How to prep your draft system for an extended closure during the COVID-19 shutdown

beer bars beer trends Mar 19, 2020

Our draft system at Old Devil Moon in San Francisco has been fully prepped to weather the coronavirus shutdown and be in good shape when it’s time to reopen

These are trying times for those of us in the service industry. In San Francisco, we’re the first city in the US to have all bars and restaurants ordered shuttered to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but we will not be the last. It’s likely this will happen nearly nationwide over the coming weeks.

If you have to shut down for weeks or even months, how do you prep and leave your draft system during that period so you don’t end up having to replace infected lines later? Luckily, Master Cicerone and co-author of the Brewers Association’s Draught Beer Quality Manual, Neil Witte, has you covered. He wrote up recommendations here, however, I’ve broken his recommendations down into simple bite sized bits and the main headlines for those who don’t want to read the whole thing (sort of like what I do in my Beer Scholar Study Guides for the Cicerone Exams, ha). Here’s what you need to know:

  1. The first step is to clean your beer lines!

  2. Take apart and clean all your faucets, then reattach them but do not cover their spouts with a cap or plastic wrap because that traps moisture and encourages mold growth.

  3. Scrub all couplers and leave them unattached to kegs.

  4. There are two options going forward from there —

    1. Leave beer in the lines and do regular two week cleanings. This may not be the best option in the age of COVID-19 as closures are likely to be longer than 2 weeks.

    2. Fill the lines with clean tap water and leave it alone. (Ideally, you’d use de-chlorinated water, but chlorine is only an issue for certain types of lines used in long draw glycol systems.)

  5. Keep your keg cooler on at it’s regular temp so your kegged beer doesn’t rapidly deteriorate and because a warm cooler encourages mold growth.

  6. For glycol systems —

    1. If you leave beer in the lines don’t change the glycol temp. Raising the glycol temp will encourage faster bacterial and biofilm growth

    2. If you leave water in the lines raise the glycol temp to 40F to avoid freezing that water and damaging your draft system (don’t forget to record the temp it was at so you can put it back there when you reopen for business!).

    3. If your glycol power pack doesn’t allow you to change the temp of the glycol, blow the rinse water out of your lines using CO2 (you don’t want the beer lines to just fill with oxygen/air and whatever bacteria is in it).

  7. Turn off gas to the system. This prevents dangerous or expensive leaks.

  8. Clean & dry the inside of your cooler as well as the kegs that are in it to avoid mold growth.

    Repeat these steps EVERY FOUR WEEKS during the shutdown

    DO NOT leave chemicals in the lines

    DO NOT leave couplers on kegs

    DO NOT turn coolers off or turn their temp up

    DO NOT seal off faucets

    DO NOT shut off glycol power pack

And that’s it! It’s a bit of a hassle, but hey, we’ve all got a lot of extra time on our hands these days. It’ll be sooo worth doing all this now rather than coming in later and realizing you need to change out all your beer lines or do some kind of hard core deep cleaning. Get on it folks and good luck weathering this storm!

beer bars beer trends