Whether you dispense beer at home or serve as a bartender, your chief aim in serving draught beer is to enjoy beer at the freshest it can be after leaving the brewhouse. You can taste fresh. Beer that is fresh has an unmistakable quality that enhances the flavor, preserves the head, and teases the eye.
You know a lot about beer and systems if you believe in DIY - which stands for “dispense it yourself”in the beer world, rather than the classic “do it yourself” mantra of the homeowners’ clan. You know the basics about party systems like picnic taps or jockey boxes, along with permanent, more sophisticated systems that include walk-in coolers and keg boxes, or air cooled, beer pump and glycol cooled systems.
That pretty much makes you a hot shot in the beer community. But even with that, there are errors that can mess up your beer - making it taste stale, shortening shelf life, or putting yourself in danger.
Direct draw systems may use a nitrogen/carbon dioxide mix for nitro beers, or straight carbon dioxide as a gas source to push beer through the lines from keg to faucet. With this in mind, remember that high levels of carbon dioxide can kill. Carbon dioxide can collect in small, enclosed spaces, such as in cold boxes. Early signs of carbon dioxide poisoning include headache, confusion and lethargy, and this can progress to feeling disoriented or having a panic attack. You may begin to hyperventilate, or fall unconscious. It can even result in death, so ensure that beer pumps are vented to the atmosphere. Warning alarms should be installed in any enclosed areas to detect system leaks from gas lines and fittings.
Avoid air compressors as a dispense gas. They will ruin beer by exposure to oxygen, producing cardboard-like flavors. Contaminants can also be forced into the beer, introducing off-flavors and bacteria that can spoil beer.
Keep an eye on metal parts, too. Stainless steel parts are inert when exposed to beer, but brass – or chrome-plated brass – is to be avoided. Although the chrome appears shiny and well-preserved on the outside, it can wear away on the inside with normal wear and cleaning. When beer comes into contact with brass, it quickly absorbs metallic flavors. If you do use parts that are brass under the surface, inspect these parts with an eagle’s eye and discard any parts that begin to show signs of brass exposure.
Draught lines pick up a mineral deposit called calcium oxalate through regular use. Also called “beer stone,” calcium oxalate can be very difficult to remove, so it is recommended that it be treated quarterly. Use an acid line cleaning chemical or chelator, in addition to caustic cleaning on a regular schedule. If left alone, the build-up of these deposits allow beer-spoiling bacteria, such as lactobacillus and pediococcus, to grow within the lines.
If you use acid based cleaners to remove beer stone and water stone from your draught lines, hardware and fittings, make sure the cleaners are compatible with the equipment you use. Avoid hydrochloric acid. It corrodes stainless steel.
Since draught line tubing is often made with nylon, avoid nitric acid which can dissolve the nylon and dump harmful floaters in your beer. Also avoid chlorine when cleaning lines because of its strong propensity to linger, despite thorough rinsing.
In the final step, be sure your beer glasses are “beer clean.” They should be emptied into a separate sink; then cleaned and scrubbed with a cleaning brush in hot water and an oil-and-fat-free detergent. Rinse, then sanitize in an appropriate product that can maintain proper pH and chlorine content.
You may check your glass for “beer cleanliness” by observing sheets of water sliding off the glass, or coating the inside of the glass with salt. A properly cleaned glass will display an even coating of salt on the interior. A third test will be to observe how the beer head sticks to the glass. With one that is properly cleaned, levels of head will be defined with every gulp of the liquid.
That makes for fresh-tasting beer.
Regulate your home beer dispensing system:
New TapRite E-3741BR - Primary Co2 Beer Regulator for Home Dispense
Tend beer easily:
KRUPS and HEINEKEN B100 BeerTender with Heineken Draught Keg Technology,Black