Sunday, June 26, 2011

Economics of beer wastage in line cleaning.

First, a few disclaimers: I'm not an accountant. I'm not a publican. I'm not a cellar technician. I'm not a lawyer. There's a whole heap of things that I'm not.

I illustrated the keg returner the other day, the "legitimate" use of such things is advanced as enabling the recovery of those few pints that would be otherwise lost during line cleaning.

The line that carries the beer from the "cellar" to the tap contains an appreciable amount of beer For 3/8in tube it's something like 30mL per metre, I think. (while we're mixing imperial and SI units, that's about 10mL each foot of 6.3mm ID line. More in the wider stuff traditionally used for cask) There's various devices along the way that also hold a bit (chillers, fob detectors, pumps, etc). Typically, this volume would be lost when line-cleaning is undertaken, i.e. as water or cleaning solutions displace it from the system.

A number of gizmos are on the market which offer to save this wasted beer. Some divert it into a little sealed vessel attached to the system, from which it can be reintroduced into the line after cleaning - of course, that little bottle will need cleaning at some time - but this doesn't seem like an entirely bad idea. Some cleverly disconnect the beer supply (keg) near the end of a session, while allowing you to sell what's already in the line. Some (for cask) allow the line contents to run (slowly) back into the container after the session - although this would leave the line dry, which may not be such a good idea. In other systems, the beer leaves the dispense equipment - into a bucket perhaps, and is manually reintroduced to the container - these are the ones that look distinctly dodgy to me. You'd definitely want to be sure that Customs & Excise / Trading Standards / Environmental Health aren't going to pounce on you.

Even ignoring effects on beer quality - although I suspect that they might be significant - and while we're very much in favour of line-cleaning, there's something troubling about this whole thing: If you have a look at any of the marketing material for these devices, they'll always have a "cost saving" example worked out. They always base this on the selling price of the wasted beer. You waste two pints that you could have sold at £3 each, that's 6 quid income lost, per line, per week! Right? See what an earner this gizmo (and the time spent operating/cleaning it) could be!

As I said, I'm not an accountant, but surely you're not saving any more than the shortage cost (principally restocking cost) of the beer? You'll just buy 2 pints more beer from your supplier. I realise beer that's in the cellar (and hooked up) has to carry some share of the overheads - but not as much as beer that's made it into a glass. Surely?

I know that some tenants have an allowance for line-cleaning effectively built in to their business arrangements. In which case recovering that beer really does generate (not very much) extra income - but only by selling (potentially) damaged goods as new. Which really can't be a good idea. Can it?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Here's a funny thing.

This a keg returner. See, if you've got an empty old keg, or even a part-full one, you could fill it up with slops and then re-pressurise it. After that, I suppose you could sell it. Perhaps you could even sell watered beer. But who'd do such a thing?

It's just a big funnel screwed onto a slightly modified coupler. I'm sure there are legitimate uses for such an item. I just can't figure out what they might be.

Of course, similar devices are available for filtering back into cask.

Monday, June 06, 2011

This is an assertive hairdo

We don't care if you don't like it. We don't aspire to conformity through nice haircuts, or hats.

We're sure [We are sure about this aren't we? Yes, carry on Jon, it'll be great]...
Where was I? Oh yes, dead sure that you don't have any, er, taste, yes, taste or appreciation of what a cool hairdo this is.

Yeah! And you probably don't care that this rebellious barnet contains no artificial colour and hasn't been near a comb for days.

Just go on, now go, walk out the door, don't turn around now... etc.

Captain's log: Supplemental. Concerned wine drinking US-based in-laws (and other worried readers): It's alright - I'm not losing my mind. The above is an example of the lowest form of humour, the industry in-joke by parody. You're to be forgiven for not immediately spotting the reference to a UK "craft" brewery with a line in marketing with "attitude". Why would you care? You can walk drive down to BevMo and pick up some VASTLY BETTER BEER, like for instance, Ballast Point Sculpin, whenever you like, you lucky monkeys.

If you're interested, there's more (better) of this kind of "humour" to be found on the twitter [STRONG LANGUAGE ALERT]
here or here. Nothing to do with me.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

What is keg?

According to CAMRA "[keg] beer is chilled and filtered to remove all the yeast, and pasteurised to make a sterile product [...][then] put into a sealed metal container, the keg".

Or, if you're a brewer, "keg" is that proportion of your output that you put into keg, rather than cask or bottle. For us, this proportion is zero - we don't do keg.
Update: Oh yes we do.

Or, if you're running a beer outlet, "keg" is that stuff that comes in a keg to which you hook up a keg coupler, gas, etc.

Or, if you're a drinker, it's the cold fizzy stuff that comes out of a tap, rather than a handpump.

So what are we to call products that merely satisfy the expectations of the brewers, retailers and drinkers, but fail to meet the definition adopted by the Real Ale campaigners?