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.