As a casual beer drinker I’d taken for granted how simple the draft system seemed at my local brewpub. My assumption was that the kegs were somewhere nearby and there was some kind of tubing which fed the beer from the aforementioned kegs. The server pulls the tap handle, and ale comes flowing gloriously into my glass.
It wasn’t until I started reading more about the topic it became apparent how complex draft systems can be. The tap is really is just the tip of the iceberg and there is so much going on under the surface. There are lots of different working pieces which (hopefully) all work together to ensure that the beer is served at optimal condition to the consumer. Another surprising thing was the vast number variables in play ranging from style of beer, temperature, to the distance between keg and tap handle and it takes a considerable amount of skill and expertise to balance these (an many more) variables.
Having minimal experience in the service-side of the industry, I’ve have started reading the Brewers Association Draft Quality Manual which is recommend as a part of certified Cicerone syllabus. It’s a lot of theory but I was able to compliment my studies with a tour of an operational draft system at one of my local craft beer bars (Thank you to the fine folks at The Tap). It’s certainly helped clarify a few things but I have a feeling between now and my Cicerone exam in a few months time there will be plenty more questions and curiosities that will need answered.