One Blog |April 18, 2019 | Line Cleaning Software
Cleaning Draught Beer Lines is Easy (Keeping Track of it Doesn’t Have to be Hard)
1042 Words | 8 Minute Read
Craft brewers are very particular about how their beer tastes, and one thing Craft brewers have contributed to the business of brewing, distributing, and consuming beer is the importance of draught beer line cleaning. You could say craft brewers are fanatics – in a good way – about making sure their beer flows through the cleanest lines possible.
As a distributor, if you distribute Craft Beer – and it is hard to imagine virtually any beer distributor (or even a wine and spirits distributor) who doesn’t have a craft portfolio – perhaps a refresher on the somewhat dirty and some might say disgusting subject of draught line cleaning is in order. We’ll get to the associated topic – the tracking, scheduling, and reporting (either for compliance with supplier requirements or state regs) – in just a moment.
According to the Brewers Association: Small and independent craft brewers devote considerable time, effort and resources to make the best possible beer for consumers. At every turn, craft brewers use the best possible ingredients and state-of-the-art brewing technology to produce beers of superior quality and taste. All of the brewer’s attention to detail and hard work can easily be ruined if the lines the beer flows through as a customer’s glass is filled have been ignored or if the quality and frequency of line cleaning are substandard.
Quickly, as a refresher, there are a few things that can really alter or kill the taste of draught beer, they are:
White or grey-colored surface growth found on draught system components that are exposed to air.
Dark-colored surface growth found on draught system components.
- Beer stone (“chunky beer”)
White, gray or brown in color, (it’s calcium, after all) builds up and eventually flakes or chunks off if the draught system is improperly maintained, unappetizingly ending up in the glass and having a decidedly unwelcome – nasty – effect on taste.
Beer-spoiling bacteria will put most people completely off since it spoils a beer’s flavor and nose. While generally the bacterial micro-organisms are not likely to endanger the drinker’s health, well, the flavor changes they cause can make the beer taste sour or vinegary.
All of these enemies of draught beer are easily, fortunately, preventable simply by regular draught line cleaning. It is a certainty that draught systems, if left unattended, will inevitably lead to dissatisfied customers and, of course, lost sales.
Beer distributors (and retailers) know about the dangers (to their bottom line and perhaps to the consumer’s health) of lax draught line cleaning habits. In many states, beer distributors offer line cleaning services to their customers at no-charge as part of a suite of best-practices in addition to the obvious marketing benefits that accrue to the distributors. In some cases, it can be accurately said that the distributor who provides the line cleaning services “owns” the account. Additionally, beer distributors who offer cleaning services can use the scheduled and routine cleaning events to survey their customers taps for “conquest” opportunities and to nip potential customer churn in the bud.
Keeping Track of It All
A huge problem with line cleaning for distributors and third-party line cleaning companies alike, however, is that cleaning has to be scheduled, the schedule has to be followed, and reports (to customers, suppliers, and in some cases to boards of health) have to be able to be created and accessed easily and quickly to find missed or overdue cleanings and to take care of potential problems with lines, faucets, and other equipment that sits between the keg and the customer’s glass.
Other “opportunities” that need to be addressed include making sure that all of the safety steps involved in draught line cleaning and system maintenance are followed exactly. Imagine what would happen if the final flush with clean rinsing water step was omitted?
What is needed is a system that in some ways should be similar to an air-traffic-control system in that many elements have to be monitored, scheduled, executed, and followed-up on. Once the number of accounts with lines that have to be cleaned grows into hundreds of customers it’s simply too much for spreadsheets or data-base programs alone because route scheduling has to be done for both efficiency and to balance the work-load among your line cleaning staff or the contractors you employ to keep the beer flowing through customer’s clean lines.
The common practice is for draught lines to be cleaned at least every two-weeks – twenty-six times per year. If you have 500 or 1,000, 5,000 or 25,000 accounts you are cleaning, you have a daunting task to schedule, plan routes, follow-up, and report on what happened yesterday and today and, what needs to happen tomorrow. Home grown systems, spreadsheets, or data-base programs have proven to be inadequate or require several administrative staff members to stay on top of things.
If you’re a third-party draught line cleaning enterprise serving multiple distributors, multiple territories, and possibly multiple types of scheduling and billing requirements, you’re in no small amount of peril if you are trying to operate without a purpose-designed and built system: A system created by a company that is dedicated to servicing the needs of beverage-alcohol distributors.
Of course, since this is an OnTrak blog, we’re a bit biased in favor of our product: LineTrak™. However, it is important to note that LineTrak has been – and continues to be – designed by distributors and third-party line cleaning companies and programmed by our in-house staff of developers. On-going improvements likewise continue due to requirements we receive from distributors and third-party line cleaning companies all over the US.
LineTrak replaces manual, spreadsheet, and paper-based systems, providing visibility of one or two-week or custom schedules and cleaning/maintenance activities, including customer acknowledgment. Line cleaners use their smartphones or tablets instead of paper to record cleaning transactions and integrated GPS services pinpoint the location of the line cleaner, insuring that the retailer is actually visited.
Furthermore, LineTrak's Tap Handle Survey™ feature collects and tracks market data so that wholesalers can learn which products are flowing through active taps, and when a product is replaced by another product.