Clean those taplines!

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by BBThunderbolt, Feb 22, 2020.

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  1. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (7,314) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    I don't know how common this is, but when I lived in Eugene Oregon, I was advised by one beer bar that one of their distributors would clean the tap lines for them. I had never heard of a distributor doing that, but just for the reason you mentioned, it struck me as a smart idea.
     
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  2. DcVines

    DcVines Initiate (0) Dec 27, 2019

    In my experience, medium to large distributors usually have someone they will send out to clean their account's lines if requested. There are a million little restaurants and cafes that have maybe 3 or 4 FOH staff that are not always inclined to deal with acid line cleaner and such.
     
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  3. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Meyvn (1,390) May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Society Trader

    This begs the question- would you rather have a clean tap line with a bad beer in it or a dirty tap line with a whale in it?
     
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  4. craigbelly

    craigbelly Poo-Bah (1,702) Dec 31, 2015 Iowa
    Society Trader

    Distributors fight over beer lines at most anywhere. All any place has to do is tell them you might switch and those lines will be cleaned asap. Being a former bar owner all my distributors had a line cleaning schedule they put on the back of the walk-in cooler door.
     
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  5. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (9,994) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
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    That's virtually non-existent in the PNW. WA and OR have laws about what distributors can give to accounts, and this service would, likely, be among the prohibited things. It's up to each establishment to handle it. There are services that most smaller places use for tap cleaning.
     
  6. -Andrew-

    -Andrew- Savant (917) Jul 22, 2013 Michigan
    Society

    Don't ever, ever drink from the tap at hotels.

    Source: I clean lines for work, and I have seen some :poop:
     
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  7. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,671) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    I'll take door #3, neither.
     
  8. hoptheology

    hoptheology Poo-Bah (5,931) May 12, 2014 California
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    I had a lineup of Prairie stouts at their taproom in Tulsa, one of them being Bourbon Paradise which I have had before several times. All of them tasted absolutely terrible. The beertender said he didn't notice, I was like how can you not. Tasted like old wet Cheerios and spit up baby food.

    There is no excuse for this, not these days, and not in the professional realm.
     
  9. henrikb

    henrikb Initiate (62) May 19, 2019 Wisconsin

    I'd get a Cuba Libre or a Gin and Tonic. Simple, hard to mess up cocktails. That js if I have to have something boozy or there is no other place I could go eat.
     
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  10. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (9,994) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
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    When was the last time they cleaned the lines on the gun? More sugar goes through those than beer lines, and, I'm not sure I've ever heard of them being cleaned. :wink:
     
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  11. JoeBloe

    JoeBloe Defender (653) Nov 16, 2007 New York

    I remember working on a shoot at a very famous 'deli' in NYC - I had to duck behind the counter where the beer taps were located during each take - I noticed a bit of fruit-fly activity - some would make their way into the open end of the tap - then I noticed the larvae I could see through the clear plastic tap lines clinging to the inside wall of the tubing - - good stuff!
     
  12. pbrian

    pbrian Crusader (752) Feb 8, 2001 Connecticut

    I worked for a small Bud distributor in Idaho, essentially serving the Sun Valley area, and we would clean tap lines religiously. So it’s not just medium and big distributors. In fact, I would argue that the small ones have more control over the process. What sucked is the other distributors knew we kept clean lines so they would sometimes switch their beer to your lines, fuckers
     
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  13. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,671) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    Different distributors have designated lines?! I suppose it makes sense after reading in posts above about some distributors providing that service, yet bars do purchase from multiple distributors. Learn something new everyday.
     
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  14. pbrian

    pbrian Crusader (752) Feb 8, 2001 Connecticut

    well, in the small market where we were, it’s not like a particular line was “yours”, but if your beer was always on that line and you cleaned that line, etc., yeah, it was yours.

    this was all in the early 90’s mind you, so just a bunch of heresy today, so take these comments for what you will
     
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  15. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,530) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Yeah, most states have similar laws (generally lumped together as "tied house" laws which regulate the relationship between the retailer and the wholesaler and/or brewery) but line cleaning isn't always prohibited, IIRC, and, as noted in some posts. A few years ago* there was a local Milwaukee newspaper story about the lack of rules in Wisconsin (NG's Dan Carey was quoted) and it was picked up by the AP wire service and, so, discussed around here. I seem to remember the claim that in some states it was the distributor's responsibility to either clean them or hire an outside firm to do it.(EDIT - found the Micromatic chart below or at https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cvzm-P1WIAElwdJ?format=jpg&name=medium ).

    *well, it looks like it was 2007 - so change that to "over dozen".

    [​IMG]
     
    #55 jesskidden, Feb 25, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2020
  16. rousee

    rousee Meyvn (1,071) Aug 13, 2004 Massachusetts
    Trader

    I was hoping this thread would have a bunch of places being called out by name for dirty tap lines and thought it would be amusing. In honor of today being Fat Tuesday, I'll say most bars in New Orleans have disgusting tap lines and unless I'm at Avenue pub or some dedicated beer place (even these can be questionable at times) or some brewery down there--I stick to bottles. Some hotels on the Las Vegas strip also have gross tap lines (Paris-I'm lookin at you ).
     
  17. ManBearPat

    ManBearPat Zealot (531) Dec 2, 2014 Colorado

    While many BA’s love to name drop first names of brewers and others, I’m surprised to hear no one other than us calling out specifically awful places...

    I thought we were ‘advocates’ for beer so I’m wondering why we aren’t getting the names of places with fruit fly larvae in the lines- seems antithetical to the advocacy of beer to withhold such information.
     
  18. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Meyvn (1,390) May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Society Trader

    You almost made me spit out my fruit fly adunct lager in agreement.
     
  19. Dan_K

    Dan_K Zealot (520) Nov 8, 2013 Colorado
    Trader

    Or uber-thick imperial stouts even.
     
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  20. readyski

    readyski Defender (605) Jun 4, 2005 California
    Society Trader

    So how can we determine which lines at the bar are "clean"? Are they the ones that glow? Asking for a friend...
     
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  21. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,671) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    Hmmmm, good question, I'll suggest asking the bartender "which lines are clean." If there is a 'dirty lines' issue maybe by asking the question that way (instead of asking "if they clean their lines") you'll be implying that you're on to something. (Or you could be pissing off the bartender too.)
     
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  22. FrankenMiller

    FrankenMiller Aspirant (218) Mar 5, 2014 Florida
    Trader

    Here in FL... all of the Bud and Miller houses have guys that rotate through the bars cleaning the lines. They will only clean the lines have have their beer on them. ( I know a bar that on the morning they know he is coming they put on 2 or 3 more kegs from that beer house in order to get the lines cleaned)

    The craft houses in my area all employ the same local guys to clean their taps. They get paid per tap, so they will clean whatever tap they are told to.

    At least I know the taps in my area get cleaned.
     
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  23. billandsuz

    billandsuz Zealot (511) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Running a draft beer installation and maintenance company I can tell you specific chain and ma and pa operations that do not do even the most basic cleaning. But I won't. Just know that however vivid your imagination you are probably missing half of the horror shows out there. Puke and snot everywhere at some places. Demand better. Call them out on it. Be that guy.

    There are a few reasons why some places don't clean their lines. Keep in mind that every state has it's own specific regulations.
    • It costs money. Cheap owners are just too damn cheap. They don't care enough.
    • It costs beer. Every time a line is emptied a few ounces to a few pints are lost.
    • It's not required. The same health dept. inspector that writes a violation because the milk is 42F does not know enough to question the appalling food being served in the pint glass.
    • Customers don't always put 2 and 2 together. People pay. Owner makes profit. Why change?
    • Some dude is charging $2 per line and that dude is putting in a $2 per line effort. It's a race to the bottom. Yes, we see rates as low as $2 per line. Fucking $12 per cleaning?! What the hell does that buy?
    The news is getting out there though as we sometimes get calls for cleaning service. Since we only clean and maintain systems we have installed we don't really want to be involved with an owner who thinks it's ok to pay attention once every three years. But things are slowly improving.

    That's just one guys observations from the inside.

    Cheers
     
  24. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,530) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    This is something the Brewers Association and all their state and federal lobbyists should be doing now that they're already paying less excise tax on a barrel of beer than brewers did in 1934 (and that's NOT adjusted for inflation) and many formerly restrictive laws (tied house, abv maximum, etc) no longer in effect:
    Enacting state laws mandating line cleaning within specific time periods, with state or county health inspectors monitoring it, including certification in full view of the customer.
     
  25. billandsuz

    billandsuz Zealot (511) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    I agree that some oversight is needed but am fairly horrified at the thought of the distro getting involved. For starters the health department needs to be educated. It seems obvious.

    As it is the distro routinely step on independent guys like me. I mean, I can't compete with free. And nothing is really truly free of course. But I can't blame the guy who accepts a questionable service from the distro gratis. Even when the distro is caught and fined, so what? It's not consequential I think.

    There would be many more qualified companies doing cleanings if it were a profitable business model, but the distros have proven themselves to be dishonest partners time and time again. Not all. But many.

    And the consumer suffers.
    Cheers.
    Oh, and there is no tax collected on free either.
     
  26. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Meyvn (1,390) May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Society Trader

    Besides your double standard, how is the consumer supposed to recognize if there are dirty or ill maintained draft lines?
     
  27. billandsuz

    billandsuz Zealot (511) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    If you can't tell if the beer you were served is bad then enjoy your beer. No harm done.

    If you are drinking a beer that tastes sour, smells funny or looks funky and it is not supposed to be, start to question the quality of the draft system.

    I can't help you identify dirty draft lines any more than I could tell you what beer style you enjoy. That is is really your burden.
    Cheers
     
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  28. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (7,314) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    Good stuff here I think. This is why it makes sense for either the brewer or distributor to take an active interest in this. My impression is that most consumers who get a contaminated beer make the assumption that they're just getting a poorly made beer. In other words, their first instinct is to blame the brewery, and decide from here on out they're never going to buy another beer from that brewery. I've even seen reviews on Beer Advocate where the reviewer acknowledged that the beer they were trying was likely old, stale, contaminated or infected, yet they still blasted the brewery/brewer in their review (and swear they're never going to buy another beer from the brewery).

    In an analogous situation/experience.... years ago. I remember buying a bottle of wine at store in Santa Cruz California, where there was some question in my mind that the wine might have been over the hill (it was a dry Semillon that was 7 or 8 years old). The owner of the store new nothing about wine, and just wanted to make a sale. So he assured me the wine was fine. It wasn't. When I returned the wine the next day, he was adamant that there was nothing wrong with it, and that this was simply a case of my buying a wine I didn't like (and so nothing to do with him). As luck would have it, I visited the winery that made the Semillon a couple weeks later, and told them about my experience (and mentioned that the owner had another 4 or 5 cases of the wine sitting out on the floor). When I told him what the vintage was, he snorted that of course the wine was no good, as the wine was not meant to age that long. He called the distributor on the spot and told him to go pick up the wine at the store, and give the owner a credit. As he pointed out, the last thing the winery wanted was for customers to buy any more of that Semillon, and assume that was typical of the wine made at the winery.

    It's the same situation with beer I think. For many consumers, once they try one bad beer from a brewery, they're likely to assume that this is typical of what one can expect from the brewery, and won't buy anything from them again. It's tough enough making sure consumers aren't getting product that is over the hill or past it's prime, but I can only imagine the dread a brewery must experience that his/her prized APA, IPA, wild ale or stout is being poured through dirty or contaminated lines, and that this is what consumers will come to assume is what he had in mind when he made the beer.
     
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  29. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (7,314) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    Fair point I think, and it made me think back about the beer bar I mentioned in an earlier post (who told me the distributor took care of cleaning their tap lines). I confess I was a bit puzzled when I heard this explanation, as I knew one of the better beer bars in town took care of cleaning the lines themselves (and were quite serious about it). I mentioned the story I had been told at the other place, and asked him why his store didn't do the same thing (let the distributor take care of it, and thus save time and money). I remember he just shrugged, and indicated that they preferred to take care of cleaning their lines themselves.

    The other part of this story is this. The reason I asked the other store if they had a problem keeping their lines clean, is that a particular beer I had ordered tasted off. Could have just been old or something else might been off, but the flavor made me wonder about the tap lines. The beertender there mentioned that this wasn't something they ever had to worry about, because the distributor had someone come by periodically to take care of it. However, the distinct the impression I had was that he/she didn't see what the big deal was anyway, didn't think a dirty tapline affected the flavor of beer anyway, but seeing as how it was a freebie, they were happy to accept the service.

    It occurs to now, that maybe they got what they paid for.
     
  30. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    John, what about the metric shit ton of old beer on all of my beer retailers shelves? Some of those bottles/cans are years old. Why would a brewery be proactive about beer lines when frankly they are not doing squat about fixing the old beer on shelves problem.

    And based upon reading numerous posts on BA this issue of so much old beer on retailer's shelves if a nationwide problem.

    More and more of my purchasing is from small. local breweries since those beers are fresh.

    Cheers!
     
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  31. FrankenMiller

    FrankenMiller Aspirant (218) Mar 5, 2014 Florida
    Trader

    It all depends on what type of retailer you are talking about. It its grocery stores or big chains, they should not have a huge amount of old beer on shelves as those acconts are merchandises fairly often by the distro house.

    The locally owned liquor store is a comletely different animal. They are on their own for most the beer, in most cases they have to buy x amount of ABC to get the coveted Z release.... They just dont seem to care that they have 6 month old ipas.

    However, you do get very conciencious owners. We have a store here that continually has beer that is close to expiring or has sat around awhile on a "sale" shelf. He says he would rather break even on it then end up throwing it away in 6 months.
     
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  32. traction

    traction Devotee (466) Dec 4, 2010 Georgia
    Trader

    As someone with no real knowledge of dispensing beer via kegs is there any benefits to keeping some lines dedicated to some styles? Like line 5 is always an NEIPA or line 8 is always some type of stout? Obviously I think people should clean their lines, I read from one brewer in the past couple days who accepted a return on a keg of one of his IPA's because the place that purchased it said it tasted like cinnamon. It turns out the beer was fine and the guy had been running some cinnamon flavored beer on the line prior to tapping the IPA and refused to admit his screwup

    @honkey
     
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  33. ManBearPat

    ManBearPat Zealot (531) Dec 2, 2014 Colorado

    @billandsuz out here doing God’s work.. not sure what the double standard was that dude was saying you had, but keep doing the Lord’s work, my guy!
     
  34. billandsuz

    billandsuz Zealot (511) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Modern beer tubing is pretty resilient. Not too long ago strong flavors would penetrate the line and stay for good, and sometimes the flavor would ruin one line and even migrate into an adjacent line in the trunk. The problems of flavor migration are mostly not a concern anymore. (Unless it's root beer, because it seems root beer is made with very potent modern chemistry). Tubing/plastic manufacturers have made an effort to meet the demands of the draft beer industry. Today's stuff is quite extraordinary.

    Line cleaning will make every line as good as new for a long time, as long as a reasonable schedule is maintained. Years. Running a cinnamon beer is probably going to make the next keg taste like cinnamon, at least for a while or until the next cleaning. But otherwise dedicated lines are not required.

    Cheers
     
    #74 billandsuz, Feb 27, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2020
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  35. IceAce

    IceAce Savant (923) Jan 8, 2004 California


    As usual, I’m with Bill here. The difference in our opinions will be solely because of the difference in where we reside. I’m in California where distribs are permitted to clean lines and he is in NY where it is solely the Retailers responsibility.

    Out here, the big guys do a pretty good job of showing up every two weeks to clean their lines. Unfortunately, simply running cleaning solution through the lines without breaking down faucets or scrubbing the couplers seems to be the norm as they are under a lot of pressure to hit a full compliment of stops in a given day. I guess something is better than nothing.

    It’s truly appalling how many small, California indie brewers who self-distribute refuse to clean their lines. I’m not about to out anybody at this point, but the list is as long as it is appalling.

    Some pro-active accounts have contracted independent line cleaners in order to insure that all of their lines are properly maintained...and I tip my hat to them!
     
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  36. FrankenMiller

    FrankenMiller Aspirant (218) Mar 5, 2014 Florida
    Trader

    I know when i owned my place, we always put sours on the same line (cleaned of course). It was just less of a chance of anything affecting other beers. Anytime you put anything that has really strong adjuncts or super DANK you run the risk of it going to the next beer when you tap another keg.
     
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  37. billandsuz

    billandsuz Zealot (511) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    This goes with the notion that many BA's know.
    The big evil macro brewers do many things in the beer business that can be fairly described as dickish.
    But the macro's have very robust QA/QC requirements and woe be to the poor distributor that fails to keep up with the terms of their contractual obligations. Brewers and drinkers who know better don't question the macros attention to detail.

    The corner brewery that has 20 accounts, that guy may or may not have the resources or even care.
    Cheers
     
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  38. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Yup, the Wholesale Distributors better remove old (near or over 110 old Budweiser) from the retailers shelves or there will be hell to pay. In contrast it is not unusual to see craft beer on shelves that are over a year old. A real craft beer industry problem IMO.

    Cheers to the QC/QA of Anheuser-Busch!!!!!!
     
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  39. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (7,314) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    I'm with you Jack. I think breweries should be worried about both (which is what I alluded to in my post).

    Dirty taplines are certainly a problem, but it pales in comparison to the amount of old beer languishing on shelves around the country. In my mind, that's a much bigger problem that breweries should actively be monitoring (and if they can't enlist the assistance of the distributor in making sure their APA's and IPA's aren't sitting on the shelf for months and years at a time, then stop selling product to them).
     
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  40. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    John, I started a new thread discussion on the topic of QC/QA of the craft beer industry.

    As regards you statement of "stop selling product to them" the best I can say is that as a beer consumer I agree with you here. Having stated that I do not realistically think that many breweries will stop selling product since they are in the business to sell beer.

    It just seems like there is a systemic problem in the craft beer industry, particularly in the three tier distribution portion of the craft beer industry. And none of the tiers seem to want to fix the problem. It seems to me that the brewery is the part of the three tiers that is most exposed to blame here.

    Oh well, I suppose I will just give my money to the small, local breweries since I know that I can buy these beers in quality (fresh) condition. Less money for the craft beer distributing businesses (Distributing Breweries, Wholesale Distributors, Beer Retailers).

    Cheers!
     
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