No, this is not a tool for a return to the keg parties of yesteryear where half barrels of Busch Light were consumed illicitly under the stars for a bargain price. The technology is similar, but the reasoning is completely different. What am I talking about? I bought a hand pump for my kegs:
Yes, in conjunction with a picnic or cobra tap I could use this pump to dispense an entire keg in a field expedient setup. I might do that if I am certain to drink an entire keg over the course of a short period of times. Otherwise, the air pumped in will react with the beer and oxidize the product. Not a good thing to happen to good beer. Heck, that is not a good thing to happen to bad beer.
Nope, this is all about cleaning. No matter what a homebrewer will tell you this is a hobby that is about cleaning and sanitizing. Otherwise you are likely to brew up a batch that ends up tasting like sock juice pressings.
Kegs are a lot easier to deal with than bottles because you are cleaning and sanitizing a single vessel all at once rather than thirty 22 ounce bottles.
One pain-in-the-ass part of a keezer system to clean are the liquid dispensing lines that run from the keg to the tap. I use Perlick Perl taps in my setup, so I avoid some of the nasty gunk problems associated with taps that do not utilize a forward seal. However, you still want to run a lot of cleaner/sanitizer through the lines to ensure that no bacterial residue remains from a prior batch that will contribute to bad beer in a forthcoming batch.
The easiest way to clean a tap and tap lines is to run the cleaner of your choice through the lines for a period of time. Combine C02 and a gallon or so of cleaner in a clean keg…boom, easy cleaning. The rub here is that I was using a lot of CO2 to pressurize a nearly empty keg and push out a gallon of solution. In conjunction with a small leak in one of my keg’s seals—since fixed with a new seal and a generous application of keg lube—found me blowing through a ten pound tank of CO2 in no time. It’s ~$25 each time I want to fill my tank. Not horribly expensive, but not something I wanted to do frequently.
Enter the hand pump! With a few strokes—wait a second, this sounds bad—I can start pushing out solution and run the keg dry without blowing through a load of purchased gas. The hand pump only costs me a few calories of energy expenditure.
It’s not an elegant solution, but it works quite nicely. I have found that I am inclined to run more solution and do a more thorough cleaning of the lines now that I am not using CO2 to accomplish the task.
Okay, I have to admit that I am going to use this to take kegs on the road as well. If you have met my friends you know that five gallons of beer will disappear in no time. There is no worry about leftovers.