Draft beer is a significant
profit center, often yielding profit margins of 85% to 90%.
Conventional inventory controls, however, are largely ineffective
in stemming the waste and pilferage normally associated with
draft beer. Improperly maintained systems, improper pouring
practices, poor sanitary conditions and internal theft are primary
areas of concern.
- KEEP THE DRAFT BEER DELIVERY SYSTEM PROPERLY PRESSURIZED
a constant and uniform pressure in the draft beer feed lines
is crucial. Most American beers have a natural carbonation
in the keg of 12-14 pounds per square inch (p.s.i.) at a temperature
of 38°F. Additional gauge pressure of 12-14 p.s.i. is
required to propel the beer through the lines and dispenser,
and prevent the beer from losing its natural carbonation.
It requires 1/2 lb. of carbon dioxide (CO2) at 12-14 p.s.i.
to dispense a half-barrel of beer at 38°F.
- KEEP THE DRAFT BEER DELIVERY SYSTEM PROPERLY MAINTAINED
— If the
carbon dioxide regulator or air pump is set too low, or for
some reason the line pressure drops below 12 p.s.i., the natural
carbonation in the beer will dissipate and the draft beer
will go flat. Conversely, if the internal pressure in the
lines exceed 16 to 18 p.s.i. the draft beer will become over-carbonated,
often referred to as "wild" beer.
The beer feed lines and the spigot must be cleaned on a regular
basis to prohibit off-tastes or odors from forming and preventing
yeast and bacteria buildup. An easy and effective way to ensure
that your beer maintains its high quality is to perform regular
line cleaning. Beer lines should be cleaned weekly to ensure
that the lines are always free of yeast deposits, keeping
the beer as fresh as possible. Refrigerated lines from a walk-in
cooler should be cleaned every week. Cleaning is a "technical"
job that is best performed by a specialist. Beer is a food
product. Bacteria will build up rapidly if beer lines are
not cleaned on a regular basis and will affect the taste.
This is a service typically performed by the draft beer distributor.
- STORE THE BEER UNDER PROPER CONDITIONS
— Every bar with high draft beer
sales needs a cool, well-ventilated storage space where the
various kegs can be kept next to each other, connected by
a common dispense gas main. Because draft beer is not pasteurized
it should be stored at a constant 36-38°F (8-10°C).
to prevent spoilage. High storage temperatures are the likely
cause for beer turning cloudy, sour, or otherwise unpalatable.
If storage temperatures drop below 36°F beer may lose
its carbonation and go flat.
The walk-in cooler should be of sufficient size to store a
three-day supply of kegs. A simple rule of thumb is to allow
for 2.25 square feet in area for each keg. Utilizing racks
for greater space efficiency can expand the walk-in's storage
Ideally, draft beer should remain unagitated and untapped
for 24 to 36 hours after delivery. The First In, First Out
(FIFO) inventory system should be implemented to ensure consistent
and high-quality product. If more than two kegs are stored
at one time, each should be marked with the date of delivery
to facilitate rotation. Never allow draft beer to freeze,
which will cause the solids to separate from the liquid.
Draft beer should not be stored near foodstuffs, such as in
a restaurant's walk-in cooler. Exposure to food odors, condensation
pooling on the keg top, and/or fungal growth can adversely
affect the beer within the kegs.
- SERVE DRAFT BEER AT THE PROPER TEMPERATURE
— Draft beer absorbs heat rapidly.
If served immediately, beer drawn at 36°F will rise to
38-40° by the time it reaches the patron. The ideal serving
temperature for most American and imported lagers is generally
considered to be 40°F. Flat beer is often the sign the
beer is too cold. On the contrary, wild, foamy beer is an
indication that the beer is too warm.
- TRAIN YOUR STAFF THE PROPER POURING PRACTICES
— The dispensing spigot should
never come in contact with the beer in the glass. To prevent
the foamy head from dissipating quickly, glasses must be absolutely
free of any dirt, grease, oil, or soapy film.
Draft beer should be poured directly into a glass and never
allowed to run first. Traditionally, draft beer is served
with a head of approximately 3/4 to 1 inch. Tilting the glass
and letting the flow of draft beer slope off the inside of
the glass will inhibit the amount of head that develops. When
the glass is half-full, the beer should be allowed to pour
directly into the center of the glass. This technique will
produce the appropriate amount of foamy head. Serving draft
beer in a frosted or frozen glass will likely result in the
foamy head being rapidly dissipated.
LOSSES ATTRIBUTABLE TO INTERNAL THEFT
— As a result of being difficult
to assess how much beer is in a half-barrel, draft beer is
a frequent target of internal theft. Common schemes include
free "give-aways," over-pouring, serving two-for-ones and
ringing beer sales into the liquor sales key of the cash register
to offset previous theft.
- FOB DETECTORS —
If you have ever tended bar you'll recall the operational
difficulties caused when a keg of beer empties. Foam begins
to spray out of the spigot as the gas pressure drains the
last of the beer out of the feed lines. This rush of gas causes
"fobbing." Once a new keg is brought on-line, the beer displaces
the considerable volume of gas from the line. This takes time
and creates further beer waste.
The installation of a fob detector overcomes the problems.
It is a device mounted on the wall of the walk-in cooler connected
to a draft beer feed line. When the keg empties, the float
in the central chamber of the fob detector cuts off the flow,
pouring ceases and gas is prevented from entering the gas
line. Once the chamber is recharged with beer, pouring can
continue with little or no waste or disruption from gas spraying
from the tap. Fob detectors are highly effective at reducing
waste and lowering costs. This is especially true in operations
with long draft beer feed lines because of the greater volume
of beer in the lines that will be saved when the keg empties.
- MAINTAIN PORTIONING CONTROL
— While serving draft beer in pitchers is convenient
and often provides a stimulus to sales, it poses two management
concerns. Pitchers range in capacity from 32-80 ounces. As
a result of volume discounting, purchasing draft beer in a
pitcher is a better value for patrons than buying it by the
glass. However, they sell at a considerably higher cost (lower
profit margin) than by the glass. At the same time, by comparison
pitchers make your by-the-glass prices appear unreasonably
high. As far as profitability is concerned, it is far more
advantageous to sell four glasses of draft than one pitcher
The second management concern regarding pitchers of draft
beer is that there is no adequate portion control. One person
can consume most or all of a pitcher of beer without a bartender
or server being in a position to intervene. Serving pitchers
is a practice laden with liability.