As we all probably know, draft beer is a brew that is dispensed from a cask or, in modern times, a kegerator. Because yeast and carbon dioxide influence its characteristics, knowing the right temperature and pressure plays a crucial role in the overall quality and flavor of your beer. Casks and kegs mediate these variables and cause the resulting draft beer to differ from beer consumed from a can or bottle.
Certainly, there are a number of qualifications that must be met for a beer to qualify as draft beer, and the success of each batch depends on the quality of the keg. Here’s three things to take into account when you buy and store your draught beer.
Temperature, for example, is a crucial determinant of the taste of draft beer. The majority of the time, the beer inside your keg has not been pasteurized, so it’s important to keep it cold. From the moment you get it from the distributor until it’s empty, it’s important to maintain the proper temperature or you will sacrifice the quality of the beer.
When its temperature is to high, foam dominates the beverage because the higher temperature liberates carbon dioxide too quickly. This will cause your beer to foam more than it should, leading to a loss in flavor. Conversely, draft beer that is too cold retains carbonation, causing the beer to taste flat because the true flavor cannot escape.
The optimal temperature to store and serve your draft beer is right at 38°, especially for ales. You can go slightly lower without sacrificing the quality of the beer, but it’s not recommended to go above that temperature. Any reputable kegerator system should be able to maintain the proper temperatures in order to avoid these problems.
Furthermore, a great draft beer depends on pressure, just as much as it does temperature. If the beer is kept at a pressure that is too high or too low, the over all taste and characteristics of the beer will be detrimentally altered. If the pressure is too low, the first few pours coming out of the keg will have excessive amounts of foam, and then gradually the rest of the pours will produce beer that tastes flat. On the flip side, too much pressure will cause the beer to come out of the keg at a faster pace than normal, and eventually produce beer that has too much foam.
Generally, the pressure regulator on your kegerator should stay at a consistent 10-12 PSI for American ales and lagers. Unfortunately, the proper amount of pressure may differ slightly between the various brands, styles and types of beer. Because of this, it would be wise for you to call the distributor from which you got your keg and ask what they would recommend.
Let It Settle Before Tapping
When you get your keg, try to be gentle with it. Try to limit how much you shake or roll it around. It’s always wise to let it sit idle for a few hours before tapping it. We all know what happens when you shake a can of beer and then immediately open it. The same principles apply to a keg, as it does a can.
Once you get in your keg set up in your kegerator, we would recommend letting it sit for at least an hour or two before drinking from it. This should be plenty of time to let it settle a bit. However, depending on how long it took you to get from the distributor to the kegerator, you may need to give it more time to chill a little long to reach the proper temperatures.
When it comes to draft beer, the flavor profile of beer is very much dependent on temperature and pressure. These two factors work together to retain the beer’s intended taste and aroma. Although there is an optimal temperature range that retains the qualities of draft beer, this may vary somewhat when you take the type of brew into account. It’s important to find the optimal temperature and pressure for your beer of choice prior to serving, and the distributor of that beer may prove to be an invaluable source of information.
What storage tips for draft beer would you add to this list? We’d like to hear your successes and failures in the comments below?