Knowledge on Tap: Parts of a Draft Beer System

parts of a draft beer system

Every bar or restaurant needs a dependable draft beer dispensing system if it wants to be able to satisfy all of its customers. Sure, it’s easy enough to hire a professional to come and install your system (and we highly recommend you do that), but if you really care about the product you offer to your customers, it’s a good idea to have at least a basic understanding of how your draft beer dispensing system works.  

  1. CO2 or Mixed (CO2/Nitrogen) Tanks

These tanks, or more specifically the pressurized gas within them, are the thing that helps propel your beer from the keg to the faucet. When this pressurized gas is pushed into the keg through the coupler, it forces the beer out into the beer line where it eventually travels up to the tap so you can pour a pint on demand.

  1. Primary Regulator

The contents of the gas inside your tank are under a tremendous amount of pressure. If you’re not careful about controlling this pressure, the beer dispensed will be a foamy mess that no one wants to drink. The regulator helps prevent this problem and ensures that your gas does its job. Typically, a primary regulator will have both a high-pressure and low-pressure gauge so you can quickly identify and troubleshoot any problems.

  1. Air Lines (Green and Purple)

These food-grade vinyl lines help transport the gas from the tank to the rest of your dispensing system. Typically, they attach directly to a nipple on the regulator with a screw clamp. Many bars choose to use red tubing (or a different color) to help easily differentiate the air line from the beer line.

  1. Gas Blender

A thoughtful draft beer program should be ready to offer customers a good deal of variety. Of course, for successful dispensing, many of these beers require different types of gases (CO2, Nitrogen, or a blend of both). Your gas blender allows you to easily dispense several different beers requiring a specific gas blend of CO2 and Nitrogen. With a gas blender, you don’t have to maintain a specifically blended gas tank for a given brew.

  1. Secondary Regulator

When dispensing multiple kegs off of a single tank, a secondary regulator helps ensure that each keg is dispensed at exactly the right pressure. The primary regulator attached directly to the tank is still necessary as a troubleshooting component at the point of dispense, but the secondary regulator allows for individual pressures. Similar to a gas blender, this helps you save space by not needing a separate tank at a separate pressure for each brew you want to dispense.

  1. Keg Coupler

Your coupler attaches directly to the keg with an air-tight seal. The probe of the coupler pushes directly into the keg valve and acts as a critical junction point in your draft beer dispensing. The coupler has two nipples—one for the air line to attach (so the gas gets pushed into the keg) and one for the beer line to attach (so the beer gets pushed out). Ensuring that your lines are connected tightly to those attachments is a quick thing to check if a given keg isn’t pouring the right way. Please note, couplers come in a variety of different shapes and sizes to match the variety of kegs that different breweries use to package their product. The most widely used coupler is the US Sankey (D System), but it’s possible (perhaps even likely) that you’ll need at least one or two other styles of couplers for your dispensing.

  1. Beer Lines (Orange)

The beer line is essentially the exact same thing as the air line, except it attaches directly to the coupler on one side and the shank or faucet on the other and carries beer instead of gas.

  1. Glycol Trunk Line (Blue, Red, Black)

For most commercial draft beer dispensing systems, and ANY system that has a considerable distance between the kegs and the faucets, a glycol cooling solution makes sense. A glycol system is powered by a power pack that contains a mixture of food-grade antifreeze and water. This mixture is powered through product lines that rest directly next to your beer lines inside of an insulated foam trunk line. With this setup, your beer can travel up to 500 feet and maintain a steady, perfectly chilled temperature so you can be confident that every pint you pour is up to the exacting specifications of even your most demanding customers. Glycol trunk line can be configured to provide chilling for virtually as many beer lines as you need (although you may require multiple trunk lines and/or chillers to get the job done correctly).

  1. Glycol Chiller

A Glycol Chiller, also known as a glycol power pack, is specifically designed to accommodate long draw draft beer systems; or, when the kegs are stored in a cooler up to 500 feet from where the beer is being served.  A glycol power pack features an air-cooled compressor, glycol bath, and a pump for glycol recirculation. KegWorks carries glycol chillers with a powerful condensing unit for efficient dispensing even in high ambient temperatures. A glycol chiller provides dependable chilling power that keeps your beer cold, and nothing is more important than that.

  1. Draft Beer Tower

A draft beer tower is where all of your beer lines are housed. Inside the beer tower, beer lines attach to a shank or faucet. Towers come in a huge variety of shapes and configurations to match your dispensing and aesthetic needs exactly. You can even choose whether your tower will attach directly to the top of the bar, your wall, or maybe even your ceiling.

  1. Draft Beer Faucets (With Tap Handles)

The part of your draft beer system that you’re probably most intimately familiar with are the draft beer faucets. Essentially, these are the levers you pull to pour the beer, but don’t be confused into thinking that all draft beer faucets are exactly the same. A standard economy faucet will certainly let you pull a basic pour, but premium options from Perlick (the market leader in draft beer faucets) help you provide a better overall experience for your customer by controlling the flow, offering creamer action, and generally allowing for a more sanitary experience that presents your beer in the finest possible light.

  1. Drip Tray

Who likes to constantly be wiping up drips or spills? A drip tray is a seemingly insignificant detail that can make a big difference in the efficiency of your service and overall cleanliness of your establishment.

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