Cellar standards pay off at the taps

Cleanliness key to a quality pint at the Elizabethan, as Matthew Lynas reports

• The Elizabethan Bar and Lounge in Fraserburgh picked up the 2013 SLTN Beer Quality Award.
• The Elizabethan Bar and Lounge in Fraserburgh picked up the 2013 SLTN Beer Quality Award.

WITH cask ale pump clips decorating the walls and a broad range of branded glassware behind the bar, the draught focus at Fraserburgh pub the Elizabethan is clear to anyone entering the venue.

And a clean and well-organised cellar is key to maintaining standards, according to owner Raymond Forsyth.
“I think we’re obviously a very draught-driven bar,” Raymond told SLTN last week.
“It’s about 69% of our sales. It’s not just important, it’s what our livelihood is built on.”
Raymond has owned the Elizabethan, which won the 2013 SLTN Beer Quality Award, sponsored by Tennent’s, for six years. But his experience in the trade goes back a lot further than that.
When they were growing up Raymond and his brothers were often drafted in to help out in their father’s bar.
“When we were kids we were packing shelves in the bar,” he said.
“I think we always got it instilled in us that keeping the bar and the cellars clean is important.”
That commitment to cleanliness has been carried into the Elizabethan, where the process of ensuring the perfect serve across ten keg and three cask products begins in the cellar.
“The cleaner the cellar is, the less chance of contaminant to the beer,” said Raymond, highlighting the basics of cellar management as the starting point for a quality pint.
“Keep stock in the proper order, oldest kegs first, rotating the kegs at the right times,” he said.
“Cellar temperature is also very important.
“We have two thermometers, one at the cooler and one at the further end of the cellar.”
Routine breeds consistency, and at the Elizabethan, the task of cleaning the cellar is undertaken by staff every Monday ahead of the bar’s main beer delivery on Tuesday.
Thursday is ‘line cleaning day’ at the Fraserburgh venue and Raymond currently uses a retired cellar technician for the job.

The cleaner the cellar is, the less chance of contaminant to the beer.

The weekly visit from the expert is a routine which not only ensures lines are cleaned professionally, but also provides the Elizabethan with a weekly inspection allowing staff to keep on top of any issues that may crop up.
“He [the technician] can find a fault sometimes that might be missed and if it’s small he’ll repair it and if it’s major he’ll leave a note,” said Raymond.
Implementing these practices in the cellar goes a long way to producing a quality pint but it seems publicans can’t rely on routine alone.
One particular aspect of Raymond’s management of the Elizabethan which impressed SLTN Awards judges was his ability to respond to feedback from brewers.
“Raymond prides himself on quality, which is what his customers have come to expect,” said Stephen Dickson, quality co-ordinator for Tennent’s, which sponsored the SLTN Beer Quality Award for 2013.
“A key factor in that is a willingness to take advice.
“Customer perception has changed.
“Customers are looking for quality in every pint which can only be achieved through listening to techs.”
Dickson said the relationship between publican and brewer is important if both are to meet the demands of a quality-conscious public.
“How we dispense has changed, customers want a head, they want bubbles – the effervescence of a pint,” he added.
“So to achieve that we have to get everything right. We rely on publicans more than ever.”
At the Elizabethan, the key to a perfect pint involves respecting the expertise of others in addition to running a tight ship.
“I think the main thing is don’t be scared to pick up the phone and speak to your brewery and ask for advice,” said Raymond.
“It’s worth speaking to the techs, especially if there’s something giving you problems; go and ask them ‘what should we do to make this better?’
“If you don’t do it you’re putting yourself in a position to fail.
“People do DIY but a joiner is a joiner, a plumber is a plumber and a spark is a spark.
“The tech is a tech for a reason.”
Opening up lines of communication at each stage of the operation, from brewery to customer, can pay dividends according to Raymond.

It’s working with everyone that goes a long way, from the rep all the way through.

“Get a good relationship with the tech and delivery guy,” he added.
“Keep the place tidy for them and they’ll help you out.
“It’s working with everyone that goes a long way, right from the rep all the way through.
“When you’re paying for a service you might as well use that service.”
As important as it is to get things right in the cellar, publicans with clean beer lines can sometimes fall at the last hurdle.
Cellar management best practices such as those implemented at the Elizabethan Bar and Lounge will help ensure a quality product makes it all the way to the tap, but it’s all for nothing if the liquid is poured into a poor container, according to Raymond.
“There’s no point in keeping your cellar clean and lines clean if you serve the beer in a wet glass,” he said.
“It’s a major part of the end product. Have the proper glassware cleaned and renovated.
“Make sure staff know what they’re doing.
“That’s down to staff training.
“Each pub should have individual training because different pubs do things different ways.”
For the moment, staff training at the Elizabethan is all handled in-house.
Raymond said he is considering putting some staff through Cask Marque-accredited courses in the future, but as a compliment to, rather than a replacement for, his in-house approach.
“The Cask Marque is brilliant but you also need hands-on experience,” he said.
“Experience means a lot.”