Scrap Metal Prices Up… Along With Beer Keg Thefts

Beer makers are saying that when scrap metal prices go up, so do thefts of beer kegs. No big deal, you think? The Beer Institute (yes, this is real.) says kegs stolen and sold for scrap cost them up to $50 million dollars a year. “It really got people’s attention because that’s a significant flow of our kegs that we’ll never see again,” [a spokesperson] said. “We know some of it’s very innocent but some of it’s not.”

Beer kegs cost about $150 to replace, and can be sold at scrap yards for $15-$55. Bad consumers. Do not steal beer kegs.

Keg Thefts Rise With Scrap Metal Prices [Forbes]
(Photo: jchatoff)


Edit Your Comment

  1. not_seth_brundle says:

    How is this “bad consumer”? Isn’t it just “bad thief”?

  2. mopar_man says:

    I think the simple solution would be to put a deposit on the keg higher than the scrap metal price. Or just use the full replacement price as the deposit.

  3. Jiminy Christmas says:

    This reminds me of stories I heard coming out of the Soviet Union shortly after its collapse. People were so desperate for any sort of income they would go so far as to cut power lines (with predictable consequences) and dismantle transmission towers in an attempt to get copper and steel to sell for scrap. I remember thinking that was a hell of a country they had there.

    In comparison, look at current-day USA: Rehabbing houses has become that much more difficult because any vacant dwelling is subject to being completely stripped of copper plumbing. Thieves commonly cut the catalytic converters off of cars and sell the parts for the $15-$50 of metals they contain. In local news stories I have heard, thieves have stolen everything from copper gutters and downspouts off the sides of houses to bronze funeral monuments to sell for scrap.

    Kind of makes you wonder where things are heading, doesn’t it?

  4. This is kinda off topic but how much can you get for your car if you sell it to a scrap metal place?

  5. Hoss says:

    $50MM over the entire industry doesnt seem worth mentioning. I’m sure the construction industry is losing a lot more in stolen wiring, pipes, copper roofs, etc.

  6. franksinatra says:


  7. skittlbrau says:

    @mopar_man: well, the liquor store where i went to school had a $75 deposit on kegs. we certianly brought them back.

  8. AcidReign says:

    &nbsp &nbsp Copper theft is huge in Alabama. The thieves are hitting libraries, hospitals, and power sub-stations, and generally any buildings with commercial-sized AC units. Local recyclers will copper tubing with no questions asked, and it’s a big business.

    &nbsp &nbsp There was a bill in Alabama’s Legislature to require ID for copper brought in, but it failed in committee, as the legislators thought it was more important to give themselves a 50% a year pay raise.

    &nbsp &nbsp A keg purchase in Alabama has always had a hefty deposit on the keg. In fact, the Alabama Senate passed a bill last year forbidding the sale of kegs to individuals, but the legislation failed in the House. It was an attempt to crack down on keg parties and underage drinking. Evidently, our brilliant elected officials think that kids only drink beer out of kegs.

  9. rbf2000 says:

    I think a shell deposit is $15 in Northern Virginia. They only give you $10 if you try to return one without a receipt, though.

    I had no idea shells were that expensive. It sure does make those keg grills more appealing.

  10. amed01 says:

    Here in the Detroit area it is not uncommon to see a story on the news (at least once a week) about a person who has died from attempting to cut live electrical wires for the copper they contain. Idiots.

  11. myrall says:

    I work in a metal fabrication shop and we have break-ins nearly every weekend by people looking for copper. We’ve locked up and nailed down nearly every single thing the thieves could take and they resort to stealing electrical cords off small tools. The copper thefts in Georgia are astounding. They’re even making off with large aluminum fabricated parts. Everytime we seal up an opening, thieves find another way through. I’m sure our insurance company is having a fit.

  12. Jaysyn was banned for: says:


    At least they are taking themselves out of the gene pool.

  13. Yep says:

    Hey, I got my degree in comparative lit from The Beer Institute.

  14. EccentricGenius says:

    $55??? Um, nope. Never. Not a chance. Just the kinda news media factoid that’s gonna spur keg thefts and cause drama at the scrapyard weighscale…

    Local scrapyards are street level commodity metal traders: They buy metal from John Q. Public, and sell it in quantity to larger yards and metal brokers. The per pound price a local yard pays out is a percentage of what their upstream brokers are paying. Beer kegs are either stainless steel or cast aluminum: stainless ones weigh +/- 22 pounds, aluminum ones barely hit 10 pounds.

    Cast aluminum is a pretty lowgrade alloy: I don’t think I’ve ever seen it go over $0.75/Lb. Stainless was at a close to all-time high a couple of weeks ago: the yard I work at was paying $1.35 Cdn. It’s currently a little over a dollar.

    The easiest way to piss off a scrapyard is to argue with the guy at the scale about why he isn’t paying out the rate he heard on the news report. I can see a lotta idiots trying to flog kegs getting clocked on the bonce with a baseball bat

  15. balthisar says:

    I’ve got a kegerator, and in Michigan the deposit’s gone from $10 to $35. No big deal for me, because all I do is swap kegs. But in conjunction with the new deposit, they’re also tracked by a plastic serial number tag that’s added to the keg. Don’t know the why of it, but if that tag’s not there and *intact*, I don’t get my deposit back (or in my case, I’ve got to pay a new deposit if I want another keg).

    Oh, that deposit price is controlled by the state.

    For $35 a piece, I could consider building an all-grain brewery downstairs. I tell you, if they try to screw me out of $35 bucks because the tag breaks, they *won’t* be getting their keg back.

  16. ptkdude says:

    Just make your own beer. Problem solved (and better tasting!)

  17. mopar_man says:


    This is true but I live in an apartment and I can’t really make it here.

  18. bbbici says:


    why can’t you make beer in an apartment? how much are you trying to make!?

  19. mopar_man says:


    I could make it but the smell would probably bother the wife and neighbours.

  20. ptkdude says:

    @mopar_man: I live in an apartment and make it all the time. It doesn’t take much space at all. And it doesn’t smell, either.

  21. SexCpotatoes says:

    @myrall: Electrified Fence! Get the Insurance Co. to pay for the install.

  22. mopar_man says:


    I know it doesn’t take much space. My dad used to make it all the time. I remember it smelled pretty awful at times.

  23. nighthwk1 says:

    The only smelly part of beer making is the initial cooking… if you do it inside, the place will smell like barley for a day or two. Get a burner and a tank of propane (total ~$100) and you can make it outside.

  24. The Bigger Unit says:

    @AcidReign: I feel ya. It’s pretty freaking ridiculous that in Alabama (and other states) a grown man can’t get a keg of beer, but getting a gun is no sweat.

  25. Gari N. Corp says:

    The guy from Brooklyn’s Sixpoints brewery has many stories to tell about scrap metal thefts. He’s pretty canny when it comes to salvaging himself.

  26. avantartist says:

    i pulled a keg [belonging to the local brewery] off the curb a few weeks ago. i tried to return it to get a few bucks, but they wanted nothing to do with it without a receipt… guess i’ll get the plasma cutter out and hack it up for $20 scrap. they could have given me $5 for it or just asked me nice for it and i would have given it to them… they just didn’t want it.

  27. zibby says:

    You guys are missing the silver (or copper, LOL) lining here – if you have an old air conditioner to get rid of, that is. What you do is open the thing up, take out all the tubing and any other crap, then seal ‘er back up. I mean really seal it. Get all the bolts and screws to factory-level tightness. Weld it if you’re really ambitious. Then put it out on the curb come heavy trash day. Soon enough a man will show up with a shopping cart full of crap and begin a smashin’ and a bashin’ on the unit like a chimp trying to open a turtle in order to get at the sweet, sweet copper presumably therin. Grab the tallboy you bought and pull up a chair, because this is a show. Oh, remember how I said to tighten up the nuts? Scratch that – now that I think about it, I’ve never seen one of these guys with a simple wrench. Nope, just beat on the thing until it breaks, which can take a looooooong time. You’d think they’re getting paid by the hour, huh? Anyhow, this guy may keep the whole neighborhood up yet again in yet another epic battle with an air conditioner, but this time he’s not getting what he wants and at least you’ll get a chuckle.

  28. econobiker says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: depends on where you sell it. Some places pay per 100lbs other places pay just a little per title. You have to be careful since some localities/yards require the gas tank to be removed before scrapping the car. Some auto parts yards have perfected the recycling to an art (pull-a-part, etc) even to say that they can’t sell catalytic converters “because those parts are federally mandated emissions parts and can’t be resold without a warranty” yeah right…

    When I lived in Chattanooga, TN (a foundry city with flourishing scrap yards) there were problems with wildcat tow trucks hauling away older model broken down cars from the side of the road for scrap. Some poor SOB driving a junker car without a spare tire would come back with a fixed tire to find his car gone, gone, gone… Then he’d find his car crushed at the metal recycler. The local gov’t put a stop to this by requiring record keeping via a title or display of a driver’s license before scrapping a vehicle…