Getting Serious About Draft And Bottles
An overwhelming amount of craft beer is sold on draft and there exists a battle between breweries, bar owners and manufacturers to make sure that each pint served has the desired level of carbonation when it is placed before a customer.
The dread, of course, is a flat brew. Without the pop and fizz, a beer can be practically undrinkable. An overly carbonated beer, where a glass of foam is forced to settle into a full glass can alter the flavor of the beer, and leave it undrinkable to discerning customers.
“Draft beer is always a challenge in the United States,” says Jaime Jurado, director of brewing operations at the Gambrinus Company. “But we’re getting smarter.”
In the grand scheme of beer draft is fairly new. It was not until the late 1700s that the beer engine was introduced to pull beer from a cask into a glass. Before that, the fermented beverage was just poured directly into a mug, quickly losing what natural carbonation existed. Advances were made to mechanical CO2 systems about 50 years ago and drinkers were able to get carbonated beer on draft in a way that could mimic a bottle, which offered a carbonated beer as far back as the 1800s.
There are three general types from draft systems and each offer their own pros and cons. There they fall into three categories: temporary, direct-draw and long draw. All have a number of components from hoses, to connection points, to regulators that each play a crucial role in making sure the beer is presented the way the brewer intends.
The temporary system is the preferred choice for the casual backyard BBQ or even some beer festivals where drinkers using a picnic pump force compressed air into a keg, then dispensing the beer from a thumb-operated tap handle. There are also models that can accommodate single use CO2 canisters. More sophisticated brewers or breweries will use a jockey box where the CO2 pressurizes the system, and the beer is brought to the desired temperature by flowing through an ice chest before being served.
To educate and encourage proper pours, the Colorado-based Brewers Association has released its Draught Beer Quality Manual which offers a step-by-step look at every component and factor that goes into making sure a beer is drinkable. They warn that the temporary systems are good for one day at a time and should not be regularly incorporated into regular beer dispensing.