Re-opening your cellar and bar – six steps for success and saving money

By Jeff Singer, Commercial Manager, Beer Piper

The COVID19 outbreak, and subsequent hospitality outlet closures, have had a huge impact on the nation’s pub and bar industry. 

Although some outlets have managed to pivot their offering to provide take-out food, and others have successfully claimed business grants offered by the government to support the industry during this time, some have seen battles with rent, breweries and property landlords meaning that any remaining money is dwindling. 

It’s a sober fact for many that kick starting a business after such a long time will have many challenges, but being prepared for the green light – whenever it may be – is a wise decision to make, so you can hit the ground running when this tragic crisis eases off and the country starts to regain some normality. 

Here, Jeff Singer from Beer Piper talks us through his six tips for preparing your cellar and lines before re-opening: 

1. Get the temperatures right in cellar coolers 

In readiness for opening, turn the cellar coolers on and ensure the cellar is chilled down to the correct temperature before you receive for your first delivery of draught beers.

You will need to switch your cellar cooling system back on at least 48 hours before you physically serve your first pint to a customer. This will ensure that your cask and kegs are stored at approximately 12oC, which is the recommended optimal temperature.

If your beer is not stored at the correct temperature, many problems can arise that will cause you to either serve a poor pint to your customer or increase fobbing – both of which can cost you money.

If you sell keg beers, the temperature needs to be kept constant – this is because your brewery engineer sets gas pressures for your keg beers and these gas pressures are fixed according to your cellar temperature – if your cellar temperature goes up and down like a yo-yo then it makes it impossible for your brewery engineer to fix the pressure correctly. Keg beers flow through additional ‘remote’ coolers on the way to the beer taps on the bar and these additional ‘remote’ coolers only work properly if the beer flowing into them isn’t warmer than 12oC. 

If you sell cask beers in your pub or bar, then these need to be kept cold or they will go sour very quickly and taste of vinegar. However we can’t make cask beers too cold or they suffer from a problem called ‘chill haze’ – this makes the beer in your pint glass look hazy and unappetising. 12oC (53.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is the perfect balance between keeping your cask beer fresh and not having these ‘chill haze’ problems. 

2. Coolers at the ready 

Turn all remote coolers on (if they have been turned off), and ensure they are filled with water and glycol to the correct levels. 

Remote coolers are there to take the temperature of the beer down from cellar temperature (of around 12oC) to the correct dispense temperature and as with your cellar cooling unit, remote coolers should be kept running constantly. 

Ideally, remote coolers – and any other cooling or refrigeration units – should be situated outside the beer cellar as they emit heat from their condenser systems. Did you know that a freezer located in your beer cellar can increase your cellar cooling costs by over £100 a year? Always keep the cooling grills on the outside of the unit free from dust and dirt. A single typical remote cooler costs approximately £500 a year to run, and it’s crucial they are kept in good condition. 

When a remote cooler is installed it should be sited with plenty of space around it. The space is there for a reason – to enable air to circulate around the unit. Half covering the grills on the side means half the cooling capacity.

To top up with water to the correct level, look for the top-up point on top of the cooler with an overflow. The water should just cover the ice bank and coils. If there is a glycol top-up point, make sure the unit is topped up with the correct strength of glycol. If you notice this is low then call your cellar services engineer to come and replenish the system.

3. Spray all keg couplers and sockets

Give all keg couplers and cleaning sockets a spray and clean with a specific tap and keg sanitiser.

When keg beers leave the brewery gates there is very little live yeast to be found in the keg as it has been conditioned and pasteurised beforehand. Any growth of yeast in your keg lines comes from particles of wild yeast in the atmosphere and there are only three points within your ‘sealed’ dispense system that it can get into your lines:

1. Your keg coupler.

2. The bleed tube on the fobber.

3. The taps on the bar.

By using a sanitiser spray on the keg and its couplers, and sanitiser tablets on the beer nozzles and sparklers, you will help reduce the ingress. 

A ’pre-mixed’ sanitiser spray should be sprayed onto the inside of all your keg sockets and couplers then cleaned with a keg brush before you refill your lines with beer and then on every subsequent barrel change.

4. Sanitise your sparklers 

Remove all beer nozzles and sparklers, and ensure they are all washed, cleaned and sanitised with sanitiser tablets. You can leave them to soak overnight for a thorough clean. 

Many publicans or bar owners simply soak sparklers, nozzles and creamers in soda water overnight and re-attach them the next day, but is the soda water actually doing anything? It may shock you to know that the answer is no!  Quite simply, soda water is just tap water with added carbon dioxide (CO²).  

The problem here is that, while stronger acids such as lemon juice will dissolve sugars, the carbonic acid in soda water (caused by the CO² being forced to dissolve into the water) is very weak and when this reacts with any sugar residue it merely makes it stick onto the plastic. Soda water has some anti-microbial properties but these are not very strong and, when compared to the beer residues you are trying to clean from nozzles, it’s just not effective enough. 

The best and safest method is to use a low concentration chlorine ‘sanitiser’ tablet dissolved in water. Don’t use a random beer glass when using these chemicals, always have a dedicated, properly-labelled cleaning glass or tub. Think; safety first, followed by cleanliness.

A small tap brush should be used to remove any built-up of proteins, yeasts and sugars from the insides of the beer taps, this should also be performed with any fixed spouts where you cannot remove the end to soak.

5. Get your lines ready

If beer has been left to stagnate inside your lines during the lock-down, there is a significant risk the lines could have developed irreversible bacterial contamination, which can lead to gas leak hazards or a costly draught line replacement. 

If the lines have been left with beer, water or even ‘blown out’ we recommend you carry out a thorough deep clean before filling them with beer – but do make sure they are in good condition, and haven’t fallen victim to any contamination. 

During the forced closure period, beer lines should have been properly shut down and, if possible, filled with a long-term line sanitiser, such as Dispense Line Sanitiser by Chemisphere, that can be left in the lines for up to six months. 

If lines have been filled with a longer-term line sanitising product, thoroughly rinse them out with fresh clean water before cleaning with a product such as Chemisphere Pipeline, then fill with beer!

6. Wash your glassware  

Lastly, even if they look clean, wash all glasses, glassware and any other implements such as cocktail shakers, stirrers and juicing tools prior to opening, as they could have gathered dust, grime or lost their sparkle during the closure period.  A run through the pot washer will ensure they’re all freshly cleaned and ready for use when the doors re-open.