Draft beer is a great product to serve in both a restaurant and bar setting. While you can serve cans and bottles, many customers prefer a nice, cold draft beer with their meal. In order to keep your beer service consistent and up to par, you need to make sure your tap system is properly maintained.
Poorly maintained tap systems can lead to flat beer, overly foamy beer, odd tastes and smells, and an overall lower quality product that will most definitely affect your bottom line. Make it a habit to check your tap regularly, and especially any time you experience these issues.
Excessively Foamy Beer
Beer naturally comes out of a tap with a little foam. This is a good thing—it opens and enhances the flavors and aromas in the beer much like a glass of wine. When a beer is too foamy, however, there is not enough liquid beer in the glass to achieve the perfect pint. If you pull the tap lever and foamy beer comes out, check for these common problems.
Make sure your keg cooler is keeping the barrels around 38° to 40°F, and check to see if the beer lines are being kept at the proper serving temperature for each beer.
Proper Tap Pressure
If your beer keg is over-pressurized, the excess gas can cause your beer to turn foamy and creamy. Lower the amount of gas by adjusting the regulator on your draft system. Ask your beer reps about what PSI (pounds per square inch) to set for each beer keg’s CO2 tank or gas blend tank.
Pour the Beer Correctly
This is the simplest adjustment you can make to an overly foamy beer. If nothing is wrong with the tap system, your bartender may simply be pouring the beer incorrectly. Here’s how you remedy that problem.
Open the faucet quickly to allow the tap to dispense beer freely and quickly. Be sure the glass is held at an angle to prevent the head from building up too soon. Never allow the faucet to touch the beer—this is unsanitary and a poor way to control foam build-up.
Replace Old Equipment when Necessary
If the components of your draft system are aging and wearing down, your tap system may not be able to properly dispense the beer without excessive foam. Replace beer lines, washers, faucets and other parts right away if they’re wearing down.
If you’ve ever picked up an open bottle soda after a few hours of sitting out, you’ve noticed the missing bubbles, the flat taste, and the overall disappointment that that bottle of soda left in your mouth. The same thing happens with beer. When a freshly-poured beer has a head that dissipates quickly and lacks that freshly-brewed aroma, your beer may be flat.
Store Beer at the Proper Temperature
As with extra-foamy beer, the wrong temperature can cause a beer to go flat. Typically, beer should be stored below 40°F. It’s all about balance.
Clean Glassware Makes a Difference
If your glassware is not completely clean, it can affect the quality of your beer. Residues like dishwasher detergent or fatty substances like oil or milk can cause the beer to go flat quickly after the pour. Use clean, cold bar glassware reserved exclusively for beer.
Flat beer may be due to low or empty gas tanks. If beer is coming out of the tap especially slowly, check the gas tanks and the pressure settings. CO2 or gas blend tanks should always be on and fully functional to propel the beer out the dispensing faucet.
Open the Faucet All the Way
Open the faucet quickly to allow the tap to dispense beer without inhibition. If the bartender allows the beer to pour too slowly, it may diminish the creation of a proper head. Don’t be afraid to fully open the tap.
Odors or Off-Tastes
Beer should taste its best when it comes directly out of a tap. In fact, many customers prefer draft because it tastes so much better than bottled or canned. If beer smells or tastes funny, it’s time to check your tap system.
Clean the System Regularly
A good time to clean the whole draft system is immediately after a keg is emptied. Clean the dispensing faucet using hot water and a brush at least once a week. Make sure to keep beer lines, air lines and other components in tip top shape as well. Your beer sales reps are often good sources of further guidance and information on cleaning your particular system.
Out with the Old Beer, In with the New
If a certain beer is not selling well, it may be sitting around in its barrel until it is past its prime. Check shelf-life information with vendors and buy fresh kegs when needed. Don’t serve your customers old beer.