Home brewers are a unique breed, often passionate about their craft but highly individual at the same time. Some may be meticulous in their precision while other adopt a more “fly by the seat of their pants” methodology. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that no two homebrewer’s are the same, and both metholdogies CAN produce outstanding beer if the basic brewing best practices are accounted for. I don’t advocate a one-size-fits-all approach to brewing, but i do think there are certain rules that will greatly improve everyone’s enjoyment of the craft.
One of the first lesson’s most of us learn is to “Clean, Clean, Clean” or “Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize,” (in reality, two difference processes) which are rightfully a hallmark of quality brewing. What is often neglected, at least for my own personal experience, is the same level of effort when dealing with your draft system and serving practices. This is not just a problem from homebrewers, many commercial beer establishments suffer from a lack of educated severs and managers that do not have the knowledge or appreciation to adopt industry best practices. During my studies for the Certified Cicerone (r) exam, it was enlightening to read the commercial literature and see just how applicable it could be to many homebrewers. If we are to consider the quality of our homebrew to be equivalent to commercial beers, let’s present it that way.
I highly recommend everyone takes a quick look at the Draft Beer Quality Manual (DQM), which is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in serving great beer.
- According to the DQM, we should be conducting routine cleaning of our beer lines and faucets every 14 days.
- This may not be practical for homebrewers, but I think a good rule of thumb is for routine cleaning every month, and a “deep” clean every quarter. (See page 52 of DQM)
- There is a significant difference between StarSan, PBW, and BLC (Beer Line Cleaner)
- Beer Line Cleaner is the preferred cleaner for beer lines and faucets, ***personnel protective equipment (gloves) should be used when dealing with cleaning agents.
- Any time your lines have been exposed to warm temperatures for a considerable amount of time or your changing a sour beers or even a cider, a deeper cleaning is likely warranted as well.
- If using a “Standard” faucet, dissemble and manual cleaning should occur on a routine basis.
- Be careful to clean vent holes and inspect all moving parts.
- Finally, know when it’s time to push “RESET,” installing new beer/gas lines is fairly inexpensive and should be part of yearly maintenance.
- Glassware Cleaning is just as important as the draft system.
- See Chapter 7 in DQM
- Learn what “Beer Clean” is!
- Don’t put the faucet in your beer when pouring.
- Enjoy beer with an appropriate glass.
- Temperature matters (Ice-cold glasses are typically not advised) for a variety of reasons
- See Chapter 7 in DQM
Regardless of your brewing style, setup, or methodology; proper draft system maintenance is important for all beers to be enjoyed at their peak. The DQM provides a great reference, but for many of us, we need to just start somewhere. If you haven’t ever cleaned your lines or faucets, I recommend installing new lines and keep track of your future maintenance with a simple log. Everyone who enjoys your beer will appreciate it!