Something Old, Something New: Dispensing Draft from the Barrel
With the growing popularity of barrel programs, brewers like Sam Calagione, founder of Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, dreamed of a better draft-dispensing system that would allow beer to be served straight from wooden barrels.
While beer has long been served from tapped barrels, the traditional gravity-fed system had its drawbacks—namely, that beer could easily become oxidized or spoiled, it was difficult to control ideal serving temperature, and it was typically rather flat.
So Calagione reached out to Charles Kleinrichert of AC Beverage, a Maryland-based draft system company, with an idea. The result is Rack AeriAle, a nitrogen draft-dispensing system that updates the barrel-dispensing systems of old with new technology allowing beer from barrels to be chilled and infused with nitrogen and carbon-dioxide gas on the way to the glass.
“Rack AeriAle allows barrel-aged beer to be dispensed directly from the barrel while being able to chill product to desired serving temperature and adjust a gas level by adding carbon dioxide and nitrogen inline on the way to the faucet,” Kleinrichert says. “The barrels are kept under a nitrogen gas blanket to prevent oxygen contact with the product, assuring that the beer will be preserved while in the barrel. This eliminates the need for another transfer of the beer into kegs, further ensuring [the] freshness of barrel-aged beer.”
AC Beverage hopes the technology will catch on in bars, breweries, and restaurants. “A self-contained unit with onboard gassing modules, [a] flash chiller, and dispensing towers, it can be situated in the taproom or behind the bar to lend a strong visual impact for any barrel-aging program,” Kleinrichert says. “It can also be integrated into existing draft systems.”