Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic and arrival of lockdowns, beer and cider drinkers across Scotland have been seeking out draught experiences that they can enjoy at home.
There’s nothing better than a freshly poured pint of your favourite beer and it’s great to see some of the lengths that people have gone to in order to have one - we have loved to see some of the home bar set-ups that people have been using our keg ranges for.
It’s fair to say that for some it has probably been an eye opener to the expertise that goes in to your local being able to deliver that experience. This has been reflected in the number of queries we have received about keg product quality.
If you have gone down the keg route at home or are thinking about doing so, please note that pouring issues are very rarely to do with the product quality of the keg. You must make sure that your set up is in check. Typically, this means making sure the line is clean and that you have the gas temperature and pressure correct to get the pint tasting just right.
Where kegs are returned, please note that credit is not issued automatically and per our standard terms will be returned once obtained from the brewer.
This can be a lengthy process of days or weeks - the keg must be processed at our depot and returned to the brewer. They will assess the keg for issues, including conducting checks on how much liquid has been taken from the keg.
Your statutory rights are unaffected but be aware that if there are no product issues or it is determined that a significant amount of liquid has been used then the brewer will not return a credit.
Therefore it is all the more important that your set-up is correct and and it is your responsibility to make sure it’s just right before making the keg purchase.
Getting A Draught System Installed
If you haven’t yet picked a system or are looking to have one installed then we can provide a full install service for you to enjoy our keg beers in the comfort of your home.
Our engineers are specialists in keg installations and bring a wealth of experience to ensure that you can pour the perfect pint with every pull.
See our beer retail site The Beer Town for more information.
Dispensing Draught Beer
There are a number of different ways to get draught beer from a keg to your glass.
A typical system pumps carbon dioxide gas or a mixed gas blend of CO2 and nitrogen in to the keg which forces the beer out through beer lines to a faucet where it is poured into what must be a clean, dry glass.
There are a variety of dispensers on the market for the ‘at home’ market that come equipped with different components or advising suitability to plug and pour.
Whatever route you go down, it is important to note that your keg will connect to the system via a coupler of which there are a variety of types. Systems may come supplied with one particular coupler type or more or without one at all. Different brands use different coupler types, so before purchasing a keg you should check if you have the right coupler type for your favourite products– a quick Google search will return results for most major brands.
Some solutions are better suited to more temporary use – a keg tap or pump is the most basic short-term method and will typically use oxygen which is hand pumped in. This doesn’t preserve the beer like CO2 and will cause the beer to go flat and spoil quickly.
Some beers require a special configuration – notably Guinness and Nitro beers. These are dispensed using a nitrogen/CO2 blend and it is this that gives Guinness the signature creamy mouthfeel and tight head. In order to achieve Guinness on draught at home, you need the special blend of gas, a nitrogen gas tank and a stout faucet and a U-system keg coupler to connect it.
A few tips
- Let it Sit
After transportation, give your keg some time to settle down or you may experience excessive foaming. Remember that the beer inside a keg is carbonated so moving or shaking it will be the same as shaking a bottle of our Currie’s Red Kola! We recommend that you let your keg sit for at least an hour after transport before pouring.
- Let it Chill
Keg beer is unpasteurised so to maintain freshness should stay cold at an optimum temperature.
- Keep It Fresh
The shelf life of a beer is tough to pinpoint – there are many variables to consider including the particular liquid, how the keg has been and gets stored when delivered and how it is dispensed once tapped. However, two things that impact beer flavour are light and oxygen so with kegs being tightly sealed and pressured they are able to retain freshness well.
Once tapped, full flavour will typically be retained for 30-45 days if in perfect conditions. Generally, hoppy or higher ABV beers will last longer as hops and alcohol act as preservatives, inhibiting the growth of bacteria.
If you are using a hand pump forcing air/oxygen in to the keg then it causes a chemical reaction called oxidation and this will cause the beer to go flat and sour. If dispensed in this way it should be consumed within 24 hours so best left to events or parties after lockdown!
- Keep It Clean
If beer does go bad quickly, it can usually be attributed to oxygen and/or bacteria. Bacteria will eventually spoil unpasteurized beer, even when kept in the perfect conditions.
- Doctor Pressure
Pressure is a vital part of draught beer systems – it keeps the beer carbonated and fresh so too much or too little will affect the dispensed product.
As CO2 enters a keg it displaces the beer at a constant pressure. As you pour the gas fills the ‘head space’ of the beer it has pumped out and maintains the pressure at the setting of the regulator. You must keep the tank straight and upright or it won’t work properly and damage the regulator. You should also find the optimum PSI number for your chosen product. Most lagers are dispensed at around 10-12 PSI but it can notably vary.
- Pour correctly
There’s a science to the pour too. Start by holding your glass at a 45 degree angle below the faucet without touching. Open the faucet in a swift motion and pour down the inside of the glass until about half full. Continue to fill and begin to tilt upright to a 90 degree angle to allow a head to form.
- Beer Glassware
Specific styles of beer glassware will accentuate certain characteristics or flavours in beer – drawing out aromas or allowing for a thicker head of foam – and greatly enhance experience. The glass should always be ‘beer clean’ – ie free from any impurities that CO2 can cling to. This includes visible residues like lipstick marks or invisible like those from soap or milk and the aromas from stale air, smoke or towels. Glasses should be properly cleaned in hot water with a detergent that is not fat or oil based and scrubbed clean.
Cleaning and Maintenance
After installation and set up, you can’t just forget about your system. It needs TLC and should be properly cleaned and maintained, at least every couple of weeks or any time you change the keg.
Bacteria, mould and yeast can form on any part beer touches but particularly, lines, faucets and keg couplers. This can affect the flavour of the beer or cause it to foam on pour. Clean regularly with cleaning solution or detergents specifically created for cleaning draught systems – you can find Country Range Sterilising Beer Line Cleaner available by the 5L to add to your Dunns order under product code 9712. Take care when handling these chemicals and ensure to properly flush the system.
If your draught beer is pouring foamy, and cleaning your draught lines hasn’t helped then most problems are caused by incorrect temperature or pressure.