After the rockiest period for many a decade, the hospitality community are eager to pick themselves up and get set for a return to trading, as the UK slowly eases out of the Covid19 restrictions.
Despite the road map out of lockdown including a roll-out of dates for the On Trade, there are still many uncertainties. The plan has given the industry some glimmers of hope, though, and with better weather on the horizon and the vaccine roll-out ahead of schedule, it’s a good time to gear up for a summer of much-needed success.
With that in mind, this time can be used to make some changes that can have an impact on the success of pubs and bars when they are finally allowed to open their doors to the public, in April for outdoors and 17th May for indoors if all goes to plan.
Since the first national lockdown back in March 2020, the UK’s drinking habits have shifted. With the On Trade closed for much of 2020 and 2021 to date, consumers have been buying into more premium products from the Off Trade. Sales of premium beers, wines and spirits have all rocketed, as drinkers have looked for ways to treat themselves at home.
According to Nielsen Scantrack and the CGA, beer was one of the big winners of the 2020 lockdown period, with value sales up £737m compared to the same period in 2019. Premium beers grew faster than standard beer up £452m, compared to £164m.
This is backed up by the CGA’s Drinks Premiumisation Report 2020, which demonstrated that premium craft beer sales were up 22.8% over the last two years. It also pointed towards the fact that the premiumisation trend is driving new product launches in beer – with almost half (47%) of the new launches in the category being craft beer, and another fifth (22%) being premium beers such as world lagers.
It’s clear from research such as this that publicans and bar owners need to take on board the trend for premium beers when assessing their range before re-opening. And, if premium beers are on the menu, then looking after the beer and ensuring a perfect pint every time is critical – in fact, according to SIBA’s British Craft Beer Report 2020, a staggering 94% of ale drinkers say the most important factor in choosing a pub is beer quality.
Here are six elements to consider when storing and serving beautiful beer:
A Stellar Cellar
The cellar is the true engine room of the pub or bar, and should be treated as such . Your bar may offer great cocktails or even fabulous food, but if you want to keep the beer drinkers coming back, your cellar needs to be up to scratch and run like a well-tuned machine.
Cleanliness is king in the cellar, which needs to be cleaned thoroughly at least once a week with the correct sanitising products. Regular cleaning will prevent the build up of bacteria and also help the air quality to remain tip top. Both of these things can affect beer quality, as dirt and unclean air can make beer go off.
Additionally, maintaining and cleaning equipment, especially coolers, will ensure that they do their job properly and avoid build-ups of dust and grease – which can, again, can contaminate beer and affect quality.
It’s also worth knowing how to cellar certain beer types. Cask ale especially needs to undergo conditioning in the cellar – it needs to be stored and settled correctly before serving to ensure it hits pint perfection. The passion that brewers put into their craft and cask ales is incredible, and cellaring well is really the last step in the process to ensure drinkers have that blissful “ahh” moment with the first sip!
To always ensure a gorgeous pint, there are other things that can help, too. Turning off the beer gas to all beer lines every night will reduce the possibility of over-carbonating the beer in the barrels, which can also lead to excessive fobbing while serving.
At the front of the bar, removing all nozzles and sparklers every night and ensuring they are all washed, cleaned and sanitised with sanitiser tablets and left to soak overnight, and covering all dispense taps (minus sparklers) each night with cling film or “sponge/brush bungs” to create a physical barrier will prevent contamination from natural yeast airborne bacteria and beer flies.
Reviewing the stock-turn of every stock item held is also a good plan, and one to think hard about before re-opening. Ideally you should be aiming for a full stock turnover of each SKU every two weeks. Consider removing any SKU’s that struggle to meet this threshold – You need to balance the benefit of offering your customers a wide choice of product against the cost of writing off stock that has passed its best before date.
It’s worth knowing that the BII offers cellar management courses for senior management and staff, and ensuring that at least one person is fully up to scratch with cellar maintenance knowledge can only be a good thing. Certainly something to think about before summer.
Test the Temperature
Remote coolers are used to take the temperature of the beer down from cellar temperature (of around 12oC) to the correct dispense temperature and, as with your cellar cooling unit, remote coolers should be kept running constantly.
If beer temperature rises above 12 degrees, then bacteria can breed and the risk of fobbing – the foaming of beer during processing and dispense – sky rockets. Additionally, harsh fluctuations in temperature can also affect the beer quality.
When it comes to serving temperature, then it really depends on the beer. It’s recommended by Cask Marque that you should serve standard lagers and keg beers between 5-8°C to stay cold and refreshing. Traditional cask ale on the other hand should be dispensed at a temperature of between 10-14°C to allow for the fresh and vibrant aromas.
Brilliant Beer Lines
There really is no point in offering a delicious array of craft and cask ales and cellaring them well, only to serve them through unclean beer lines.
Unclean beer lines can result in beer becoming infected with bacteria and wild yeasts, which will spoil the aroma and flavour of the beer and produce carbon dioxide which results in fobbing. Poor line cleaning can also result in build-ups of things like mould, beer stone and limescale – all of which can also affect the taste and quality of your beer.
Last year, Beer Piper launched a revolutionary, game-changing system to help pubs, bars and hospitality outlets save money, save waste and pull perfect pints.
The BP4 beer line cleaning system ensures that beer lines are cleaned to extremely high standards at regular intervals with environmentally-friendly chemicals, something that is of utmost importance during the current climate.
As well as keeping beer lines spotless, the system allows bar managers and landlords to save waste because they can serve the beer in the lines that is normally thrown away as part of a “manual” line clean. This can lead to huge savings behind the bar. The BP4 system also eliminates the need for time-consuming manual line cleans, meaning that staff members are free to get on with additional activities.
Spot-on Glassware for pint perfection
It goes without saying that glasses need to be cleaned until they are spotless, preferably in a hot pot wash or dishwasher, and then left to return to room temperature before using.
The choice of glass also matters for serving beer, and with so many different draft beers available, the glass choice really can make a difference to the taste of the beer you’re selling.
Of course, most breweries will have a recommended and branded glass, perfected for their product to maximise the customer’s enjoyment, but if you find yourself without these resources, it’s worth taking the time to think about how your customer will enjoy their drink to optimum satisfaction.
With your nose determining much of the taste of your beer, it’s important to pick a glass that suits the drink’s carbonation – which can affect its aroma and therefore taste. Traditional ales tend to be served in wider, straight glasses, as they have little carbonation. However, Pilsners or Lagers are often best served in narrower, rounded glasses that help them to keep their carbonation and keep the pint cooler for longer.
Customers usually watch their pints being pulled, and the correct glassware will add to the experience, whetting the appetite and awakening the senses as the beer hits the bottom of the glass.
Pulled to perfection
It’s critical that bartenders are well trained in pulling pints, as well as creating fancy cocktails! A perfectly pulled pint makes a huge difference to a seasoned beer drinker, who will no doubt be looking out for the flawless pour as they look on.
Glasses should be held at 45 degrees, and held without touching the beer nozzle. As the beer is pulled into the glass, it should be gradually tipped back to an upright position to allow the head of the beer to build up nicely. Hand-pulled pints are pulled in a similar way, but this can be a real art form for some bartenders and can take a while to perfect!
Advertised well to customers
Because of the nation’s passion for craft beers and artisan drinks, younger drinkers especially like to be knowledgeable about the products they are drinking, so training bar staff to know their stuff is a no brainer.
As well as training staff members to be expert baristas and mixologists, consider sending them to craft beer breweries and distilleries for brands that you stock so they can find out more behind the scenes and enhance their knowledge. This will enable them to pass on their expertise to customers regarding flavour profiles, interesting combinations and even food matches.
Additionally, think about how you advertise your range of beers to customers at point of purchase. Consider investing in a chalkboard where you can write up the daily or weekly beer range – and rather than just write the names of the beers and the price of the pint, add a little flavour with some tasting notes and information on the beer’s origin and brewery.
This type of information will give customers an insight into each beer and allow them to explore the range and make informed choices. It can also be repurposed for your social media channels, where you can utilise photography, video and other content to market your products and services to a local audience.