Draft beer requires dispensing equipment that efficiently supplies the product to the point of service. The dispensing equipment works in conjunction with refrigeration equipment that keeps beverage temperatures at the optimum 36 degrees F during storage and between 38 degrees F and 40 degrees F while serving.
Direct draw equipment is a self-contained system with a refrigerated cabinet featuring between one and four doors, in addition to a dispensing tower and beer taps on top. Operators generally position direct draw units behind the bar.
Remote beer dispensing systems house beer in a dedicated walk-in cooler not directly adjacent to the serving area. With this type, insulated trunk lines, typically installed in the floor or ceiling, carry the beer from the containers in the cooler directly to the tap. The number of lines varies, depending on the different types of draft beer the operation serves. Remote beer dispensing systems include separate glycol lines that circulate chilled glycol through the bundle to keep the beer lines cold. A separate refrigeration unit, called a line chiller or power pack, chills a bath of glycol and includes a pump to circulate the glycol through the line set. Operators must maintain the balance between pressure and temperature with remote draw systems or the beer can become over-carbonated and foamy. The CO2 exchange during drafting also must remain consistent or beer can become flat over time.
Beer systems come with a few do’s and don’ts. For example, don’t adjust regulators after running out of CO2, since the gas needs to be set by a professional and not altered.
With direct draw systems that utilize air-cooled refrigeration units, weekly cleaning is recommended. The same applies to remote dispensing units’ glycol systems. In many cases, beer distributors will come in to clean the lines when replacing the kegs.
If drafts come out of the tap warm, that is usually an indication something is off with the glycol temperature. Excessively foamy beer also may indicate a problem with the temperature, the gas pressure isn’t accurate, or the unit is using the wrong gas. Beer should have a ¾- to 1-inch head, otherwise operators lose profits by wasting product.