Thursday, July 1, 2010

Do pigs fly?

Posted By on Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 3:55 PM

That’s what I wondered last week before a bunch of pals and I took off for a pre-nuptial celebration in Lake Tahoe. I hoped to bring my favorite Kettlehouse beer with me inside one of the brewery’s “Party Pigs,” a 2.25-gallon, self-pressurized plastic dispenser—sort of a mini keg—that easily fits inside a refrigerator.

When I ordered the pig Kettlehouse bartender Al Pils warned me it might not fly. The TSA doesn’t allow kegs, he said, because they’re highly pressurized. But is a pig technically a keg?

I called the Missoula airport and got a security agent on the line. I described the pig. He asked if it contained a CO2 cartridge. I didn't think so. If not, he said, the pig should be fit for flight.

If pigs don't contain CO2 cartridges, how do they stay pressurized and keep beer fresh for more than three months? I found the answer at the Party Pig website.

The package works because it has a patented pressure pouch, inside the bottle with the beer, which inflates to a constant 15-20 pounds per square inch of pressure and keeps the beer fresh and carbonated for several months. The pressure pouch is not attached to anything and floats freely inside the bottle. As beer is dispensed the pressure pouch expands and completely fills the bottle. The pressure pouch contains food grade chemicals that mix on demand to produce CO2 gas, which maintains pressure in the bottle. This gas remains in the pouch and doesn't contact the beer.

A friend and I arrived at the airport still unsure of the pig's fate. We carried in the cold, condensing cylinder full of beer and approached a security agent. He looked it over. We explained how it worked. He determined it was okay to check. My friend then put it inside a plastic bag, placed it in his suitcase and wrapped his clothes around it. I, meanwhile, envisioned a mid-flight pig explosion, and my friend's (and probably many others') beer-saturated belongings. The pig made it through security. But would it actually make it to the Reno-Tahoe airport?

Because my flight was scheduled for later in the day, I was kept abreast of the pig's progress thanks to my friend's series of text messages.

"Just saw piggy get loaded."

"One more leg to go. Question of the day: Will the pig survive?!"

"A little distressing to watch them manhandle my roller. Hang in there little pig!"

"The pig is in the blanket. I repeat: The pig is in the blanket!"

I arrived in Lake Tahoe late that night. My pig full of my favorite Missoula beer, still cold enough to be drinkable, sat on the table, unfazed by its journey. And so began my journey trying to drink it all in two and a half days.

So, Missoulians, pigs do fly. May you enjoy your favorite K-Hole beer in far-flung places. Mine made it onto a Lake Tahoe beach. I forget where else.

For more on the Kettlehouse's Party Pig, check out this video from the Grizzly Growler Beer Blog:

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