Give yourself a daydream break for a minute. Imagine you’re at your local haunt hanging out with your best friends drinking some amazing beers. The beer tastes perfectly crisp with a nice foamy head delivering a bouquet of fresh aroma with every sip. Of course, you drink draft beer.
After all, it really is the best way to enjoy a frothy pint. Draft beer is almost always the freshest beer a person has available. The sturdy wall of a keg protects the beer from sunlight and oxygen, two environmental factors that degrade a beer’s flavor. Due to the lower cost of kegs compared to bottles and cans, keg beer usually sells out very quickly in bars, meaning there is a quick turnover to a new keg of beer. Not to mention that these savings are usually passed on to the customer who can get more beer for their money. It’s also kinder to Mother Earth, avoiding packaging waste such as cardboard, bottles and cans.
The average customer is probably unaware of the work involved in ensuring this experience is enjoyable. Everything that comes into contact with beer, from the keg to your glass, needs to be spotlessly clean so your beer doesn’t taste like anything but your beer. To ensure a clean environment for draft beer service, the line cleaning service is performed either by a representative of the wholesaler or by a third party beer line cleaner. The use of chemicals is essential to effectively cleaning beer lines, so it is important to follow safety precautions to avoid harm to customers and the person cleaning the line.
Don’t let a lawsuit happen to you
Earlier this year, a person was awarded $8 million after being served a beer containing a chemical beer pipe cleaning solution. The taps were supposed to be out of order while the line was being cleaned, but somehow that message was not fully understood by all staff. According to his attorneys, “Dr. Enwright immediately began experiencing severe burning in his mouth, tongue, esophagus, and stomach. He then began to convulse, hyperventilate, and vomit before the fire department of Henderson arrived on the scene.Lawyers say doctors later told Dr. Enwright that he had suffered permanent damage to the nerves and tissues of his mouth, tongue and gastrointestinal system. (Source: KVVU)
Just a few years ago, two Nebraska women were accidentally served a beer line cleaning chemical solution while having cocktails in a movie theater. The solution was stored in a reused liquor bottle when a bartender mistakenly added it to his drink. One of the women said she felt like her ‘lips were burning’ after downing her drink. Both women began to vomit and were treated and hospitalized for chemical burns. (Source: New York Post)
These are just some of the unfortunate situations that have become public knowledge. I personally know at least two people who were unknowingly served a beer line cleaning solution. A former co-worker of mine once called me in a panic because she took a sip of beer that started burning her lips and mouth. She quickly learned that the pipes in the bar were being cleaned and the unconscious bartender had poured her a glass of pipe cleaner. I advised her to seek treatment and she was treated in the emergency room for minor burns to her esophagus. She was lucky because the chemical was not mixed at the recommended concentration to effectively clean the beer lines. A weakened chemical solution is not an ideal cleaning agent, but in this case the overly diluted chemical prevented my friend from sustaining more serious injuries.
Steps to Prevent Chemical Ingestion in Your Drinking Room
Such accidents are easily avoided by taking a few precautionary measures such as rinsing the lines with water after cleaning and measuring the pH of the rinse water to be sure that no cleaning chemicals remain in the line. beer line. Bars or line cleaners should post signs at the draw tower reminding staff that a cleanup is in progress. There is no over-communication when it comes to security issues. Those handling chemicals should ensure that all cylinders are clearly labelled, stored properly in a designated area, and have access to Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each chemical used.
It is extremely important that the person or persons cleaning the beer lines have been properly trained. Training can come from a technical school that offers brewing training, courses offered by chemical and equipment manufacturers, or practical knowledge imparted by more experienced beer line cleaners. When selecting a staff training or auditing a beer line cleaner, make sure the draft handling training emphasizes safety.
I know these stories are scary, but they shouldn’t stop anyone from wanting to drink draft beer. Draft beer remains the most economical choice in a bar. Not only is it wallet friendly, it’s the closest a person can get to enjoying a beer the way the brewer intended besides getting a sample straight from a serving tank in a brewery. It’s a rare and beautiful thing in this world where the cheapest option is also the highest quality option. Of course, this is only possible when the draft system is clean. We should never have to compromise cleanliness for safety or vice versa. The good news is that we don’t have to. Communication and education around safety allows us all to continue to enjoy beer without fear of injury. If you are someone involved in serving beer, running a bar or restaurant, or maintaining a draft system, educate yourself to be aware of the safety risks and precautions you can take.