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Purchasing Considerations for Beer and Wine Systems

Before selecting beer and wine dispensing systems, learn about the different types and how they operate to ensure the best fit for the operation. Cost considerations and maintenance requirements also should be factored in.

The main thing that operators should consider when purchasing a draft beer system is where the kegs will be stored in relation to the beer taps. This will determine whether a direct-draw, air-cooled or glycol-cooled system is best.

With craft beer popularity continuing, bars have moved to 12-tap units instead of kegerators to accommodate a larger variety of offerings. Beer kegs for these more comprehensive systems can be stored in a remote walk-in cooler, which helps save space in the bar area. This type is available in direct draw with shorter runs and air-cooled systems, which are less costly, or remote/glycol-cooled types, which require a tower.

With draft beer systems, the operator must consider how the beer lines are getting to the taps. If it is not a direct-draw system, then the beer conduit will need to be routed either overhead or through the slab using pull boxes. In this case, coordination with electrical, plumbing and HVAC components is needed.

There are new beer dispensing system technologies that have enhanced the continuity of product from keg to faucet. For example, chilled faucets reduce foam, which is straight profit going down the drain.

Although direct-draw units can accommodate up to four kegs per unit, these systems require more handling than remote-draw systems as kegs need to be changed out more often. These systems also have limited storage space, so they are geared for operations with fewer beer and wine selections.

Remote systems offer increased flexibility in terms of the number of brands that can be offered at one time, but they also require a greater initial investment. Still, these systems tend to pay for themselves over time.

Operators can choose direct-draw wine dispensers that are 24 inches wide and breathe out the back or 36 inches wide that breathe out the front. Either way, there must be adequate space for proper ventilation.