BRINGING BACK THE DRAFT
A Brewing Staple Modernizes Fast
The beer business may not be booming, but the attractions of a cold draft beer still can boost operator business. And some of the best minds in the beverage alcohol business are taking the draft beer experience to the next level for consumers while fattening the bottom line for operators. The changes include everything from colder beers to cleaner lines and systematic program upgrades.
“There are a lot of things going on,” says Tom Geordt, director of training and business development, MicroMatic, Northridge, CA, a distributor that handles draft systems. “The latest craze is basically trying to improve the quality of dispensing.” One way manufacturers are doing that is by using stainless steel for all surfaces that come into contact with the beer, something he calls “an industry buzzword” in today’s market.
CLEANER, FRESHER DRAFT
“It seems like we’ve had so many issues with cleanliness and wrong gases and such that stainless steel is becoming the craze now,” Geordt notes. “In our industry, until now brass and chrome-plated have been the accepted practice. Now we’re trying to move to stainless steel contact to improve the quality of dispensing.”
The change is “paying dividends,” he adds. “Finally, sales of draft beer are on the increase again. People are noticing a difference in quality and taste.” Stainless steel, a stand-by in restaurant kitchens for years, is key to ensuring equipment cleanliness.
“Finally, sales of draft beer are on the increase again.”
Like Geordt, John Beck, president of Beck Marketing Solutions, applauds the shift from brass to stainless steel faucets. “Brass wears in time, while stainless steel is very durable. It’s used in the back of the house of restaurants, and restaurateurs are very familiar with cleanliness, sanitation, etc.”
Beck, who headed up a discussion at the Cheers Conference last February on the latest developments in beer system technology, says advances in gas-blending technology are another important factor to future changes in the draft business. He notes one firm in particular, McDantin Gas Blending Technologies in Helena, MT, which manufactures a gas-blender system that has been used in Europe for 10 to 15 years, is only now starting to penetrate the U.S.
“It’s a system that pulls gases from your restaurant, whether it’s CO2 or nitrogen, and condenses it,” he says. “Then that is the air that pushes through the system. Basically it helps blend the gases from your restaurant with your tanks.”
The other thing Beck has observed “and I’m not saying whether it’s right or wrong” has to do with customer preference.
“There is some movement out there to serve what I would call colder draft beer,” he says. One such system, made by Blizzard Beer Systems, stores beer in a traditional keg cooler, but at the point at which it nears the faucet “the technology drops the beer temperature from the cooler that’s being stored at 34