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The Model Beer


Weihenstephan Draft, Source – my laundry room

As some of you may already know, or have figured out, I enjoy beer.  When I was a kid, I wanted to work at the beer store in my town.  Not because I started drinking at an early age (I actually never even drank in high school!), but because my totally radical neighbor owned it.  This guy Kenny is the nicest person you’ll ever meet, he looks straight out of the 80’s (because he totally is) and is always upbeat and moving.  One of those people that you wonder to yourself what the hell you would have to be on to be so spirited and productive ALL THE DAMNED TIME.  Anyway, every time I would go in there, he would give me one of those glass bottle Cokes, and I always thought it would be great to work there.

So I got to live one of my childhood dreams for a long time (cool right!?), and in fact I am still in the industry to this day because of that man and his knowledge.  One of the most useful skills I acquired during my time at RBS was diagnosing and repairing draft beer systems.  Draft beer can be as simple as a hand-pump tap, or as complex as a single system that features over 100 taps.  Raleigh Beer Garden in North Carolina has a system setup that is capable of dispensing 378 separate drafts!  Many establishments offer 40-50 different faucets these days, which is the standard for upper-echelon “gastropubs” as they’re often known.

I bet that you can imagine the amount of work that goes into purchasing this kind of system, and then imagine the amount of work that goes into designing it.  That’s our kind of work!  Draft beer depends entirely on thermodynamics and fluid mechanics.  The major components?  Refrigeration and fluid propulsion.  That’s all you need to know to find out that we belong.  In fact, I bet some of you may study a little bit harder if your thermo or fluids problem would end up helping save the party from that idiot that loves to pump the keg.

Diagnosing problems on a home system, often referred to as a beer meister or a kegerator, can be tricky due to the variations in models and potential causes.  Now imagine trying to find a pressure drop or a line leak/blockage in a system that features 40 hoses, which collectively travel thousands of feet and through multiple floors.  Or maybe you’re getting all of that foam because one of the lines, or multiple lines, have not been insulated properly.  If that sounds like a nightmare, well that would be because it is a nightmare.  There are businesses dedicated to solutions for these issues whose knowledge and experience far extend mine, and there are thousands of bars across the world that thank them.

Advances in technology have allowed for smarter draft systems, and many of them can even be monitored for performance (although the money is in theft prevention).  Flow rate, line cleanliness, and line/cooler temperatures can all be monitored by the iDraught system.  Hey, flow rate!  That’s how we got here!

Draft (or draught for the Queen) systems can be set up as a network to determine the parameters that will be required for effectiveness and efficiency.  In fact, if I ever find time beyond our current course loads, maybe I will set up a way to monitor my own system at home (or do I not want to know? ;D).  Perhaps I can use that as part of data…sorry, now I am just thinking into this post.

So hopefully you learned a little something about draft dispensary systems, so I will leave you with a couple main points for your travel.

1.) Your keg isn’t foaming because you need to pump more, it’s most likely from not being cold enough so ice that sucker up really well!  Also, there is usually a bleed pin on the coupler to relieve unnecessary pressure.  Spread the word!

2.) When using a hand-pump, you have approximately 24 hours before your keg goes noticeably flat.  Atmospheric air being pumped in is not conducive to the carbon dioxide begging to escape from the beer.

3.) My person favorite, beer DOES NOT SKUNK from delta T’s!  In fact, it is regular practice at many distributors to frequently move beer back and forth from coolers, and to this day Coors is still shipped in refrigerated cars across the country.  (Part I)

4.) (Part II) What will skunk your beer is ultraviolet radiation, so be mindful of the color of your bottles (brown>green>clear), and where you place them.

Until next time, good luck and cheers!

Thanks for reading,



About timpalamcmuffin

I'm a mechanical engineering student that loves aviation and hockey.

4 responses to “The Model Beer

  1. r3vots

    Do you have a favorite beer place in/around the city? I also enjoy a cold brew. Lately, sours have been my go to style. Also, my friend used to work as quality control in a smaller brewery back in Richmond, and I got to see many of the workings of a brewery. To include how absolutely disgusting bacteria is and how quickly it’ll spread. He taught me to identify certain off flavors, one in particular being diacetyl. Often times bars don’t clean their lines enough and it leaves that terrible butter taste. That is from diacetyl. I honestly wish that he never taught me about it, because now I pick it up and am absolutely turned off by the beer. Anyways. Cheers to the beers!

    • I have a ton of favorite beer places! Brauhaus Schmitz on South Street, Tir Na Nog by Arch and the Freeway, any of the pop-up Biergartens in the summer, Frankford Hall in Fishtown, even Draught Horse on Broad across from TU has a great selection!

  2. Pingback: Head Loss | timpalamcmuffin

  3. yash215

    Way to make engineering fun ! I always wondered what made our kegs so foamy. It sucks when you buy a keg and it spews out foam. Also I always thought warmth made beers skunky. Great informative!

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