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Cheers To A Good Pint, Cellar Management

Britons have been enjoying ale since the Bronze Age, but pubs as we know them have their origins in ‘tabernae’, which arrived here with the Romans. Today there are approximately 150,000 licensed premises in the UK and providing the public with a premium product is a serious business – particularly when disposable income has fallen and a trip to the pub has to be a more considered decision.

Drips cost money

The downturn makes effective cellar management more important than ever when you consider that a single drip tray of waste per line per day in a standard pub can cost up to £14,000 a year in lost sales. Research shows that good quality drinks dispense and cellar management training can improve yields by some 3% and sales by 7%.

The other good news is that pub closures have slowed to 12 a week compared with 50 a week three years ago when the recession first began to bite. There has also been a resurgence in the popularity of cask ale with an increase in the number of women and young people wanting to try something a bit different.

What is real ale

Real ale is stored in casks, which are designed to retain sediment and allow air in so ‘secondary fermentation’ can occur; in other words the completion of the brewing process takes place in the cask downstairs in the pub cellar. The beer is dispensed from the same container. Lager and keg beer are stored in a metal keg that has a centrally located downtube and a valve that allows beer in and gas out when filling and vice versa. The beer is dispensed under gas pressure.

Serving a good quality product, whether real ale, keg beer or lager, is primarily a matter of good cellar management

Training, that old chestnut

Serving a good quality product, whether real ale, keg beer or lager, is primarily a matter of good cellar management. There are many ways that the flavour of a product can be adversely affected after its arrival on the premises – through poor temperature control, stock rotation and hygiene systems – and there is no substitute for proper training. Courses such as Innserve’s ‘InnSitu’ will give staff the chance to learn to operate their own familiar equipment correctly on site. In the meantime, there are some fundamental tips that publicans can apply to maintain a first-class dispense system, avoid unnecessary callouts, keep energy bills low and save money by avoiding the tragic wastage of good beer.

Temperature control

Temperature control is the first crucial consideration; cellars should be maintained between 11˚C and 13˚C to keep beer at its best. The size and type of cellar will influence the choice of cooling and refrigeration options, which may include keg cooling cabinets, and professional advice can be invaluable. An efficient, well-maintained cooler can save up to £1000 a year in energy costs and there is more energy saving potential in programming remote coolers to optimise power consumption.

Innserve has a plug-in energysaving device, InnEnergy, that typically saves 30% of running costs. Under-bar coolers should be topped up with water and have their grills cleaned regularly to keep them running efficiently. Not doing so can lose you up to 40% in wasted energy costs.

The cellar is an important place for any pub and needs to be looked after

Stock rotation

Properly managed stock rotation is also crucial for to that perfect pint. When selecting the next container for dispense, ensure that it’s been in the cellar for at least 48 hours, check the ‘best before’ date, remove the cap and make sure it is clean. Don’t forget that beer is a food product and should be treated accordingly. A keg should be on dispense for no more than five days and a cask for no more than three.

Depending on the brand, most casks should be in position for 48 hours with a soft peg before the ale is put on sale. Insert a clean tap every time and under no circumstances return old beer to a new container – it will contaminate the fresh beer. If connecting a keg, check that the coupler is clean and that both washers are intact. Missing or damaged washers could result in leaks and wasted beer.

Gas dispense systems can vary but, regardless of which one you have, the same issues apply: health and safety, selecting the right gas and connecting the cylinder up correctly. Make sure that the cylinder is chained up vertically when you do this for obvious safety reasons. Similarly, check the washers to prevent any gas leaks and double check that you have selected the correct mix before turning the gas on. The wrong mix will result in sadly flat or frothing beers.and stock rotation as well as improving the bottom line through keeping waste to a minimum.

Clean and bright

Cleaning also requires good management systems and a clear understanding of how the equipment works. The complete line system – from the coupler right through to the dispense tap – should be cleaned every seven days. Beware the common mistake of accidentally leaving the system in cleaning mode afterwards instead of resetting to dispense. Also, make sure that remote coolers are turned off prior to line cleaning so that the cleaning solutions aren’t frozen in the lines – not a good taste.

Spouts on kegs and casks should be removed every night and soaked in a clean glass of water. Take care not to put the wrong spout back on the wrong tap. Mixing lager and ale spouts could mean fizzy ale and flat lager.

Take pride in your pint

Cellar standards have fallen noticeably as the wholesale price of beer has increased: throughputs have been reduced, cleaning regimes have slipped and beer is being kept on sale longer. A proactive approach to cellar management and effective training will ensure that staff really understand the product and the importance of cleaning and stock rotation as well as improving the bottom line through keeping waste to a minimum.

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