The more complicated your draft beer selection gets, the more complicated your bar inventory gets.
And beer inventory has gotten more complicated with the rise of craft beer.
Increasing beer selection on draft is how a lot of bars handle this new demand.
Some bars offer 40 different selections on tap. Some bars offer 6. But most bars keep about half of their draft beers the same at all times. They don't need them all as long as they also offer quality, popular cocktail drinks.
All while rotating the other half of their taps.
The key to keeping up is smart beer keg tracing. Here’s how it’s done.
How to Tell How Full a Keg Is
There are four ways to tell how full a keg is. They are tenthing, using a keg scale, using a keg checker, or using a keg flow meter.
The best option for you will depend on your bar’s unique needs and your selection of draft beers. So don’t be afraid to try all of these out.
The most common way to figure out how many beers in a keg is called tenthing.
It involves dividing the keg into ten equal parts and estimating how much beer is left inside. If you get an odd number, simply round it up to the nearest tenth for your inventory. If you feel that your keg is more than 40% full but not quite half full, round it to 50%. Then label it as 0.5 on your inventory sheet or Google sheets inventory template.
For full cans and bottles, count them as single units.
This method can be subjective.
If you have two people take inventory, you might end up getting two different measurements.
It may work for calculating beer cost percentage (see pour cost calculator). But it's not accurate enough to provide you with the detail needed to gauge draft beer performance
A better and more accurate way to perform inventory on your beer kegs is by using a keg scale.
They can be purchased easily from most scale manufacturers as well as online (it's very different from online liquor sales). Make sure that you purchase a scale with a significant weight capacity. It should be able to accommodate a full ½ barrel keg at about 160 lbs.
Each time you use your keg scale, test its accuracy first to avoid recording incorrect data later on.
When weighing your beer keg, you will also need to account for tare weight. While tare weight is not different for every brand, it varies based on your beer keg sizing.
Just do this:
Weigh 3 to 4 kegs of a particular size and use this as the tare weight if you are unsure. There's one issue with using a keg scale to take inventory.
Your staff needs to pick up kegs that are stacked on top of each other. That can be dangerous. Always train your bar staff on the correct procedure and safety cautions when doing this.
Keg checks are also a popular tool that many bars use. It has a torque wrench that is specially designed to measure the amount of beer left in a keg.
We don’t recommend using this method if your bar carries a lot of smaller kegs, like the 1/4 barrel and 1/6 barrel kegs. You can use the keg scale option above for your smaller kegs.
You won’t have to worry too much about the safety issue that we previously mentioned with smaller, lighter kegs.
Keg Flow Meter: Automated Keg Flow Counter
The automated solution of a keg flow meter is probably the easiest.
A keg flow meter attaches to draft lines and measures the outflow of liquid. Knowing how much leaves the keg tells you how much is left in the keg.
If you attach a keg flow meter to each draft line, you’ll have a perpetual inventory system of beer. Updated every single time a beer is poured (learn more: pouring beer).
Frequently Asked Questions About Beer Keg Tracking
Of course, when it comes to taking draft beer inventory of your kegs, the main thing you need to know more about is how long a keg will last. The most common questions are all about how long a keg will keep serving your customers (for great customer service).
How Long Do Kegs of Beer Last?
The lifespan of a beer keg begins when it’s filled at the brewery. Not when it’s tapped. Let’s look at how long a beer keg lasts in both tapped and untapped kegs.
It’s a crucial part of successful keg management and ensuring you meet your needed par level.
How Long Does Beer Last in a Keg Untapped?
Pasteurized beer lasts in a keg untapped for about three to four months when stored at the correct temperature. That’s roughly 90 to 120 days.
Unpasteurized beer, or “live” beers that contain living yeast, doesn’t make it as long. You can expect a shelf life for a keg of untapped, unpasteurized beer to be around 5 to 8 weeks. When stored at the proper temperature (best to avoid the question of does alcohol freeze), of course.
Every beer is different. The amount of alcohol and the other ingredients used during fermentation also play a role in shelf life. Always verify with the brewer the exact shelf life of your keg.
How Long Does a Tapped Keg Last?
90–120 days for pasteurized tapped beer kegs, and 5–8 weeks for unpasteurized tapped beer kegs.
Wait, it’s the same shelf life as untapped kegs?
When you pump beer out of a keg, it’s replaced with CO2. CO2 actually doesn’t spoil beer like oxygen would. As long as the pressure is kept up and the temperature (similar to keeping a good wine temperature) is maintained, the answer to how long does a tapped keg last is just as long as untapped beer (including IPA beer and to all beer brands).
Using a Draft Beer Inventory System
Inventory is a bar’s most valuable asset. That’s why they take bar inventory often, and they pay special attention to beer keg tracking.
Not doing so means bar profits down the drain.
If you are more of a pen-and-paper person, you can download our free bar inventory spreadsheet. It doubles as a free beer inventory sheet, too.
It can be used for beer keg tracking, wine, liquor, you name it. You can even customize it to fit your bar’s unique needs. It'll become the beer inventory spreadsheet you've always wanted. You can train your cicerone or sommelier to use it as well to get the most out of it.
Another way to streamline your inventory process is by using a bar inventory system like BinWise Pro. It helps you take your bar inventory—including beer kegs and anything you keep in warehousing—quickly and accurately. By converting the manual counting process to simple scanning with the barcode scanner app for inventory. Or use the bar inventory app to access data on the go!
On top of that, it automates how to find variance and pour cost. And bunches of other numbers that you need to increase your bar profitability. You don't have to worry about things like excess inventory anymore!