I’ve been an advocate of clean beer lines for some time now, but I haven’t talked much about it here. Why? Well, it’s a touchy subject. You see, most bar owners assume their beer lines are clean because they have them serviced by the distributors that provide the beer. Sometimes that’s not a bad assumption. That said, the vast majority of bar owners I’ve come across have next to no actual ownership of their taps. By this I mean, they let the line cleaner in and sign the papers when the job is done.
I’ve actually watched a few line cleaners on the job, while sitting at the bar enjoying a beer. What I’ve seen didn’t reassure me. What’s worse, I know of several “craft beer” bars that buy kegs through channels that don’t clean beer lines. The issue with this is that line cleaners sent out by the distributor will only clean the beer lines that have the distributor’s beer in them – so it’s possible a portion of the lines in the bar are neglected altogether for extended periods of time. Finally, this is a complaint of several brewers I know, basic line cleaning services neglect completely the couplers & faucets.
Bar Owners, it’s not the responsibility of the distributors to clean your beer lines. It’s a service they provide – sometimes. It’s OK to take ownership of your bar (thanks, truly, to those that already do) – it’s OK to monitor your line cleaners, to insist that your faucets & couplers be cleaned on a quarterly basis (at minimum). You’re not going to make anyone sick with dirty beer lines, but if you’re about highlighting the world’s best beer – by all means, treat it like it’s the world’s best friggin’ beer!
If you’re a bar owner and you don’t really grasp the ins-and-outs of line cleaning, there are many resources online to help you out. If you’re a bar owner that just doesn’t give a shit about this, maybe it’s too much of a hassle or you really don’t think your paying customers know the difference, well, I’ve included a lovely little video below for your viewing pleasure.
Beer Geeks – you may recall a few years back Dr. Charles Bamforth of UC Davis said that bottled beer is better than draught beer. Remember that? Oh, we were all bent out of shape on that one – clearly draught beer is best! Well, no. It’s not. Draught beer on clean beer lines is a thing of beauty. This is what he was actually referring to. You have an assurance of quality in bottled/canned products that we simply don’t have in draught beer. Hopefully that’ll change soon as beer consumers become increasingly more educated about the drink we love.