draught beer

Ensuring a quality draught beer experience with clean taps

By Roger Mittag

I’m going to start this discussion with a simple premise: The consumer should be at the heart of every draught beer decision you ever make.

It takes seven seconds to make a first impression, and we all know how important that is. So, a properly poured and served draught beer leaves a quality image etched into the beer drinker’s mind. However, if the beer is not poured well or even worse, has a bacterial contamination, the end result could mean the consumer is left with a headache or nausea; feels bloated and full and switches to a less profitable drink; decides it’s better to drink from a bottle; or leaves and never comes back.

Although there are many simple steps to take to ensure great quality draught beer, it is in the best interest of the hospitality provider to deliver a great draught beer experience.

Cleanliness is next to …

The standards for cleaning draught lines is three to four weeks. In a perfect world, every two weeks would be preferable, but the cost and waste associated with this frequency is prohibitive. The goal of line cleaning is to remove bacteria, yeast, protein and other contaminants that change the flavour and aroma of beer. Ideally, the beer should taste the same after line cleaning. If it tastes better, then you waited too long to clean lines.

If it were up to me, I would only use a professional line cleaning service to sanitize all of my draught lines at once. This way, I could ensure that everything is in top-notch shape. With the increase in craft brewers in the marketplace, it is commonplace to have a brewer clean their own lines. The question you may want to ask is: Are they doing a great job that ensures quality to the consumer?

Line cleaning should by all standards include the removal of the faucet and coupler. A thorough dismantling of each piece of equipment, rinsing and cleaning will ensure that no bacteria thrive in the two major entry points of the draught system. Also, the lines need to be cleaned well with the appropriate type of solution that will remove all bacteria.

This image shows the buildup of mould that occurs in a draught beer cooler when nothing is done.

The cooler is another cause for concern. The draught beer cooler should be cleaned out and washed several times a year.

In between cleaning cycles

There are many different things you can do to create a great draught beer environment. First, make sure you are rinsing your drip trays hourly with hot water. This helps to flush the system as well as drive away potential fruit flies. In addition, try to clean each faucet with a clean wet cloth a few times in the day. There are items available from draught line suppliers that will go inside the faucet to prevent fruit flies from building up. Please do not wrap the faucet in plastic wrap or use rubber nozzle protectors. These useless items only contribute to a bacteria fest inside the tap.

Pouring and serving

Draught beer is easy to pour. but the configuration of many draught systems makes it virtually impossible to get a perfect pour each and every time. If the beer is foamy or flat, it is generally a result of a poorly designed and installed draught system (it is not usually the beer).  One of the ways to ensure a good quality pour is to insist that the bartender follow these steps:

  • Select the proper glass
  • Ensure the glass is beer clean (no fatty substances or detergent smells)
  • Rinse and chill (if possible)
  • Hold glass on 45-degree angle under the faucet (but not touching the nozzle – this encourages the spread of bacteria)
  • Open the tap handle hard and fast
  • Gradually straighten the glass when you think you will achieve the right amount of foam
  • Close the tap (hard and fast)
  • Remove the glass away from under the faucet (avoid drips into beer)
  • Keeping your hands away from the top of the glass, serve the beer with the label facing the customer and a branded coaster

We have to collectively understand that great draught beer means a better experience and return visits to the restaurant. I have always said that draught beer can be the best beer experience you might ever have but it can also be the worst. Let’s all raise a glass to toast beer excellence!

About the author:

Roger Mittag is the owner of Thirst For Knowledge Inc® (www.thirstforknowledge.ca) and the founder of Prud’homme Beer Certification® (www.tfkbeer.com) and can be reached at rmittag@thirstforknowledge.ca. and will gladly consult on helping you to create a great draught beer experience.

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