Can you run a non-wild through a tap line that was previously occupied by a wild?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Immortale25, Dec 15, 2013.

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  1. Immortale25

    Immortale25 Poo-Bah (3,049) May 13, 2011 North Carolina

    A thread recently posted about taps having individual serving temps reminded me of a question I've had concerning sours/wilds and taps. A bar near me often has quite a few wilds/sours on tap at any given time and they rotate kegs frequently. I'm not sure if they do this or not, but can you put a "normal" beer on a tap that was previously occupied by a wild/sour ale? This is of course assuming that the line has been purged with water or glycol or whatever (my draft knowledge is obviously limited) before the "normal" beer is hooked up.
  2. Immortale25

    Immortale25 Poo-Bah (3,049) May 13, 2011 North Carolina

    I guess I should give some background on the question: the reason I ask is someone told me you can't because, if there's any trace amounts of wild yeast in the line, it can inoculate a "normal" beer once it comes into contact with it causing off flavors. Just trying to prove or disprove that. Thanks.
  3. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (4,471) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
    Moderator Society Trader

    I would have to think that, if they properly clean their lines, it shouldn't be a problem. I don't know the definitive answer, but there shouldn't be anything magical about wild yeasts that make them more resilient than any bacteria that might otherwise inhabit a line.
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  4. Immortale25

    Immortale25 Poo-Bah (3,049) May 13, 2011 North Carolina

    Obviously, if the line was fully cleaned, it wouldn't be an issue but that only happens every 2-3 weeks. I'm talking about if say, Tilquin Gueuze kicks, they run water through the line and replace it with Brooklyn Lager (a sad transition, I know).
    Roguer likes this.

    BJRHOMEBREW Initiate (0) Dec 18, 2008 Ohio

    I would say the simple answer to your question is yes, wild yeast could be resilient enough to survive a proper cleaning and in turn contaminate a non-sour beer. However I would think that the time the non sour beer is in the line before serving would not be long enough for any lingering bacteria to cause a change in the profile of the beer.
    velcrogrip, sneezye, Hirshi and 2 others like this.
  6. LotsofLupulin

    LotsofLupulin Initiate (0) May 5, 2012 Colorado

    Most establishments will always clean their lines when switching styles, especially from a wild ale. The caustic solution that they use will ensure that no wild yeast or bacteria remain in the lines.
  7. alucardswordlol

    alucardswordlol Initiate (0) Sep 7, 2013 North Carolina

    What we usually do is tap the new keg and run around a pitcher of beer to try and catch whatever's left in there and dump it or give to the bold. If it's really quiet we will clean the lines and change the keg. Generally we have taps designated to a style of beer to try and minimize the funkification of he new beer lol
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  8. BigPlay1824

    BigPlay1824 Initiate (0) Oct 13, 2010 New York

    I'd tend to agree with the sentiment from above. As long as the lines are cleaned between using caustic, or at the very least run through with water and poured off a bit before the new beer is put up for sale, I think it should be fine. I have been told by a guy in the line cleaning business that he has had issues with Ommegang Rare Vos actually deteriorating the lines. He said this is the only beer he has ever seen do that and he's seen it more than once. Not sure how true it is or if that's even physically possible given the resiliency of draft lines but just some food for thought
  9. alucardswordlol

    alucardswordlol Initiate (0) Sep 7, 2013 North Carolina

    Wow I'll need to take note of that rare vos info. Anyone else seen this?
  10. JrGtr

    JrGtr Disciple (397) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    I would think that if a bar is switching beers (as opposed to putting a new keg of the same thing on) they would do a thorough cleaning of the lines. Presumeing they did not, however, I don't think any leftover bugs would have time to contribute any souring to the new beer, unless it was a first beer of the day, and I don't think that even an overnight contact would do anything.
  11. theconductor

    theconductor Initiate (184) Nov 4, 2008 California

    The only beer that has yet to ruin the line for the next beer for us was a habenero beer. Never again!

    Wild ales, which we tap often, have yet to effect the ensuing product.
    devlishdamsel and nickfl like this.
  12. afrokaze

    afrokaze Zealot (548) Jun 12, 2009 Arizona

    We clean the lines at my bar each week, but we don't typically clean them when switching from regular to wild/sour beers other than clearing the line with the new beer; the positive pressure in the lines helps keep yeast from infecting a new keg. Even if those bugs got into another keg, the high pressure and alcohol environment would keep them from doing much of anything. Just clean your lines on the regs and you should be good.
  13. Immortale25

    Immortale25 Poo-Bah (3,049) May 13, 2011 North Carolina

    So, if a keg kicks and that's the last keg of that particular beer, you just don't replace it with something else until the next scheduled line cleaning? I don't think so. Maybe your idea of thorough line cleaning is different from mine but I've seen, once one beer's kicked, a new beer go on a line after a simple water/glycol flush.
  14. tbaker397

    tbaker397 Initiate (0) Nov 9, 2013 West Virginia

    It's actually (at least in my case) a special cleaning solution we use at our bar. Now, we don't do anything with Wilds/Sours because im in West Virginia and our state sucks for beer. But if we need to just tap a keg and keg (say one kicks friday night and cant get it cleaned til Monday) we always make sure to do something heavier so there is no chance of lingering effects. If that is what we do then we get it cleaned asap. Just my 2cents
  15. rather

    rather Aspirant (202) May 31, 2013 California

    hah I've seen that with habenero sculpin

    at a bar I frequent they typically just run water then a pitcher of the new beer if they change the beer
  16. jacewg

    jacewg Zealot (592) Jan 7, 2012 District of Columbia

    Terrible, terrible idea. Anytime a wild beer comes off, the line must be soaked in a 3% or so (4% if the beer is super sour) caustic solution. This is also the case with any beer with chilis or heavily spiced. Can't tell you how many places I've had a beer that had tasted like Great Lakes Christmas even after the keg is long gone.
  17. jacewg

    jacewg Zealot (592) Jan 7, 2012 District of Columbia

    And yes, people in the bar industry HATE chili beers. It took two recirculating cleanings before we could get the Habanero Sculpin flavor out of our draft lines.
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  18. Prince_Casual

    Prince_Casual Disciple (338) Nov 3, 2012 District of Columbia

    I'm gonna go ahead and say my establishment has one or two of the 8 lines as sour/wild/brett beer at pretty much all times. We rotate through different kegs constantly and all we do is pour off about 2 pints to purge, taste it, and start pouring with the new beer.

    Grand total of zero complaints of infected beer, ever, including tons of growler fills, in 2 years.

    Distributor paid for, thorough solution cleanings once a week. This is a really high volume (sixtel a day per line) 8 tap rig. Maybe those 100 line joints have different issues than I am aware of.
  19. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Initiate (0) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado

    A bit off topic but relevant I believe. What people have said about running off a quantity of a beer that's just been tapped is just another cost of doing business that many people forget about so when someone says a bar makes a ton of money off tap beer, they don't take into account these types of actions that all contribute to the bottom line.
    Immortale25 likes this.
  20. Aye

    Aye Initiate (0) Jul 21, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    Some breweries give a discount/allowance for unusable beer left in a cask. Some unscrupulous landlords have ways of recycling beer that has been drawn off when changing barrels or just when the beer has lain in the line overnight and isn't cellar temp. This was one reason keg beers where hailed as the best thing since sliced bread, kegs weren't as easily accessible to landlords who wanted to reintroduce beer back into the keg. As an old hand at either side of a bar, I have heard of and seen much sharp practice over the years.
  21. Aye

    Aye Initiate (0) Jul 21, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    And I agree, a thorough line cleaning with whatever cleaning agent you use will kill any yeast, wild or not.
  22. dogglebe

    dogglebe Initiate (85) Feb 12, 2013 New York

    Don't forget that the glycol chillers in the lines will keep everything cold enough for the bug-yeast to go dormant.
  23. DougC123

    DougC123 Disciple (330) Aug 21, 2012 Connecticut

    You keep talking about a glycol flush. Glycol is used to cool remote draw lines, it is not a cleaner. Water cleans as well as beer, to really clean a draft line you need to use BLC which is designed for that. Most bars change kegs on the fly and have a service that comes in at set intervals to run BLC through the lines as it requires a time to shut the taps down.
  24. Immortale25

    Immortale25 Poo-Bah (3,049) May 13, 2011 North Carolina

    Then maybe I'm thinking BLC is glycol. What is BLC? I know that at the place I bartend we hook up a container with water and something else to the tap to clean it out in between kegs of different beer.
  25. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (10,924) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania

    I worked at a brewpub that had infected lines because they didn't clean them all the way back to the tank. They simply disconnected and cleaned the couple of feet going to the faucets. Eventually the infection in the lines leading to the taps worked its way back into the serving tanks and ruined the entire batch. I started to clean those lines and there were no more infected beers. I used sodium hydroxide, or "caustic"... "BLC" is a variation that uses potassium hydroxide, which is also "caustic".

    That was a different system though, line-wise, and size-wise... If a keg had been switched and the line run clear until the taste was OK the bacteria might remain, but it probably wouldn't have time to work itself back into the new keg before it was emptied and changed, or the lines were actually cleaned (usually once a week - at least bi-weekly for cheaters).

    As to high pressure, alcohol, and cold temperature keeping bacteria at bay - no. High pressure, alcohol, and cold temperature do not inhibit bacterial growth. But for how long would they be at work? If the turn-over is quick they won't get very far before a new keg goes on.

    So can you put a regular beer on tap after running a sour beer? Yes, you'll just have to clean the lines at some point. The source of the initial statement that inspired the question of this thread is probably more linked to what jacewg mentioned: if the lines pick up the flavor of the beer (chilis, spices, even raspberry) it can take a long time to get those flavors to fade even if the lines are thoroughly cleaned.
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  26. sweetcell

    sweetcell Initiate (94) Dec 6, 2013 Maryland

    brett, lacto and pedio take month to make their presence felt in a beer. a few hours (or even days) contact in a line is going to have zero souring impact on the new beer.

    what will affect the taste of the beer much faster is a line dirtied with any old beer, sour/brett'ed/etc or not. a standard cleaning regime should keep the new beer tasting as it should, regardless of what came before.
    Spaceloaf likes this.
  27. Tballz420

    Tballz420 Meyvn (1,099) Mar 4, 2003 Minnesota

    Its kind of sad that most homebrewers who keg have better sanitation practices for their lines than many bars that serve beer.
  28. Spaceloaf

    Spaceloaf Initiate (0) Nov 27, 2008 Oregon

    Ding! Sweetcell has the correct answer.

    Actually even a month is probably too quick. Souring bacteria might produce some detectible taste after a month when they are intentionally pitched into an fresh wort with lots of fermentable sugars.

    If you consider the small amount of residual bacteria in a line placed into an already fermented beer I bet it would take several months. Basically the keg would long have gone flat and oxidized by the time any perceptible sourness developed.

    If you taste anything strange it's because you're tasting the old beer, not the effects of bacteria.
    nickfl likes this.
  29. DougC123

    DougC123 Disciple (330) Aug 21, 2012 Connecticut

    BLC = Beer Line Cleaner.
  30. jroberts8811

    jroberts8811 Initiate (0) Jan 19, 2013 Missouri

    lines only cleaned every 2-3 weeks? They're putting a quality product through the lines, why risk contamination by not cleaning with each keg change? Thats like not brushing your grill between cooking sessions.
  31. Immortale25

    Immortale25 Poo-Bah (3,049) May 13, 2011 North Carolina

    I'm talking about the distributor paid for thorough solution cleanings that occur every 1-2 weeks. I said 2-3 weeks at first because a long time ago I heard you can get away with not cleaning the lines for three weeks at a time but that two weeks is optimal. Apparently two weeks is now the bare minimum and once every week is optimal.
  32. JAramini

    JAramini Aspirant (221) Jun 5, 2005 New York

    Maybe "sad" but kind of understandable too. I have one keg in my kegerator, with the room to add a second. I also don't have to worry about the 100 other things that come with running a bar. Pretty simple to clean my single draft line every so often.
  33. jroberts8811

    jroberts8811 Initiate (0) Jan 19, 2013 Missouri

    Guess I'm spoiled by my local go-to. Lines cleaned with every keg change. Nothing left to chance.
  34. El_Zilcho

    El_Zilcho Initiate (0) May 3, 2012 Virginia

    You guys have places that clean their lines?
  35. sweetcell

    sweetcell Initiate (94) Dec 6, 2013 Maryland

    you go to places that don't? :stuck_out_tongue:

    seriously tho, cleaning after every keg might be overkill but once every few weeks is required IMO.
  36. Eriktheipaman

    Eriktheipaman Savant (952) Sep 4, 2010 California

    I agree. I am always surprised how many bars would refuse to take certain kegs from me (we use a lot of Brett) unless it's on their "wild" line. I get being cautious but I've never seen an issue with it personally. Acetobactor is a different story though...
  37. afrokaze

    afrokaze Zealot (548) Jun 12, 2009 Arizona

    Agreed. You reminded me that the only real danger I've seen for sour beer infections is wild yeast getting in the lines while changing between different couplers, especially when lots of great sours come in key kegs.
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