatherings of about a dozen people more fun, more festive, and slightly less stressful for me as a host. It isn't a turkey-basting hack, or a killer mise en place game, or a Martha Stewart doppelganger helping me carefully garnish each salad. It is, simply, a keg full of beer.
The keg has been a game-changer for entertaining. From a practical perspective, it streamlines beverages for guests, cuts down on waste and clutter, and can be more cost-effective. From a fun perspective, it just makes everything feel a little more laid-back, yet festive at the same time — and who doesn't love having a keg at a family function?
If you strictly associate kegs with raucous house parties, frat boys, tailgating, or some combination of the above, rest assured no keg stands have occurred at one of our family gatherings (yet). Still not convinced? Allow me to change your mind.
A keg frees up crucial refrigerator real estate.
Yes, kegs are bulky. But eliminating the clutter of cans or bottles from your fridge means that much more space for all those Pyrex casserole dishes, pie pans, and 15-pound birds (not to mention space for plentiful leftovers after the fact).
A keg eliminates the possibility of the dreaded mid-party beer run.
Of course, this is assuming you order the right-sized keg (and may vary based on how lit your Thanksgiving guests are trying to get). But even for a large, boisterous bacchanal of a Thanksgiving get-together, the capacity of a standard 15.5-gallon keg (confusingly referred to as a "half-barrel) should be more than enough — it yields the equivalent of about 165 12-ounce bottles. Of course, if you're hosting a smaller group, you might think a full-sized keg is too much, and it probably is. Luckily for you, there are options that mean you don't have to go full frat-party with your keg size: Ask your local bottle shop about a 1/4-barrel pony keg, which holds a little more than 60 pints, or the slender 1/6-barrel, which will give you about 41 pints (or 55 12-ounce bottles).
It cuts down on waste.
No mountains of cans or hard-to-recycle glass piling up in your kitchen means less waste. It also means there will be fewer trips hauling bottles out to the curb to free up space in the bin. (Which, if we're being honest, means more time for eating and drinking. You can save the cleanup for tomorrow.)
Guests can control their pours.
One of my favorite things about having a keg is that I don't have to commit to a full bottle in order to enjoy a beer: I can pour off a few ounces to sip on while getting ready or putting the final touches on the turkey (thus avoiding too much of an imbibing head-start before the doorbell even rings). If you have guests who might want just a nip without signing up to babysit a whole bottle, or want a refill while also saving room for pumpkin pie, the option of portion control is a great perk.
It will probably save you some cash.
Depending on what kind of beer you opt for and how much you want to buy, one keg of beer is usually more cost-effective on a price-per-glass level than buying a hodgepodge of craft cans or bottles. Think about it like buying in bulk. My local beer store in Atlanta sells a full keg of PBR for $59. It'd take about $100 (or 20 16-ounce six-packs at $5 per pack) to get the same amount of PBR out of cans. The math typically shakes out for craft brews, too: A quarter-barrel keg of Georgia-based Creature Comforts' Bibo Pilsner, for example, costs me $119 for 7.75 gallons of beer. At roughly $10 to $11 per six-pack, it would run me roughly $150 to get that same amount of booze from a mountain of 12-ounce cans.
Last but not least: You'll win Thanksgiving.
Because you'll be the one who had a keg at your Thanksgiving. And that, in and of itself, is pretty badass, no?