Maintaining a Problem-Free Tap System
A bar or restaurant with beer on tap offers a great product for guests and a good profit for you, so long as the tap system is well-maintained and fully operational. Sometimes bartenders notice a beer is dispensed with a strange appearance or consistency, such as excessively foamy or flat beer. Beer on tap may even have a strange smell or taste. These types of problems may indicate a number of issues, either with the pouring method or the draft system itself. The list below lays out potential issues with draft beer, the probable causes and the appropriate solutions.
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, creating a bouquet, 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. The usual culprits are listed below, each with an appropriate solution.
Maintain the right temperature. Make sure your keg cooler is keeping the barrels around 38 to 40°F, and make sure the beer lines are being kept at the proper serving temperature for each beer.
Set the right 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 correctly. 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. 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 begin to cause problems.
Most people have seen what happens when a bottle of soda has been left sitting out too long; the soda goes flat. The bubbles are much fewer and farther between, the taste is less fresh and there is less foam on the pour. The same thing goes for beer. When a freshly-poured beer has a head that dissipates quickly and lacks that freshly-brewed aroma, your beer may be flat. Check to see if the following problems are causing your beer to go flat.
Store beer at the right temperature. As with extra-foamy beer, the wrong temperature can cause a beer to go flat. Typically, beer should be stored below 40°F.
Use clean glasses. If your glassware is not completely clean, it could affect the 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 that is used exclusively for beer.
Adjust pressure when needed. 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 fully. 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.
Odors or Off-Tastes
Beer should taste its best when it comes directly out of a tap. If beer smells or tastes funny, you probably have a problem. Learn about how to repair the situation to give your customers the best experience.
Keep a clean system. 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 top shape as well. Your beer sales reps are often good sources of further guidance and information on cleaning your system.
Replace old beer. If a certain beer is not selling, 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.
An experienced bar manager knows that keeping all the components in check is vital to a healthy draft system. This, coupled with good bartender training, is paramount to pouring a consistently great beer for every customer.
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