Beer Line Maintenance During Lockdown

October 30, 2020
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From Thursday 5th November, pubs and bars will be subject to a further period of enforced closure. Whilst the hospitality sector will encounter the same challenges it faced earlier in the year, there are plenty of learnings from the first lockdown. One of these learnings is how draught beer lines should be correctly maintained during an extended period of closure.

When pubs and bars reopened in July 2020 after the first lockdown, many consumers reported their regular brand of ale or lager smelt and tasted different. Admittedly, this could have been the result of drinking packaged beer during the lockdown months, but many drinkers detected ‘eggy’ aromas and musty, stale flavours in draught beer.

At a time when consumer focus on quality was at its highest, some beer drinkers were served a substandard product. This damaged consumer confidence and brand reputation. To prevent a similar situation occurring again, it’s worth revisiting why this happened, and what should be done differently.

What Impact Did the First Lockdown Have on Draught Beer Line Systems?

When pubs, bars and restaurants were ordered to close in March 2020, there was a lot of confusion and misinformation about what to do with draught beer line systems during the enforced closure period. 

When asked how often beer lines should be cleaned during the lockdown, there was a multitude of conflicting advice, because it was a situation the licensed trade had never encountered before.

Some premises flushed beer out of the lines with water, and left water in the lines. This resulted in biofilms developing in stagnant water. Biofilms contain bacteria and fungi cells which cling not only to each other, but also to static surfaces, such as the interior of a beer line. Because the water was not regularly flushed out of the lines and replaced with a clean water supply, these biofilms multiplied rapidly and tainted the beer lines permanently with a musty, unpleasant odour. 

According to Avani Solutions, 30% of pubs and bars in the UK left the lines in water, potentially permanently damaging their lines.

Other premises left beer in the lines after the closure had been announced. This resulted in yeast particles multiplying rapidly, imparting a distinctive butterscotch-like taint in the beer lines.

Licensees who were informed to leave beer line cleaning solution in the lines noticed a persistent chemical taint in beer when they were eventually allowed to reopen.

All of the above resulted in expensive and time consuming remedial action from specialist beer line cleaning service companies when pubs and bars resumed trading in July. All these issues highlighted the need for a collaborative set of guidelines, agreed between industry experts and brand-owners. 

What Is the Correct Course of Action for Beer Lines During a Lockdown? 

There are two solutions. One is to drain the lines completely of any water, solution or beer. This is called ‘blowing the lines’.The other solution is to introduce a ‘beer line protector’ chemical, which prohibits biofilm and yeast particle growth in the lines, eradicating off flavour taints. We can take a more detailed look at how to achieve these below:

Blow the lines

  • Flush all beer from the lines with clean, cold water.
  • Record the wastage.
  • Clean the beer lines with your usual routine.
  • With cask lines, flush all water through the system until the line is empty.
  • With keg lines, flush water through the system until the cleaning bottle is empty.
  • Turn off the gas supply.
  • Turn the remote coolers off.

Doing this ensures that the beer lines are empty and not susceptible to any bacterial contamination or yeast build up.

When you’re ready to start serving beer again, flush the lines with water, and then reconnect to the keg or cask.

Protect the lines

  • Flush all beer from the lines with clean, cold water.
  • Record the wastage.
  • Clean the beer lines with your usual routine.
  • Add a beer line protector solution, such as Guardian™ to the beer line cleaning vessel and pull through the lines.
  • Leave the beer line protector in the lines.

Beer line protectors are specially formulated to keep infrequently used beer lines clean and protected for up to six months.

When you’re ready to start serving beer again, flush the line protector solution from the lines with water, and then connect the line to the keg or cask.

How often should beer lines be cleaned after re-opening?

Beer lines should be cleaned every seven days as a minimum, using a good quality line cleaning solution. You should also keep a record of when the lines are cleaned so they don’t exceed this time frame. 

With a second period of enforced closure imminent, it’s important to understand the correct procedures and practices to minimise wastage, maintain equipment and future proof product quality. This article will help you maintain your draught beer line system in the best way possible during the lockdown.

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