The maintenance and cleaning procedures for draft beer systems depends on the type of system, including whether the refrigeration is self-contained or remote. “With keg boxes, bar operators need to be aware of CO2 pressure, rotate stock and not leave kegs in the cooler too long,” says Drew Beaty, who handles fleet and inventory at Nashville, Tenn.-based A Head for Profits.
To ensure an operator is ready to pour a perfect pint, service agents check the set pressure and clean the lines every two weeks. Service agents also use acid line cleaners and dissolve any sediment the system collects on a quarterly basis.
Service agents also break down beer faucets and check for leaks, which can agitate the beer and create a poor pour. “One of the biggest signs service is needed, no matter what type of system, from long-draw to keg box or through the wall, are pressure problems that cause over-carbonated beer or temperature issues with beer too hot or cold that cause excess foam,” says Beaty. “Also, shanks where faucets are connected can sometimes get warm air between the wall and agitate beer between the cold keg and faucet.”
Also, if a system uses CO2 cylinders and the coupler is engaged longer than 10 to 12 days, the beer will absorb excess gas. “When beer is poured after being coupled for too long, it will be over-carbonated,” says Beaty. “Bar operators who don’t pour a lot of beer or rotate stock should uncouple the kegs during opening and/or closing.”
Service agents recommend a preventative maintenance contract for through-the-wall beer draft systems. “Because beer can get warm where the shank is, and due to the length of travel — plus shadow boxes extend the length from the faucet or shank to the beer hose — we have ways to ensure product stays cool,” says Beaty.
Glycol units have trunk lines with beer lines inside, and the glycol pump circulates antifreeze to keep beer cold in the line. If the keg is 40 feet from the point of pour, depending on the size of the beer line, there can be 10 to 15 pints of beer in a trunk line. This will warm up without use of a glycol unit.
“Because the glycol system ensures the perfect pour, we come in and check the temperature of the glycol bath, make sure the pump is running and the temperature is correct,” says Beaty. “A bar operator can lose product quickly, and throwing beer down the sink is like throwing money down the sink.”
Properly maintained draft beer systems can last indefinitely since keg box and polymer lines are inexpensive to replace. Trunk lines last between 10 and 15 years when properly maintained. Faucets and internal workings of draft systems, depending on the materials, are durable. Bars typically have chrome-plated brass fixtures that can show wear and tear. These eventually need replacement.
“We will replace parts of these systems, like washers, levers and plungers that see a lot of friction and need replacing on a regular basis,” says Beaty. “A stainless-steel through-the-wall system can last forever or the life cycle of a bar, but draft beer systems require maintenance by a qualified service agent every two weeks.”