Draft Beer Systems

Beer Draught Essentials: Choosing the Best System for Your Bar

February 18, 2024
Beer Draught Essentials: Choosing the Best System for Your Bar

Draught beer, also known as draught or draft beer only, is a popular choice among beer aficionados and casual drinkers alike. Served from a cask or keg rather than a bottle or can, draught beer often represents the freshest and most flavorful manifestation of beer, offering a diverse range of styles and tastes.

This method of serving draught beer generally tastes and has been refined since the development of the beer engine in the 18th century, which greatly enhanced the ease and quality of draught beer service.

The quality of draught beer is influenced by multiple factors including the storage temperature, the beer line cleanliness, and the gas used for pressurization.

Serving draught beer at the correct temperature is crucial for achieving the perfect balance of carbonation and flavor.

Cleanliness of the lines through which beer is served ensures the freshest taste, and the choice of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, or a mixture of both gases helps determine the beer's mouthfeel and appearance.

Key Takeaways

  • Draught beer provides a fresh and flavorful beer experience served from kegs or casks.
  • Multiple factors like serving temperature, line cleanliness, and gas used for pressurization affect the quality of draught beer.
  • Draught beer systems are a sophisticated technology ensuring optimal delivery from keg to glass for varied styles of beer.

The Basics of Draught Beer

Draught beer represents the epitome of beer fresh, crisp, and flavor, offering a distinct contrast to its bottled and canned counterparts. This is primarily due to its fresh dispensing method, temperature preservation, and precise carbonation.

Guinness Draft

Components of Draught Systems

Draught systems are essential in delivering the fresh taste of draft beer. At the core of these systems are the kegs where the beer is stored under pressure.

Carbon dioxide or a blend of nitrogen and CO2 propels the beer from the keg through the beer trunk lines to the tap. Consistency in temperature and pressure is key to maintaining the beer's carbonation and flavor profile.

To illustrate, here's a breakdown of a standarddraught system's main elements:

  • Keg: A container typically made of stainless steel that holds the beer.
  • CO2 or Beer Gas Cylinder: Supplies pressure to push beer from the keg.
  • Regulator: Manages the gas pressure that is applied to the keg.
  • Beer Line: Conduits that carry beer from the keg to the faucet.
  • Draft Tower and Faucet: The point of dispense where beer is poured into glasses.

Each component works harmoniously to ensure the draft beer that reaches the consumer is as refreshing and flavorful as intended.

Keg Types and Sizes

Kegs come in various types and sizes, tailored to the requirements of various establishments and events. Understanding the different options helps to determine the best fit for a given setting.

Common beer keg sizes can include:

  • Full Keg (Half Barrel): Holds about 15.5 gallons or 124 pints of beer.
  • Pony Keg (Quarter Barrel): Contains roughly 7.75 gallons or 62 pints.
  • Sixth Barrel: Often called "sixtels," they hold 5.16 gallons or about 41 pints.
  • Cornelius Keg: Typically used by homebrewers, with a capacity of 5 gallons.
Different Keg Sizes

Each keg size serves a specific function, from the full keg's suitability for large-scale service to mini-kegs that are perfect for small gatherings or personal use. When selecting a keg, considerations such as volume, consumption rate, and available space are paramount.

Serving and Enjoyment

The experience of draught beer is greatly enhanced by mastering the art of serving, which involves proper pouring techniques, understanding the influence of temperature and carbonation, and choosing the right glassware.

Perfect Pouring Techniques

To pour a draught beer with excellence, one should start by holding a clean pint glass at a 45-degree angle and aim the pour to the middle of the slope, not directly at the bottom.

This method allows the beer to cascade gently, creating a smooth beer with the ideal amount of foam—about an inch thick.

As the glass fills to the halfway point, gradually tilt it upright and pour the remaining beer down the center to top off the perfect pint, ensuring a rich, creamy texture.

Serving Temperatures and Carbonation

The serving temperature and carbonation level of draught beer is pivotal to its overall enjoyment.

Each style of beer has an optimal temperature that showcases its unique flavors and aromatics.

Generally, most beers should be chilled to 36-38°F, while darker, maltier beers shine at warmer temperatures.

Properly maintained tap lines ensure that carbonation is preserved, contributing to the desired mouthfeel and preserving the beer's true character.

Glassware Selection

Selecting the right glassware is not mere presentation—it affects the sensory experience of draught, not all draft beer though.

The shape of the glass can influence the formation and retention of foam, the release of aromas, and even the beer's temperature.

For instance, a wide-mouthed glass may be ideal for aromatic beers, enhancing their scent and flavor profile.

On the other hand, a narrow, taller glass might best preserve the carbonation and temperature of a lighter, crisper beer. Glassware should always be "beer clean," free from impurities that might detract from the beer's quality.

Styles and Varieties of Draught Beer

Draught beer encompasses a diverse spectrum of flavors and brewing styles, each offering a unique experience attributed to its specific fermentation process and ingredients. The keystone to understanding its breadth lies in distinguishing the differences between ales and lagers and exploring the various noteworthy draft selections available.

Ale vs Lager Varieties

Ales are characterized by their top-fermentation process at warmer temperatures, yielding a broad flavor range from fruity and spicy to rich and robust.

Craft beers, including IPAs (India Pale Ales) and pale ales, typically fall within this category, offering a hop-centric taste.

On the other hand, lagers undergo bottom fermentation at cooler temperatures, creating a crisper and cleaner profile.

  • Ale Varieties: IPA, Pale Ale, Stout, Porter
  • Lager Varieties: Pilsner, Bock, Helles, Dunkel

Noteworthy Draught Selections

Amidst the draught beer variety, certain beer styles stand out.

Cask ale, sometimes referred to as real ale, presents an unfiltered and traditionally conditioned form. It's revered for its complexity and natural carbonation resulting from traditional cask fermentation.

Furthermore, iconic selections like Guinness offer a distinct, creamy texture due to the use of nitrogen rather than carbon dioxide.

Unfiltered craft beers often retain more yeast and proteins than bottled beers, leading to a richer mouthfeel and flavor.

Craft beer aficionados tend to appreciate the unique qualities imparted by small-scale brewing methods and localized flavor profiles.

  • Cask Ales: Unfiltered, Fermented in Cask, Naturally Carbonated
  • Standouts: Guinness, Craft Beer Varieties, Miller Genuine Draft

Technical Aspects of Draught Systems

Draught systems are a symphony of engineering precision and brewing artistry. The technical aspects of these systems are critical for ensuring the quality of beer served is up to the highest standards.

Maintaining and Cleaning Systems

Proper maintenance and cleaning are paramount in draught systems to maintain beer quality and system longevity.

Every keg, tap, and beer engine must be routinely sanitized to prevent the buildup of microorganisms and beer stones within the tap lines. Hygiene cannot be compromised.

For instance, the Brewers Association has published guidelines indicating that tap lines should be cleaned at intervals of no more than two weeks to ensure the taste and quality of the beer remains unaltered.

Cleaning a Beer System is pivotal for a great Pouring system

Carbonation Techniques

Carbonation in draught systems can be achieved through natural carbonation or artificial carbonation.

Natural carbonation occurs within the keg as yeast ferments, while artificial carbonation involves the infusion of carbon dioxide or a blend of carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas under pressure.

The balancing of these gases is essential as it affects the beer's bubble size and overall mouthfeel. A nitrogen widget may be used in some containers like cans or bottles to create a smooth, creamy texture upon serving.

Innovations in Draught Technology

Draught technology continually evolves to enhance beer quality and serving experiences.

Innovations include advanced keg tracking systems and pressurized growlers that allow beer enthusiasts to take draught beer home with minimal quality loss.

Preventing oxygen ingress that can lead to beer oxidation is a key focus. The use of nitrogen gas in systems has also grown popular, providing a different texture and preserving the carbonation levels appropriately.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, readers will find concise answers to common queries about draught beer, helping to clarify its characteristics, service, and consumption.

What is the difference between draft and draught beer?

The term 'draft' prefers traditional cask beer and 'draught' beer is used interchangeably to refer to beer that is served from a keg or cask rather than from a bottle or can.

How does draught beer differ from bottled beer?

Draught beer is typically fresher since it is served directly from a keg, which can preserve the beer's flavor and texture better than the pasteurization process that canned or bottled beers of beer often undergo.

What is the typical alcohol content in draught beer?

The alcohol content in draught beer can vary widely depending on the style, but generally falls within the same range as most bottled or canned beer varieties, anywhere from 3% to 12% ABV (alcohol by volume).

Why might someone prefer draught beer over other forms?

Some may prefer draught beer for its perceived freshness, the ritual of having it poured from a tap, and the social experience of enjoying a pint at a bar or brewery.

What are the standard serving sizes for draught beer?

Standard serving sizes for draught beer typically include the pint (16 ounces in the United States, but 20 ounces in the UK), half-pint, schooner (in Australia), and smaller tasting sizes, which might range from 4 to 8 ounces.


Draught beer, also known as traditional cask beer or draft beer, is a method of serving beverages directly from a pressurized keg or cask.

The draw of a draught beer is its freshness. It typically surpasses that of canned beer or bottled beer due to minimal exposure to light and oxygen.

Draught beer systems use carbon dioxide or a blend of nitrogen and carbon dioxide to push the beer from the keg and maintain its carbonation and unique taste profiles.

Several types of draught systems exist:

  • Pressurized tap systems, common in bars and restaurants, where CO2 is used.
  • Hand pumps, a more traditional approach, common in the UK, use cask-conditioned ale without added pressure.

As for the benefits, draught beer is often perceived to offer a superior taste.

The industry sees innovation with campaigns advocating for draught beer started and relief measures to support the production and distribution of draught beer.

Quality manuals and industry summits, such as those attended by the Brewers Association, highlight the commitment to excellence in serving practices and product preservation.

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