Tapping the Keg

What fun to learn I can sell wine in keg to hip restauranteurs who sell by the glass “on tap.”  Forward-thinking wine bars serving from a 5-gal keg save–count it up: 25 bottles, 25 corks, 25 capsules, and 50 labels (front and back), plus cardboard boxes… and it saves their backs dealing with all those empty bottles!

I met the owner of a super cool San Francisco wine bar Fat Angel who is dating the great girl who cooks lunches at my local market.  We were tasting wine at a party, talking about the wine scene in the City, when he explained that draught wine is all the rage, but his challenge is to offer something different…


I’m thrilled to offer Fat Angel a unique opportunity for their customers to taste our 2008-in-process and get to know the wine as it evolves toward bottling.  We’ve just finished sorting through the barrels and “Blend 1.0” is ready to drink, so I asked Matt to fill an extra 5gal keg for the bar.  Napa winemakers are not accustomed to doing this, so he didn’t exactly jump for joy at the assignment…

New Wine Delivery Vehicle

But finally, the keg is ready, and I drove off to the City, feeling like a proud farmer bringing produce to market.  I made a proper label and all.

Feeling very pleased with myself I arrived at Fat Angel on Saturday afternoon ready to watch the setup and enjoy a libation…

Lest you think I lead a charmed life, it wasn’t that simple.  Jason–the bar owner–noticed right away the clamp & closure are not the same as the kegs other wineries provided…  We opened up mine (ack, oxygen) for just a second and peered in, straight through to the wine, and then at each other.  “There’s usually a fitting at the opening there, that I attach to,” Jason tells me.  Silly me, just asked the winemaker to buy me an extra keg, fill it up, and assumed it was handled…

Who else would get into this business, anyway, but someone who knows JUST enough to get into trouble.

Hoping to find this “fitting,” I stopped into the brewer supply shop in San Francisco on Jason’s advice.  Luckily, one of their staff had worked in a winery, makes beer, and worked as a bartender–a uniquely helpful person.  And he broke the news:  I need a whole new keg.  It has to be built around the delivery system.  No “add-on” fitting option.  Too bad, would be a nice business if someone could come up with that, making the kegs usable in the cellar and the bar.  Back to wine country with me, for a lesson on tapping from Burgstahler Machine Works.

This job is not for the faint of heart.

It won’t hurt the wine to “rack” from one keg to the next, though it will hurt my cash-flow to buy another keg and the valve to fill it with, and pay the cellar crew to do the work, again.  Plus one more 144-mile round-trip from St. Helena to San Francisco to support this “green” delivery system, but now I’ve got it down.  By next weekend, my wine should be ON TAP at the Fat Angel, so customers can actually enjoy the Cabernet Franc/Merlot offered up on the blackboard!

I hope they will comment here on how they like the wine.


About Emily Richer

Investment banker turned right banker.
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2 Responses to Tapping the Keg

  1. Scruff says:

    Great idea Emily. I would love to this to become more common practice for bars, wine bars and restaurants like the way that microbrews are doing it.

  2. Emily says:

    Thanks Scruff. Keep your eye open around the peninsula for such a place. I’ve got one more 5gal keg of my 2008 Red I will sell… Those kegs are HEAVY, so it really only makes sense for a driveable distance from wine country. And definitely stop in to FAT ANGEL if you’re in the City for a jazz concert! O’Farrell at Fillmore.

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