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Perfect pints – born in the cellar, raised at the bar

By The Morning Advertiser

- Last updated on GMT

Best celler: ‘a great pint will always be in demand and will see your customers returning time and time again – especially key at a time when recommendations and repeat business are more important than ever,’ Heineken UK’s Jerry Shedden said.
Best celler: ‘a great pint will always be in demand and will see your customers returning time and time again – especially key at a time when recommendations and repeat business are more important than ever,’ Heineken UK’s Jerry Shedden said.

Related tags: Heineken, Cellar, Cellar management, Beer, Lager

Even in the throes of a global pandemic, maintaining a stellar pub cellar is far from small beer, especially with potentially lower product throughput. The Morning Advertiser looks at how Covid-19 has shifted demand downstairs.

Pub cellar tool kit

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Slack​​ – “The whole business runs on Slack. It’s a great way to communicate with anyone in the business, especially when organising events, sharing photos and content,” Pete Walker of east London’s Pembury Tavern previously told The Morning Advertiser (MA)​.

Untappd​​ – The social drinking app allows Kayleigh Thompson of Ei Group pub, the Tap on Tower Street in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, to scout popular local beers while letting brewers gauge how their drinks are selling.

Microsoft Excel​ – According to Jemima Withey of the Turks Head in Hasketon, Suffolk, the humble Excel spreadsheet is vital in her staff managing the GBPA-finalist freehouse’s cellar.

Rekki​​ – Rekki is a free app that lets you purchase from and chat with your suppliers, report issues and keep track of your order history all in one place. 

Any alarm app​ – “If we want a particular product that is hard to get hold of we will set an alarm on our phones so we’re ready to go online. It’s first come first served with various people.” Sam Cornwall-Jones of the Drawing Board in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire – winner of the Best for Beer category at the 2019 Great British Pub Awards – previously told The MA​.

Phone​​ – “The danger I’d have thought with using too much internet is that you’re not talking direct to people anymore, which means it’s harder to negotiate. If you’re trying to get a good price, if you can speak to people you’ve got a fighting chance,” says Cornwall-Jones.

Hello Beer​ – Heineken’s Jerry Shedden says all SmartDispense customers are able to benefit from Heineken’s newly-launched Hello Beer app free of charge. “This staff-training programme covers everything from perfect pour to cellar management, enabling bar staff to not only deliver a great customer experience every time, but further reduce any beer or cider wastage in drip trays,” he explains

According to new data from CGA, pubs, bars and restaurants under the Government’s ‘high’ Covid alert measures saw a sales drop of between 46% and 54% from Thursday 15 October to Saturday 17 October, while venues in the ‘very high’ tier saw daily sales fall between 60% and 62% year-on-year across the same period​. 

Irrespective of tiering, Britain’s pubs could collectively lose £47,532,015 for each week they are subject to the 10pm curfew​, according to research by The Morning Advertiser (MA).

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Office of National Statistics (ONS) data from August 2020, shows the average cost of a pint in the UK is £3.80 and that 8,059,495,997 pints were sold last year. This means people in the UK buy 22,080,810 pints a day on average, equating to 1,380,050 pints an hour (taking into account 16 hours trading time per day). 

With quantity of beer sold slipping against the pandemic backdrop, Jerry Shedden, category and trade marketing director at Heineken UK, stresses that maintaining quality across the board is paramount. 

“Consumers want a quality pint, a quality venue and quality customer service,” he tells The Morning Advertiser (MA).​“We pride ourselves on the support we provide our customers and, as we navigate this new climate together, it’s important to consider changes you can make to develop your business and enhance the customer experience. 

“New Government restrictions and changing consumer behaviour have impacted on-trade outlets’ throughputs, but it’s imperative you’re serving consistently high-quality pints. After all, a great pint will always be in demand and will see your customers returning time and time again – especially key at a time when recommendations and repeat business are more important than ever.”  

How to maintain quality and profitability

According to Heineken UK’s category and trade marketing director Jerry Shedden, the fact that 90% of beer and cider sales come from draught makes the dispense system “the beating heart” of any pub. 

“Heineken SmartDispense is an industry-leading business solution, connecting dispense technology with service and the insights that an operator needs to improve their quality, reduce waste and save time,” he explains.

“Thanks to its unique cooling and dispense technology, SmartDispense enables you to serve beer and cider at sub 3°C (the most refreshing temperature), at a consistently great quality. 

“Operators don’t need to line clean every week, extending from every seven days to six- or even twelve-weekly, meaning they improve their profitability and environmental impact – saving time, cleaning materials, water and gas. 

“For the average pub, this equates to 1,500 pints of beer and cider, 10,000 pints of water and 156 cleaning hours saved.” 

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Shedden continues that SmartDispense boasts a wide range of systems available to suit every size and type of business. 

“You can create additional serving stations to help with social distancing of both staff and customers, or to provide dedicated serving spaces for areas like function rooms to maximise capacity safely within current guidelines. 

“Additional tools within the SmartDispense family provide data driven insights to help increase your profitability and our team of professional technicians are always on hand to take care of line cleaning and routine checks, allowing you to focus on giving your customers a great experience.” 

What’s more, Shedden adds that by investing in SmartDispense customers receive access to the Heineken Buying Club which offers further savings across a variety of other services – in turn saving outlets time negotiating with suppliers and saving money through exclusive discounts. 

Heineken estimates that the average pub could see annual cost reductions of £5,000 through its Buying Club.

How have cellar routines changed?

Pandemic or no, stellar cellar management is the fulcrum of any pub’s success as it yields both high quality products and boosts profitability, according to Shedden. 

However routines have been inevitably shaken up by the Government’s Covid-secure guidance and social distancing measures​ – which are understandably difficult to implement in confined, often poorly ventilated, space below decks.

“If possible, only one member of staff should enter the cellar per session to facilitate social distancing – washing their hands thoroughly beforehand and afterwards,” he explains. “Consider having a dedicated person or couple of people for cellar management throughout the week. 

As such, Shedden pinpoints that it is crucial for publicans to treat their cellar as they would any food preparation area, adhere to best hygiene practices, and follow a handful of key steps.

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Wash your cellar floor and walls every week​, and ensure all spillages are cleaned up immediately. Unclean cellars mean the surrounding air is dirty, which is particularly dangerous for cask beer, which draws in a pint of air with every pint poured. Open all cellar doors or hatches and let fresh air circulate as frequently as possible – Shedden recommends for about 10 minutes at a time. 

Ensure line cleaning is carried out to correct procedures​ every seven days, using brewery recommended detergent. Remove and clean nozzles in hot water after every session, use sanitiser spray for keg couplers, keg wells and cask taps, and ensure the sump is clean and working correctly. Always wear the correct personal protective equipment when line cleaning. 

Keep cellars at a constant temperature of 11-13°C​ by installing a wall-mounted thermometer, regularly topping up cooling equipment with water, checking fans and condensers are free from dust and blockages, and keeping a planned schedule of maintenance to avoid costly breakdowns. 

Avoid using your cellar for general storage​, as this places an additional burden on the cooling system and in turn affects its efficiency. When the system works harder to stay cool, this increases the amount of energy and therefore costs. Do not store food products in the cellar, as this may cause cross contamination or infection to the beer and cider. 

Turn off the gas supply between serving sessions​ to prevent the keg becoming over-carbonated, while minimising the health and safety risk of a CO2​ leak in a confined space. Over-carbonation upsets the optimum gas levels inside the keg, which can result in fobbing and wastage.

Line cleaning

Line cleaning should be carried out at least once every seven days using brewery approved line cleaner and to the correct dilution. 

If regular line cleaning is neglected, wild yeast and bacterial infection will result in fobbing and wastage. Cleaning lines regularly and correctly will reduce wastage: if you move from selling 70-80% beer through clean lines to over 90%, keg yield increases by 15%.  

The time and money saved by skipping a line clean will be greatly outweighed by the amount lost through reduced sales and wasted beer and cider.

There are three key areas when line cleaning:

  • Keg Couplers cleaned with sanitiser spray or scrubbed in a diluted beer line cleaner and rinsed in fresh water
  • FOB Detector needs to be thoroughly cleaned by pulling beer line cleaner through the bleed valve
  • Nozzle and tap.  Nozzles need to be removed after every session and cleaned with sanitiser or hot water then left to dry. Never soak in soda water
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Simple checklist for staff when line cleaning: 

Do

  • Clean lines every seven days with brewery recommended detergent.
  • Ensure line cleaning bottle is thoroughly cleaned to a high standard.
  • Cask taps to be cleaned after each cask has emptied and the line flushed with fresh water
  • Use lots of fresh cold water to flush through the lines.
  • Pay attention to Keg Coupler, FOB Detector, Tap 

Don’t

  • Use garden-type hoses to top up cleaning bottles
  • Leave water in the cleaning bottle
  • Leave water in the lines
  • Leave nozzles & Sparklers in carbonated or cold tap water

Potential cost savings

Amid the Covid-induced squeeze on pub finances across the Government’s various pandemic alert levels, keeping costs low is a hot topic.

According to a November 2019 report by Vianet titled The Profit Opportunity Through Game Changing Insight​​, one-in-three (29%) pints of beer are served through unclean lines​ with an estimated £593m in profit poured away each year through ‘substandard’ beer quality.

This data is backed by The Cask Report 2019​​, which found that having good cellar practices improves yields by 7%, and that good beer quality adds 3% to beer sales – which can add an extra £5,500 to the average pub’s bottom-line.

Singer

On top of this, Beer Piper’s Jeff Singer​ previously told The MA ​that “trouble-shooting some classic money wasting areas behind the scenes” can ensure that publicans can both run cellars efficiently and make significant long-term savings.

A study by Beer Piper found the average pub wastes 20 pints a week via inefficient line cleaning, costing £74, while 40m pints are thrown away each year needlessly at an overall cost of £147m. 

Singer told The MA​ that while coolers are an integral part of the cellar, if not properly maintained the heat produced by these machines can increase cellar cooling costs by more than £100 a year.

If the space is available, he suggests moving all remote coolers – and any other cooling or refrigeration units – outside the beer cellar as they emit heat from their condenser systems.

What’s more, Singer adds that while cellar cooling systems should always be turned on and the cellar fan should run continuously, this can be quite costly as typical running costs for an average pub are around £1,500 a year.

To avoid costly replacements or increased running costs, Singer suggests publicans periodically check that the fan blades and grills on both indoor and outdoor units are clean and not blocked, as blocked grills can increase running costs by up to 40%. 

Maintaining your glasswasher

Glasswashers need to be emptied after every trading session or, if your venue is open all day, emptied and refilled at least twice 

At the end of the final session, glasswashers should be empty, with arms and filters removed and cleaned as per manufacturer’s guidelines. Most importantly, the door must be left open. 

It’s always a good idea to add renovate to an empty machine once a week and run it through five cycles which will clean and descale the machine.  

Heineken UK recommends Clenaware Solutions for innovative, environmentally friendly solutions to maintain your glassware. Discount available in the Heineken Buying Club.

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Born in the cellar, raised at the bar

A great quality pint starts in the cellar but doesn’t end there, according to Shedden, who adds that aspects such as glassware are integral to delivering a perfect pint and a first-rate drinker experience. 

“It’s essential that bartenders are handling glassware correctly and maintaining high standards when serving customers,” he explains. 

“Encourage staff to wash their hands frequently, ideally in a sink at the bar or by using hand sanitising gel in front of customers, to demonstrate that they take hygiene seriously.” 

Consider hand hygiene​, including what part of the glass belongs to the bartender – the bottom third is for bar staff and the top two thirds are for customers. Always hold glasses at the bottom and do not touch the rim, even when collecting used glasses.

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Insist on a clean, washed glass every time​ for each customer as used glassware increases the chance of cross contamination. This is particularly important with cask ale, as the ‘swan-neck spout’ has to be dipped into the beer to ensure the perfect pint.

Ensure your glasswasher reaches a wash temperature of 55°C​ and rinses at 65°C​, to kill bacteria and viruses. Leave glasses to air-dry afterwards as towels can transfer bacteria and fibres to the glass. 

Store glasses in an inverted position on ventilated drip mats​. Or, for outlets hanging glasses above the bar, wash each glass in detergent and then rinse and sparge in clean, fresh water every time you take it down, as they’re more at risk of contamination by people sneezing and coughing at the bar. 

All shelves and drying mats, bar runners, and bars and countertops​ should be thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis and during service. Make sure you clean the cloths used for wiping and cleaning regularly too. Finally, use sanitising tablets for cleaning beer nozzles after every trading session.

In case of closure

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Speaking in March, Cask Marque set out how to look after cask and keg in the event of enforced pub closure​ due to Covid-19.

  • Clean all cask and keg lines as per usual procedure
  • Do not leave water in beer lines, empty keg lines by blowing and pulling water through until just air remains or fill lines with a protector
  • All couplers should be sanitised and attached to ring main sockets
  • Remove hop filters from cask lines and hang the lines off the floor
  • Clean all cask equipment in sanitiser and leave to dry
  • Turn remote coolers off at the plug
  • If there are still unbroached kegs in the cellar, keep cooling fans on to preserve the life of stock otherwise, turn fans off and return any unused and in date stock to supplier
  • Deep clean cellar walls, floors and sumps with sanitiser
  • Ensure all empty casks are corked and stored securely
  • Ensure all glassware is clean and stored on ventilated matting
  • Drain glass washer, clean all filters and inner surfaces, turn off and leave door open
  • Empty ice machines, sanitise internal surfaces, switch off and leave door open
  • Remove sparklers and nozzles from spouts, clean in hot water and leave to air dry
  • Remove stock from bottle coolers and optic rails, switch off fridges and leave open
  • Carry out regular checks in the cellar (if possible) for damp, pests and ventilation

“It is important pubs, bars and hotels close down their beer dispense equipment using the correct procedures so when allowed to open again, their dispense equipment will be in good condition,” Cask Marque director Paul Nunny explained. 

“The advice will also save money as they should return their surplus, in date, stock to their supplier.”

Related topics: Professional Services & Utilities

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