Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Guest post: Top 5 Draft Beer Mistakes

After twenty plus years in the beer business, I still see bartenders repeating the same mistakes of twenty years ago, when pouring draught beer. Ignorance of best draught practices —and, by that, I mean not knowing— is inexcusable when draught is your product. A chef knows to (and how to) change fryer oil; a bar manager must know to (and how to) clean his draught lines and how to pressure-balance his draught system.

My offers of demonstration are sometimes met with indifference or annoyance. "I know how to pour a beer," I'm told, as I see profligate quantities of foaming profit poured down a bar drain, or as I taste a beer obviously tainted by a dirty line. Or as I am presented with a beer with no head whatsoever.

"That's how it's supposed to be," I'm told. Well, no!

I don't often post guest blogs from commercial sources, but this might be an occasion to make an exception. Here, from from Micro Matic —"the industry leader in draft beer equipment and draft beer systems"— is a look at five simple practices that can dramatically improve your draught service.


Top 5 Draft Beer Mistakes

Few things compare to a glass of cold draft beer. However, as alluring as draft beer is, home and commercial bar equipment require care and expertise to make sure that they’re dispensing beer in ideal condition. Here are some of the top mistakes that people make with draft beer systems, and how to avoid them.

  1. Dirty beer lines
Not keeping beer lines clean is one of the biggest mistakes that beer system owners can make. Without regular cleaning, the lines that connect the keg to the tap can grow bacteria, mold, and yeast, all of which will affect the taste of the beer and make the drinking process less enjoyable. In addition, natural minerals found in the beer can leave deposits known as “beer stone” on the insides of the beer lines, in some cases actually blocking the flow of the beer. To ensure that your beer is flowing freely and without any extra bacteria or mold spores, clean your beer lines once every two weeks.

  1. Poorly regulated temperature
Another common mistake in draft beer systems is not paying attention to the temperature of the beer at all stages of its journey from the keg to the glass. Tape a thermometer strip to the keg and place another at the tap to be sure that your beer maintains a nice 38° the whole way. If you allow your beer to warm up, it will dislodge its carbonation and go flat quickly. If the temperature gets too cold, the beer’s carbonated bubbles will shrink, causing you to overfill the glasses and lose out on profits—not to mention causing your guests considerable distress when the carbonated bubbles resume their normal size inside of their stomachs.

Keg Rx
  1. Poorly regulated pressure
Along with temperature, pressure is another component vital for draft beer quality. Regardless of the gas you’re using (either pure CO2 or CO2 and nitrogen) to maintain pressure in your system, you’ll need a gas regulator for each tank, and you may need secondary regulators if you have different beers with different carbonation levels on tap. Just like temperature, pressure affects whether beer is over or under carbonated, and so storing beer at the appropriate pressure rating is key.

The PSIG* at the keg using mixed gas normally ranges from 20 to 25 PSIG for ales and lagers, and up to 30-40 PSIG for stouts. To acquire equilibrium with stouts, a 25% CO2 / 75% nitrogen mix is ideal, and for ales and lagers a 60% CO2 / 40% nitrogen ratio is required. Domestic lagers from large American breweries will require up to a 75% CO2/25% N2 ratio. For specific details on individual beers, contact the brewery or the distributor from which you got the keg.

  1. Dirty glasses
Beyond what happens within your beer system, you also need to think about how your beer turns out once it’s actually been poured. One of the biggest hidden culprits in making an otherwise perfect pint turn problematic is the cleanliness of the glassware. Ordinary dishwashing detergents can leave an oily film on the glass surface, which will affect the taste of the beer and flatten out the head. To solve this problem, use a cleaning solution specifically designed for bar glassware.

  1. Improper pouring
After all that work, the last thing you want to do is ruin your beer by pouring it badly. Many people try to pour beer like water, with poor results. To dispense beer properly, hold the glass at a 45 degree angle about an inch below the tap. Open the tap in one smooth motion, and when the glass is half full begin to straighten it to an upright position. Let the last of the beer fall straight into the center of the glass, then close the tap quickly and completely once the glass is full.

If you diligently avoid these five big mistakes, you’ll have great success with your draft beer system. By keeping the beer lines clean, appropriately maintaining temperature and pressure, using clean glassware, and pouring correctly, you’ll avoid some of the most common pitfalls in draft beer dispensing, and you’ll be rewarded with perfect glasses of brew.

—Diana Carlton is a writer for Micro Matic. "In bars, restaurants, and venues nationwide, Micro Matic commercial bar equipment and expertise brings patrons and beer lovers the highest quality draft beer. Micro Matic is also proud to conduct its Dispense Institute, where trainees learn to improve draft beer quality through education."

30 of 50 taps

  • The term 'PSIG' stands for "pound-force per square inch gauge." Consider PSIG as the practical equivalent of pressure per square inch, even though that wouldn't be altogether correct. If only straight CO2 is used, such as with a short run of line, 10-15 psig is usual. Micro Matic added a slight alteration to the text after the post was originally uploaded.
  • See an earlier post about the Draft Whisperer, a bar manager in Washington, D.C., who cares deeply about presenting draught beer in the best possible manner: here.
  • The Brewers Association has published an extremely useful —free— guide to draught maintenance. Download it: here.
  • Clean your pipes. A series of photos demonstrating one method of beer-line-cleaning: here.
  • Caveat lector: I received no remuneration from Micro Matic.
  • No comments:

    Post a Comment

    Comment here ...