Understanding what's happening to your beer can help save time and money - we take a look at how licensees can ensure the quality of the beer served in their pub, how to maintain safety in the cellar, and also offer a gas safety checklist.
The beer necessities
Licensees have more responsibility than ever to ensure that the beer served in their pub is the best possible quality.
Brewers can't hope to reach every member of staff, especially with turnover being what it is, so it comes down to the publican to understand what's going on in the cellar and to pass essential knowledge on to his or her people.
Brewers, for their part, have pretty much fulfilled their side of the quality bargain. Returns are down to minuscule levels. If there is something wrong with the pint in the glass the odds are it's down to you.
"Returns to our Leeds brewery are down to 0.2 per cent," said Carlsberg-Tetley customer marketing controller Adam Young. "It's what is done to it at the pub that has the most impact."
The brewer has therefore increased its communication with licensees and has recently produced a "Committed to Quality" information pack to help train their staff quickly and effectively.
"Licensees do tend to blame the product when anything goes wrong, and we are aiming to give them the knowledge and understanding to cure problems themselves as much as possible," explained trade quality manager Phil Cross.
"There is nothing new in this. Nothing has changed in the methods of keeping good beer and a lot of it is common sense. But you do need to pay close attention to detail."
There are several stages at which quality issues can arise. You shouldn't think in terms of simply keeping a good cellar. Attention to detail should be carried through right to the moment you hand the glass over to the customer and all members of staff need to be involved.
- The cellar
Your cellar must be clean, tidy and cool. Between 11 and 13oC is about right. If you allow temperatures to rise above 15oC this will affect the taste of the beer and a cellar that is too cold will make the beer thin and mean that cask ales take longer to settle.
The cellar must also be a safe place to work. Keep it clean and tidy and mop up any spillages immediately.
Line cleaning is critical. You must clean beer lines at least every seven days - and you must do it properly. If you don't, a build-up of yeast particles in the line will cloud the beer and spoil the flavour.
Use a recommended detergent and follow the safety instructions on the container. Soak the pipes with diluted detergent for at least 30 minutes pulling fresh detergent through each tap every 10 minutes. Don't leave the same detergent in the pipe for half and hour, or reuse detergent from a previous clean as it will lose its effect.
Rinse the system with cold, clean water. Never exceed the recommended dosage, quantity or soak time.
Automatic and semi-automatic line cleaning systems are available but you should insist on a lengthy trial period before you invest in one.
On delivery to your pub a cask of ale has a minimum shelf life of 14 days. Once it goes on sale it must be consumed within three days so order the size of cask to suit your sales levels and don't order too many different beers.
Consider switching to keg or nitrokeg beers if you can't meet this rate of sale.
Stillage the cask as soon as it is delivered so the sediment falls to the bottom of the cask and the gases rise to the top.
After six to eight hours vent the cask by tapping a soft peg into the shive at the top loosely enough to allow the gases to escape and secondary fermentation to take place.
Once froth has stopped escaping from the shive insert a hard peg.
Tap the cask within 48 hours of venting and at least 24 hours before pulling the first pint. Clean the keystone, open a valve on the tap a little and drive home with a mallet.
Sample the ale after 24 hours. Your palate will tell you whether it is ready to serve. Remove the hard peg, insert a hop filter between the tap and line then open the tap.
Replace the hard peg and turn off the tap at the end of each session.
Check the ale at the start of each day for freshness. At the end of the session, tilt half-empty casks lifting them about eight centimetres at the back. Self-tilting stillages are effective but cost about £100 a time.
Keg ales and lagers
Allow 24 hours for kegs to reach cellar temperature. Never leave them outside.
When the beer is ready remove the cap, check the extractor head and couple head are clean and connect them. Switch on the gas supply and, if fitted, bleed the fob detector or cellar buoy.
Do not tamper with the dispense systems or adjust gas pressures. When the pub is closed switch the gas off at the cylinder and lift the keg couple handle.
Carlsberg-Tetley's new "Committed to Quality" information pack for licensees includes a brochure, CD-rom and video.
It illustrates all aspects of product storage and dispense, including how to maintain equipment, manage stock rotation and properly dispense the company's brands.
For a free copy of the pack write to Adam Young, Carlsberg-Tetley Brewing, Jacobson House, 140 Bridge Street, Northampton NN1 1PZ.
Guide to the perfect pint
- Keep the cellar clean and tidy and at a temperature of 11 to 13oC
- Clean beer lines at least once a week using only a recommended detergent
- Ensure good stock rotation, according to shelf life
- Take care to stillage, vent and tap cask ales correctly
- Allow keg ales and lagers to reach storage temperature (11 to 13oC) before they are used
- Ensure the gas supply to the keg is switched on when connecting the lines
- Do not adjust pre-set gas pressures
- Always switch the gas supply off at closing time
- Ensure the glass is clean before pouring
- Use the correct tap fittings according to the type of beer
- Use the correct dispense technique for the type of beer.
Supplied by Carlsberg-Tetley
Safety in the cellar
At 8pm on a Saturday evening in a busy city centre pub, a gas cylinder ruptures, causing extensive damage to the cellar. Luckily there was nobody in the cellar at the time or they would have been seriously injured.
This incident really happened. The cylinder was not fitted with a positive pressure valve and had not been properly maintained - and it is just one example of what can go wrong in the cellar.
The government's Confined Spaces Regulations attempt to address the problem and require a licensee to assess specific risks to establish the hazards affecting people entering or working in the cellar.
There are three main hazards:
- loss of consciousness or asphyxiation due to the inhalation of fumes
- cylinders that have been illicitly filled - there are an estimated 150,000 stolen gas cylinders in circulation in the UK (see checklist)
- the manual handling of cylinders.
You can carry out the assessment yourself or get an expert in from a reputable gas supplier, such as BOC Sureflow which has teamed up with brewer Scottish Courage for a health and safety campaign.
The gas company has also launched a new Cellawise training video to help licensees fulfil their legal obligation to train barstaff in cellar safety without the need for expensive training courses or consultant'