Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Beer Temperature

It's probably one of the easiest faults to identify in beer; the wrong serve temperature. We all hate beer that is too warm. Some of us also object if the beer is served too cold, although arguably this is less of a problem because one can always wait for it to warm up.

Maintenance of cooling equipment can be a small headache for the publican. Apart from the fact that cooling eats power, and I mean really eats it, there is the problem of making sure it is working and set up right.

An advantage of big breweries is that they will usually help the publican to maintain his equipment. A tied house would expect, as part of the tie agreement, full maintenance and servicing of the cellar equipment1. If the beer starts coming out of the fonts2 warm then a simple call to the brewery or pubco will have it sorted in a jiffy. A free house may be disadvantaged in this respect. If the main supply of beer is through a single or maybe a couple of suppliers then cellar service might be easy to arrange. However, there will be some equipment, as detailed below in the footnote1 that will require independent contractors. This can end up being costly3.

If there is no major supplier, as in our case, all the maintenance becomes the publicans responsibility. The good news is that it's not that difficult if you're at all handy. Drinks technicians like to let you think it's a black art. It's not. OK, there are some basic mistakes which could end up costly, like continually topping up a glycol system with pure water, but there are some basics that can help.

What can a publican do to make sure his beer is at the right temperature? Perhaps drink it occasionally. Yes, I know it's a tough job, one I dread doing, but it does help you keep your finger on the pulse. If you have a kitchen thermometer4 use this to check the dispense temperature of the beer, using a cool glass of course, not one straight out of the glass washer. Checking the levels of coolant in the reservoirs in all remote and under-bar flash coolers, perhaps once a week, is good. Keep ventilation grills clean and free from dust and clear of obstructions. Tell that bar tender to move his fleece away from the cooler grill. Finally, find a cooling technician who you trust and who can respond quickly and learn from him.

1What do you mean the cellar air cooler is your responsibility? Nope, they want you to buy all the wet product off them they can jolly well make sure the cellar air temperature is right. You wouldn't need an air cooler in the cellar if it wasn't for the wet trade. It should be written into the contract.

2A font is the thing beer comes out of on the bar. Here, we normally don't include handpulls in this rather vulgar nomenclature.

3My cellar air cooler has probably cost me £2,000 to maintain since I came here 5½ years ago. But it's worth it, especially on a hot5 day when the cellar is the place to be.

4You have got a kitchen thermometer, haven't you? No? How can you possibly comply with HACCP?

5Yes Mr Bell, it can get hot, even up here in Cumbria.

9 comments:

Tandleman said...

I agree cellar cooling can be expensive, but that's one thing that should definitely be factored into the beer price and not be grudged at all by the customer. Warm beer is grim.

Woolpack Dave said...

Warm beer IS grim. Getting the cost of cooling down to an acceptable level is also important. Subject of another post possibly.

There seems to be little freely available information out there and the solution is to often throw in another cooler with the increased energy costs, rather than looking at holistic approaches to the problem.

However, I agree, it has to be done right and factored into the pricing.

Tyson said...

You would think drinking the beer would be a good way for landlords to judge the temp...except there are some who like it warm-regardless of customer preference. We have some locally, although, thankfully not any as bad as one infamous landlord of some years hence, who insisted his beer be served at 15C!

Tandleman said...

That's cool by some standards!

Woolpack Dave said...

15ÂșC, if I remember rightly, is at the upper limit of a pass for Cask Marque.

Cooking Lager said...

Thank god for super-chilling.

Barm said...

£2000 over five years? I know one would always rather not have to spend £2000, but it's not that much compared to other essential costs of running a pub, is it?

Or have I misunderstood and that's just repairs etc and not running costs?

Woolpack Dave said...

Barm, no, that's just repair costs.

Yes, you are right £2000 is not much compared to the overall. However, there are many, many things that eat values in the order of £2000.

It wasn't a complaint, incidentally. I like my cellar cooler and I am very happy to fork out for it's maintenance.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE NO MORE FOOTNOTES