A MINI-heatwave a couple of weeks ago followed by a rapid return to temperatures more in line with a typical Scottish summer only served to highlight just how unpredictable the weather can be at this time of year.
And that unpredictability brings more than a few challenges for the trade – not least of which can be maintaining the optimum temperature in the cellar.
According to the latest Beer Quality Report from Cask Marque, Scottish pubs are the worst offenders when it comes to serving beer at too warm a temperature, with the authors of the study putting the blame squarely on poor cellar management.
Steve Lakin of Innserve said it’s crucial licensees keep a close eye on the cellar thermometer – especially during the summer – as changes in temperature can have a major impact on the quality of an outlet’s beer.
Too cold, and casks will not condition correctly – leading to flat beer and the possibility of a chill haze developing; too warm, and the cellar is likely to deliver fobbing beer, according to Lakin.
“Heatwaves should never happen in a pub cellar,” he said.
“A well-run outlet will ensure cellars are kept at the right temperature – between 11ºC and 13ºC – all year round as both cask and keg beers are sensitive products which react badly to fluctuations in temperature.”
Echoing this view was Dougie Stoddart of commercial cooling equipment firm Hubbard Products, who said that year-round temperature control is a “critical factor” in maintaining high quality beer.
“Licensees should regularly check their cellar temperature,” he said.
“It should constantly be around 11ºC to 13ºC; anything above or below this is likely to result in increased ullage and loss of revenue.
“Cellar doors should at no time be left open and the conditioning equipment never switched off at night. Cask beer conditions better at these temperatures and the gas pressure on dispense for keg is set for beer to be held at this temperature.”
• Make sure the cellar operates at the right temperature. Given the growth in cask and craft products, getting this right has never been more important.
• Keep the cellar clean. Any risk of contamination should be eradicated through simple practices like mopping floors daily and ventilating the cellar.
• Ensure fob detectors are free of yeast by cleaning lines every seven days. This can slip to the bottom of a to-do list but its importance cannot be understated.
• Use containers in the correct rotation order, making sure the oldest containers are used first and within their best before date. Make sure staff are trained on this.
• Always keep ROS at more than one keg per week or one cask every three days. Ensure the quality of the beer doesn’t deteriorate by keeping turnover high.
Supplied by Molson Coors.
Just as important as the temperature of the cellar is maintaining a high standard of cleanliness.
And with many pubs stocking more cask and keg beers than before as the craft beer boom continues, regular cleaning and maintenance schedules have arguably never been so important.
Stephen Trezona of Clear Brew said: “With faster turnover and more products being switched in and out, it’s important that good hygiene standards are maintained.
“Are lines being flushed when the guest line changes between beers?
“Make sure you have a routine, eg. a set day for beer line cleaning and general cellar management tasks – make sure this is scheduled and not just ‘when we get the chance’.
“These are critical tasks and letting them slip can be costly, both in terms of time you won’t have on a busy night and in terms of wastage from poorly maintained products.”
Trezona also advised licensees write a checklist for general maintenance tasks, such as checking gas levels, checking coolers and checking keg dates to ensure correct stock rotation.
“Maintaining these things regularly can save you dealing with issues when you have a bar full of impatient customers,” he said.
“Staff with access to the cellar should be trained to understand your cellar management practices and why they are important. They must understand its impact on what is a critical part of your livelihood.”
Stoddart of Hubbard Products took a similar stance, stating that “beer is a food and the cellar should be treated like a kitchen.”
“All spillages should be cleaned up immediately, and it is a good idea to clear the cellar at least once a week,” he said.
“Hygiene is very important, and the performance of the cellar conditioning equipment has a material effect on beer quality.
“It’s very much a case of a ‘stitch in time saves nine’ – long-term professional management of cellar conditioning equipment will ensure it lasts longer, performs more efficiently throughout its life.”
Simon Gray, dispense manager at Heineken UK, said the impact of good cellar management on draught beer quality cannot be underestimated.
“A consistently great draught drink experience supports customer loyalty, is a quality barometer, building a positive reputation for any bar – remember the best reason for ordering a second pint is the quality of the first one,” he said.