If you don't have enough room or cash for a keg system but are tired of all the washing, sterilizing and time required to bottle your beer you can choose a product that is "in-between" bottling and kegging. A simple and affordable introduction to kegging is called the TAP-A-DRAFT® system made by Sturman BG, LLC. The system is comprised of a screw-on plastic tap and three 1.5 gallon blue plastic bottles (the same type of plastic bottle that soda comes in) and 8-gram CO2 cartridges. The CO2 cartridges are standard 8-gram food grade disposable CO2 cartridges used to regulate the pressure inside the 1.5 gallon bottle and keeps the beer carbonated.
Be sure not to confuse these 8-gram cartridges for the popular 12-gram cartridges found at sporting good stores for BB/air guns. As the beverage is dispensed, the cartridges replace the vacant space in the bottle with CO2. This regulated pressure allows the bottle contents to flow from the tap. A nice head can be formed by easing back slightly on the tap. It also can use Nitrogen cartridges (like Guinness(TM)) for your stouts.
Multiple bottles can be purchased so you can have a number of different brews on-hand. I currently have eight bottles in various stages of fermentation or storage. Besides cost and convenience, I can easily switch between my beers 1.5 gallons at a time. The bottles can be inexpensively replaced as they wear out after about 6-8 uses. They take up a small space of about 17" long by 7" wide and fits nicely on it's side on a refrigerator shelf. Having the beer on tap sitting right there on a shelf in the fridge makes it very easy to have a beer, which could be construed as both a negative and a positive. The good thing, there won't be a bunch of bottles sitting on the counter for anyone (read: wife) to count at the end of the night.
The TAP-A-DRAFT® allows allow you to force carbonate your beer or can be bottle conditioned with priming sugar in the TAP-A-DRAFT bottle with the screw cap, to be tapped later when needed. Forced carbonation takes 5- 7 days with 2 CO2 cartridges in the refrigerator. When the beverage is ready to drink it can be tapped and dispensed from a refrigerator over a period of up to 3 weeks without going flat or spoiling since no air touches the beverage while it is dispensed. But what home brewer takes three weeks to finish a gallon and a half of beer?
The makers of TAP-A-DRAFT® offer a one year warranty on parts and labor. I had an issue with mine which the online store I purchased it from wouldn't take care of it but the folks at Sturman BG sure did and had me back to enjoying draft beer right out of my refrigerator. From a customer service standpoint my experience with Sturman BG was almost as refreshing as the beer I'm enjoying right now as I type. So if you're an avid home brewer or just starting out I recommend purchasing the TAP-A-DRAFT® system as a great alternative to kegging your beer. It is a neat and clean system that can be taken to parties (in a cooler or you can buy a travel sleeve) I continue to have excellent results with mine and at about $60 for everything needed and some extra bottles it is well worth it.