State of the Art Beer Delivery System

How to build a State of the Art Beer Deilvery System

I imagine everyone that is reading this has seen a beer poured from a keg via a draft handle.  What goes into getting the beer from the keg to the beer faucet?  The answer to that question can be very simple, to very complex depending on the setup of the bar.  In many cases the beer is being taken from coolers far away from the tap handles and travels along a series of tubing to reach the handle.  The main problem with this setup is that the longer the runs of tubing the more turbulent the beer becomes.  I am sure we have all seen many beers poured where the head takes up half the glass and the server has to then overflow the beer into the drain to get the appropriate amount of head on a beer.  This over foaming is due directly to the length of the tubing from the keg to the handle and the temperature of the beer in the line during the time it travels, and sits in the line waiting to be poured into a glass.  This is very wasteful, and also leads to a poor head retention and a flat beer.  This problem is almost always due to temperature fluxuation in the beer from the cooler to the handle.  Every time the beer changes temperature from the temperature it was stored, CO2 is released from the liquid.  This CO2 collects in the line and causes foaming and wasted/flat beer.  Often times, this problem is basically un-solvable due to the distance and lack of temperature control available to the system as a whole.  Depending on who installs the system, you can run a glycol chiller with the lines that greatly helps with controlling temperature in the line and thus helps with better poured beer.  This system is complex and takes a special chiller and setup, etc.

Rather than have to fight with poor pouring beer, we chose to design our system literally from the ground up.  As soon as we had our space signed for, Laura and I brought in Buck from  Everyone I had talked to in the industry recommended Buck; from people who had their systems designed by him, to people who have had their systems fixed by him, they all highly recommended Buck.  With this recommendation, I brought Buck in and asked him how he would design the perfect keg delivery system.  The first step he said was to store the beer at 27-28 degrees.  This allows for better beer by allowing more CO2 to be dissolved into the beer.  This means a better carbonated beer, with better head retention and better overall flavor.  This is a little counter intuitive as you would think the beer would freeze, but since the liquid is under pressure and contains alcohol the freezing point is much lower.  This temperature alone creates a challenge for the beer delivery system build out, as everyone thinks you’re crazy and quotes you a refrigerator instead of a freezer.  In the end we decided to have our freezer built from scratch.  This allowed us the size and placement necessary to follow the rest of Buck’s recommendations.  Buck’s second recommendation was to have the freezer as close to the tap handles as possible.  Along with that, Buck told us that it was vital to carry that 28 degree beer all the way to the tap shank (part where the beer comes out).  This is an interesting problem that can lead to some serious design challenges.  The main problem is that if a beer travels through any sort of drywall, insulation, or any other wall or barrier, the temperature changes and you get beer foaming.  So how do you get the shortest beer lines possible, and keep the beer at 28 degrees all the way to the shank?  Simple, you design the tap wall directly into the side of the freezer.  So this is what we did.  We literally built the cooler directly behind the wall where the taps are located.  Along with that, we actually cut a foot high channel out of the cooler so that our custom made stainless steel tap wall and tray were actually a part of the wall of the cooler.  This saves us the problem of having our beer lines go through any sort of wall, insulation, etc.  So from the keg, through the line all the way till the beer is coming out of the faucet is always 28 degrees.  And since all the kegs are directly behind the tap wall, the longest run of beer hose is less than 10 total feet.
This setup will allow us to pour a perfect beer that will actually come out of the tap with no loss of CO2 and with no head!  To allow us to add a head, we will be installing specialty beer shanks that allow us to actually create a tight head to any level we desire.  This will allow us to pour rich, fragrant and great tasting beer with almost no loss.

Amazing what you can come up with when you design the system from the top down!  Just one of the innovations that I believe will help us live up to our motto of Top Taps in Town!

May all of your beers be tasty!

High Plains Tap House
"Why go to a bar in Denver, when you can go to a Tap House in Littleton?"
  posted: October 1, 2013 - High Plains Tap House - Blog
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