One Blog |July 24, 2015 | Line Cleaning Software

Draught Line-Cleaning – Part 1 – The Problem

Mark Fullerton

What does it take to keep great beer, tasting great?

I’d like to use this blog to introduce and describe an issue – actually a problem – in the draught beer industry – And more importantly even if you think this is not a problem for you, why you should care.

The Current Situation and Background

According to Anheuser-Busch’s “Beertender Guide”, on premise beer draught lines need to be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent flavor deterioration.

In some cases, this requirement comes from the distributor’s primary supplier; from retailers; from state and regulatory bodies, or from the distributor’s own business “best-practices”.

In some states, such as Ohio and New York, the local board of health requires the retail establishment to clean their draught lines, however, there is no regulation preventing the retailer from having the cleaning performed by a third-party.

Other states, such as Texas, require the wholesale distributor to clean the lines. In many states, distributors offer draught line cleaning to their retail customer in order to gain competitive advantage and retain customers. Regardless of the reasons behind performing tap line cleaning, the consensus is that draught lines must be cleaned at least 26 times per year, or a minimum of every two weeks.

For many distributors line-cleaning is their responsibility. For all distributors, line cleaning – regularly and correctly performed line cleaning – certainly is, or at least should be, their concern.

According to DraughtQuality.org:

The number one factor affecting draught beer quality is poor hygiene. Whether you’re a brewer, wholesaler or retailer, you must be vigilant in making sure lines are cleaned properly and regularly. Poor hygiene and improper cleaning and/or rinsing will result in loss of sales and reflects poorly on the entire industry.

Additionally, there can be legal consequences associated with not cleaning or improperly cleaning draught beer lines, to say nothing of the potential health issues. Suffice it to say that dirty draught lines do not paint a pretty picture, both literally and financially for beer companies, be they suppliers, distributors or retailers.

Why Should Draught Line Cleaning Be Important To You?

As a bit of a refresher on why you should line clean, consider:

Beer is “alive”!

Much of what we enjoy about beer is derived from the fact that beer originates with organic compounds including yeast. When beer is pumped from kegs through lines to the tap, new, unwanted, yeast and bacterial organisms find their way into the lines where they can be said to literally feast on the beer flowing through them.

Over time these living organisms as well as minerals begin to attach themselves to and clog the draught lines. From time-to-time these line deposits can come loose and actually end up in the consumer’s glass. It’s not a pretty sight.

The Problem:

What Happens The Moment Beer Begins To Flow Through Lines.

All of the surfaces the beer touches begin to have bacteria grow on them. In as few as two weeks, the bacteria and mineral deposits adversely affect the beer’s taste. If the lines are cleaned using the appropriate cleaning solution and method, both the build-up of deposits and the flavor destroying bacteria are flushed out of the system.

Line cleaning is not typically difficult, dangerous or time consuming.  And, although there is – for either the distributor or the retailer – some cost to the process, line cleaning is, in the bigger picture, not prohibitively expensive.

As a supplier, distributor or retailer, you have an important interest in making sure line cleaning is done with near-fanatical regularly and is performed absolutely correctly. It is, hopefully, obvious by now:

Dirty draught beer lines don’t save money – they cost sales. Should a patron take a big gulp of dirty beer (or as one distributor called it “chunky-skunky beer”) you could have a law suit on your hands. 

In case I haven’t made the case for clean lines based on some rather unattractive outcomes, know that clean draught lines helps your beer keep its taste and looks; and, clean lines actually will reduce waste by virtually eliminating re-pours to unhappy or grossed-out patrons.

So there’s the Problem, or maybe the opportunity.

One of the top challenges of a beer distributor is that while they have put in place a line cleaning process, the really don’t have a good solution for tracking what has happened. And this is the case whether they do the line cleaning with their own people, or outsource the line cleaning to a third party.

Ultimately The Distributors Are Responsible

What if there was a solution for keeping track of all the activities that are required to effectively and efficiently manage to the line cleaning requirements that come from suppliers, retailers, or state regulations?

Or what if you want to put in place a “best practices” approach within your own business to service your customer’s expectations?

Well that’s what our Next Blog Topic will discuss – “Draught Line Cleaning – Part 2 – Possible Solutions”

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If given all the resources to develop an “app” for the tracking of line cleaning, what would it look like?

The first step in that process is to gather requirements, and you can submit your requirements by commenting on this blog.

We welcome your feedback. Perhaps it will lead us to developing that “app” for you!

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