Sankey Kegs, Sankey, or Sanke, are a style of kegs developed in Europe in the 1960s having immediate superiority over existing styles. The greatest advancement was the ability to clean and fill kegs aseptically and with automation. Sankey fittings permit cleaning, filling, and the application of dispense gas all through the same small fitting. Previously, Hoff-Stevens and Golden Gate kegs used bung holes for cleaning and filling, requiring the manual labor of bunging, debunging, and aligning the filling and cleaning equipment. The new Sankey technology allowed for the combined automatic cleaning and filling of kegs in about 2 min, without exposing the keg interior to atmospheric contaminants or human contact.
Cleaning and filling are accomplished through the single-connection dispense port, eliminating the unsanitary traditional bung hole. Cleaning is accomplished upside down, and filling can be accomplished with the keg upright or inverted. Integral to the keg design are domed heads and straight-side walls. During the cleaning cycles, cleaning solutions are pumped through the keg valve and up the internal tube or “spear” and spread evenly by the dome, down the side walls, and across the bottom dome. Previous keg designs had convoluted shapes and made cleaning and dispensing less efficient. Further benefits of this design include the ability to pack kegs more space efficiently, superior stacking stability, and the addition of ergonomic handles at the top of the kegs.
Sankey kegs were first used in the United States by Hamm’s in 1973 and by Anheuser-Busch in 1978.
From the dispense perspective, the prime benefits were less skill required to attach and detach the dispense head coupler and therefore less spillage. Just as in the brewery, space efficiency and safety were improved. The Sankey keg and coupler is now the American standard, but there are two varieties, and they are not interchangeable. The smaller American Sankey fitting is twisted and locked into place; the slightly larger European Sankey coupler has a shorter stem and will not fit American Sankey kegs. Many American bars will be equipped with both types of coupler, allowing them to serve beer from either keg type.