Dirty draft lines can cause bad experiences for your customers
Have you ever ordered a pint of your favorite beer, took a huge drink and WHAM –– it didn’t taste anything like you were expecting? The problem isn’t you or your taste buds. The correct beer was poured. The date on the keg shows that the beer was kegged within the past three weeks, so it’s not the beer. The problem is that the restaurant doesn’t clean their draft lines regularly.
Dirty draft lines plague establishments that sell beer, breweries and the craft beer market as a whole. Dirty lines can cause your customers to have a bad experience at your restaurant or bar that could result in lost business. Beer can and will break down inside draft lines and leave minerals, yeast residue, protein and hop resins, along with bacteria, molds and other nasty stuff. Most draft line installers and cleaning companies recommend cleaning your draft lines every two to four weeks and always when changing kegs from one beer to another.
Cleaning your draft lines is easy and it’s one of the best ways to ensure that you are giving your customers the beers exactly how the brewer intended. There are companies and individuals that you can hire that specialize in cleaning draft lines and draft system maintenance. Some distributors will come in and clean your lines as well. Anheuser-Busch requires their distributors to clean their lines every two weeks and have them keep a cleaning log at each location where their beers are sold.
You can also clean your lines yourself, and you will only need a few basic items to start cleaning your lines like a professional. The items that you’ll need are a beer cleaning tank, beer line cleaning chemicals, rubber gloves and safety glasses. Beer cleaning tanks are available in multiple sizes from 32-ounce bottles to 1/6-barrel kegs. Most tanks will utilize the gas that you use to push beer through your lines, but you can also get tanks with manual or electric pump options. If you have European kegs on draft, you’ll want to have a tank that will accept European couplers (or at least have an extra Sankey “D” Coupler in your inventory that you can replace your European couplers with while cleaning your lines). I have a five-liter tank that only accepts Sankey “D” Couplers at one of my restaurants and a 1/6-barrel cleaning tank that has four different style necks so that I don’t ever have to change out couplers.
Once you have your cleaning tank, put on your gloves and glasses. There are several manufacturers of beer line cleaners, so be sure to follow their instructions on how much beer line cleaner to mix with water. Hook your coupler up to your cleaning tank with your cleaner/water solution and then simply run two to five liters of cleaner/water out through your draft faucet. After letting the cleaner solution set in the line for a couple of minutes, next you’ll need to flush your line with two to five liters of clean water. Dispose of your used line cleaner and water properly after use, brush your faucets and you’re finished.
Now you’re ready to pour your customers a great draft beer through your properly cleaned lines. Cheers!
Keith Coffman is the owner and operator of Lost River Pizza Company.