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So You Think You Can Draft: Jockey Box

Thanksgiving is almost here. Many people are stocking their kitchens with food and drink to accommodate their visiting friends and family. Don’t let the fridge get filled needlessly with bottles of beer, bring draft beer to your home and save space and money. 

First things first, you probably want to know why draft beer is a better option than cracking open bottle after bottle. There are numerous reasons but here are the most important. First, the cost savings of draft beer, once the initial investment is made, is significant. Even with craft beer, when buying by the keg, the cost of beer can be as low as $1 per pint. Second, draft beer takes up much less space. No need to pack the fridge with beer and the recycling bin with empty bottles, draft beer allows for a self contained setup that can take up as little space as a folding TV tray. Lastly, draft beer tastes better! Kegs are much less susceptible to mistreatment at the hands of retailers, poor storage or the inherent vulnerability of portable packing options. Beer from a keg is the most fresh option to having it at the brewery.

So now that you know why, the next question to answer is “how?” Let’s look at a jockey box setup that’s perfect for the occasional party, BBQ or tailgating situation. The jockey box is a great tool for any beer lover as draft beer can go anywhere you go and be set up in less than 10 minutes. No electricity is needed and a good jockey box can serve cold beer for up to 24 hours.

To get started, you need to determine if you want to buy a jockey box or build one yourself. Today we’re going to start with one pre-built, but the system is fairly simple to put together if you have your own cooler. Just decide between coil and plate. Be sure to include your tapping kit, otherwise you’ll be missing an essential piece of your equipment.

The first step is to prepare your tap handles and faucets. Standard black handles are easy to come by but adding your own tap handle looks better and makes you feel better about your system. Next, connect your couplers which will connect to the keg to their beer line. Also, connect your regulator to the CO2 tank. The regulator will control the amount of pressure applied to the beer, in essence, it controls the flow at the tap. With regulator on the CO2 and your coupler fitted with a beer line, you can attach the gas line (red tubing) connecting the regulator and the coupler. Plastic clips will help ensure no gas leaking from the system.

You’re now ready to connect the jockey box to the external components. Attach the beer line to the back of the jockey box. On new jockey boxes, the shank is flush with the back. Simply thread out some of the shank from the inside of the jockey box and tighten from the rear. Connect your faucets to the front of the jockey box and you’re nearly finished.

Now’s the fun part. Fill the jockey box with ice and allow sufficient time for the ice to cool the coils. If you are impatient, a little water can hasten the process. Making sure all faucets are closed, connect your coupler to the keg. This is done by screwing the couple down into the keg, pulling the handle outwards and pushing down to engage the keg. At the CO2 regulator, open your valves and using the screw on the front adjust your pressure. Most draft beer will pour fine between 12-14 psi but adjust to ensure less foaming and a proper flow rate.

You’re now ready to serve your first draft beer of many to come. Your jockey box can join you on camping trips or on afternoons before your favorite sporting events. Have a lot of family coming for Thanksgiving? Set it up in a convenient place and keep the cold beer flowing throughout the holidays.