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I'm building a kegerator for my husband as a welcome home from deployment present. I'm going to assemble it in about a month and he's back in about two months. I want to connect everything and tap the beer to make sure there aren't any leaks or problems, but if it sits for about a month, is that going to affect the beer?

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wow, great welcome home present! –  mdma Jul 21 '12 at 9:43
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

If you're using CO2 to force dispense the keg, as in a kegerator, then tapping it shouldn't really affect the life of the beer (assuming there are no leaks or whatever). The beer in the keg remains covered by a layer of pressurized CO2, which will prevent oxygen or an infection from getting in.

However, a month is a long time for beer to sit in the lines, so if you do hook it up to test it, I would drain and clean the beer lines with an appropriate cleaner after verifying that everything is hooked up correctly. Or you could just wait until a week or so to go, which should give you enough time to work out any kinks.

How often and thoroughly you clean the beer lines is sort of a personal preference, but if the beer has been sitting for more than a week or two I like to flush it with water at least. Some people are willing to wait a lot longer than that...

(As a side note, if you tap a keg using air pressure to dispense, e.g. with those hand pump dispensers, the beer will stale much more quickly since oxygen is getting in -- those are really for drinking a whole keg at once for a party or something.)

Followup regarding beer shelf life:

The original question was about the effect of tapping a keg, but there is also the implied issue of the shelf life of beer in general. If the beer is stored properly it should be good for at least 3 months, and generally 6 months should be no problem for most beers. Exposure to light and heat can shorten the life of the beer, but neither of those should be a problem in a kegerator. If you get a commercial keg there may not be an easy way to determine how long ago it was brewed. Beers with higher alcohol content will last longer—I've heard a rule of thumb that once you get above 7% ABV the beer will last indefinitely if properly stored (although the flavors may change over time, for better or for worse).

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nice answer. Most beers will be fine if left for a month - in fact they usually improve during that time. The exception is wheat beers, which tend to go downhill after a couple of months. –  mdma Jul 21 '12 at 9:43
    
Awesome. Thanks! –  Stormie Jul 22 '12 at 0:12
    
A slightly easier solution would be to get it all hooked up and working, then sample it at least onece a week until the welcome home party. –  Dale Jul 22 '12 at 20:45
    
@Dale: That's a good idea too. Plus it's a great excuse to drink beer! –  Henry Jackson Jul 23 '12 at 1:27
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