Serving beer cold is essential. The best way to do this is to dispense and store it in a fridge. It keeps the beer at a constant cool temperature, this extends the shelf life; remember your beer is unlikely to be pasteurised and could ‘go off’. Keeping it cold also stabilises your carbon dioxide saturation and ensures consistent foam free pouring. More importantly your beer is also at an ideal drinking temperature. Cold plates and jockey boxes are fine for outdoor events but are not that practical for home dispensing.
The best and most cost effective option is a chest freezer. These come in a range of sizes holding from 2 to 5 or more kegs. Some of these units are sold as fridge/freezer and simply adjusting the thermostat will change it from a freezer to a fridge. The thermostat on a freezer may not accommodate the warmer temperature range required for a fridge range so you may need to ask someone to install a new fridge or cold-room thermostat to increase the temperature range. There is a small risk to this conversion, the cooling pipes in a freezer remain permanently iced and this extends the working life as corrosion is virtually zero. Converting to a fridge, especially an older unit, means the pipes repeatedly freeze and defrost; this increases the rate of corrosion and can lead to a shortened life of the freezer. So what are the options? It is probably best to ‘convert it’ and operate it as a fridge; if and when the cooling system fails, take it to a fridge repair specialist and install a cold plate inside (like the one in the back of your fridge) and voila you have a proper chest fridge.
An upright fridge can also be used, they are a little more difficult to load the full kegs into and can only hold one keg (small bar fridge) or up to two for a larger upright unit. If you want an external tap this is best installed through the door where there is less risk of puncturing a cooling pipe, which if you do so, will effectively write-off the fridge. I stock a slightly longer shanks for this purpose.
If the fridge is tucked away out of sight, appearance is not important but if you wish to make it a showpiece you can panel them with wood, wrap them in copper or stainless steel sheet, paint them, or whatever fits your décor. Check out the nice designs on the web.
To modify the chest units for dispensing, there are 2 options:
The first option is to remove the lid and hinges and insert a spacer (100 to 150mm high), normally wood is used; and replace the lid on top of the spacer. You can safely drill through this spacer to attach your taps, gas lines etc. without risk of damaging the fridge’s cooling system. A standard shank can be used for this.
The second option is to add a beer tower through the lid, there is little risk of puncturing the cooling lines as most chest freezers do not have cooling pipes in the lid. Simply drill holes for your beer line and mounting bolts. If using a 76mm column tower use a column shank.
I sometimes have stock of ‘keezer units’ and I manufacture a range of beer towers to use on the ‘kegerators’ or ‘keezers’ see For sale. These are either mild steel or polished stainless steel (76mm diameter) and can accommodate one or two beer faucets or taps. The mild steel version should be epoxy coated to prevent it rusting and can be finished in a range of colours or even rough polished and then lacquered. The shanks for the beer taps are specifically designed for these beer towers.