Monday, March 23, 2009

Pony Keg

To this day, the old folks still call it that, back where I came from. Sometimes we used to call it a "carry-out." Most people know it today as a "convenience store." The term itself originated with a "quarter barrel," or eight gallons, roughly a one-fourth measurement of a standard beer barrel. Eventually the stores that carried them would be known for that name.

I passed by one on the way home from the farm where Mom grew up. It was on a road identified as "US 33." While the road seemed strangely familiar, I never remembered that number before in those parts. I came to a "T" junction in the road, and the old storefront was there, abandoned. I thought of summer days, being let out of the car with my brother and sister, running up the stairs to the porch, to where it was cool inside, and popsicles and other delights awaited us. They doled these treats out sparingly, my Mom and Dad. God forbid we would expect one every time we got in the car. Besides, it was cheaper for Mom to make them at home.

But that was many years ago, and the past faded into shuttered windows and bolted doors, and houses where people still lived, if only for want of a better place to go. I never came out this way anymore. My life was a million miles away, where empty fields where brother fought against brother more than a century ago, gave way to "bix box" stores and casual dining restuarants, places with prefabricated character, identical to the ones built elsewhere. But here, little had changed, as if no one would ever flock to such monuments to borrowed wealth out this way.

I didn't have time to ponder the whys and wherefores. Evening was fading, and I had to get back. Here I was, a grown man, worrying that Dad was going to have a fit if I had the car out after dark...

Then I woke up.

[PHOTOS: (1) US Route 33, south of Athens, Ohio. Courtesy of Wikipedia. (2) The author, at the spot in eastern Clermont County, Ohio, where his maternal grandfather was born in a log cabin, in January of 1900. From his personal archives.]


Dad29 said...


Here in Milwaukee, we are far more technically-precise about beer.

A quarter-barrel is just that: 1/4 of a barrel of beer.

A "pony" is half of that: 1/8th of a bbl.

You Easterners...

David L Alexander said...

You cut me to the quick, sir. I may live and work in DC, but my home is Cincinnati, which may have lost some stature to Milwaukee, but at one time whose German population made it one of the great brewery centers of the Midwest.

The following is subject to variation, but is generally the case. A standard beer barrel in the USA holds 31 gallons, while a standard half-barrel, or "keg," holds 15.5 gallons. A quarter-barrel, also known as a "pony keg" due probably to its portable size, holds (to be more exact) 7.75 gallons.

For what it's worth, a standard European barrel holds as much as 36 gallons.

Dad29 said...


OK, Southerner!

Thanks for the link, by the way--but for whatever reason, "pony" up here is .5 of 1/4 bbl.

At least, it WAS. Haven't bought one myself for at least 20 years.

David L Alexander said...

Southerner? Eh, depends on who you ask. We're right across from northern Kentucky, and a fair amount of the hill people have migrated to Cincy over the years to find work. It's not as pervasive now that most of the factories have shut down. But you can tell who they are when they pronounce it "Cincinnatuh."

You are probably right about the "pony," at least up where you are. If you check Wikipedia, the measurements vary quite a bit from one part of the world to the next.