Restaurants that serve beer generally have an 80% profit margin on draft, making the tasty beverage a great investment. But if your beer lines aren’t cleaned properly, you could be serving up displeasing pints.
The Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade group, says poor hygiene is the leading factor affecting the quality of draft beer. They recommend cleaning draft systems every 14 days at minimum. Some state laws mandate this timeframe and require cleaning logs to be kept.
Besides the health and safety of your customers, there are numerous problems with ignoring your draft system. The taste of a beer can be altered as it picks up bacteria in the line. Beers can seem flat as wild yeasts eat the protein that, along with carbon dioxide, creates a foamy head retention.
Calcium oxalate, often called beer stone, builds up on beer lines and fixtures and can put floating debris in your pints. Beer stone cannot be removed by the standard two week cleaning which uses caustic cleaner; you’ll need the proper acid-based cleaner every 90 days to dissolve beer stone.
The surge in craft brewing is one more reason to keep beer lines clean. Beer aficionados are more likely to notice inconsistencies in flavor and appearance of beers, and they’re more likely to voice their complaints on popular review sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor. In extreme cases, this could lead a brewery to follow up at your bar and stop selling kegs to you if they find poor conditions.
Different states have different laws on beer line maintenance. Some states require retailers to have lines cleaned, while others require beer distributors to service lines in your restaurant. Check with your distributor or liquor control board to be sure you are following the law.
Whether you are cleaning your own system or contracting the job to a licensed service professional, make sure all your fixtures, like faucets and couplings, are being cleaned and sanitized.
Finally, don’t be afraid to field questions about your draft line cleaning process. The customer chooses to patronize your establishment and has a right to know their beer tastes the way the brewer intended.
To learn more about draft beer systems, check out the Draught Quality Manual website.