With Assistant Brew Master, Owen Roth.
by Andrew Sayer“And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire.” - Johnny Cash
Draft beer: purveyor of good times. Cheap and easy. Yet it can be a morning-after headache-inducing stomach destroyer if ever one existed. One would assume that consuming beer in equal quantities, bottle vs. draft, would lead to an equally aggressive hangover. Not always.
Beer doesn’t necessarily go bad, it only changes flavour. There are three main components of spoilage: bacteria, oxygen, and temperature. Introducing even one of these factors can leave you with a morning of shorts-around-the-ankles regret.Causes of bad draft and heavy hangovers:Dirty Lines
Draft lines should be cleaned every two weeks. Do dive bars ever clean their lines? It’s not really hard work, but it’s still work. Take some cleaning solution, rinse it out, etc. 20 minutes per line is the norm. Hot/Humid Weather
The same conditions that lead to craving a cold one can also carry harmful side effects because of the heat/humidity. Kegs should be stored in a cool spot, even in Canada. Bottles can go bad as well. Clear glass allows sun access to the beer and will make it skunk faster. It tastes bad, but it shouldn’t make you explode like funky bacteria from bad draft.Power Outages
Notice how many small town surf destinations suffer from frequent power outages? If you think that keeping the kegs cold is the first order of business for backup generators, you’re wrong. Binge Drinking
People, especially when on vacation, tend to drink greater quantities in draft form and skull faster as opposed to bottles. Good for you. What to look for:General Cleanliness
If a man walks into a bar and thinks, “I wonder if the draft here will make me shit my pants faster than chugging dirty tap water?” he already knows the answer. If an establishment looks sketchy, that’s probably your cue to stick to bottles. If you sit close to the draft system, you may even notice a telltale sour, stale, yeasty, moldy bready odor. Gross. Crowds
Much like a fast moving stream provides safer drinking water, a bar that keeps beer moving through the lines won’t be as bad as if it’s just sitting in there months on end. Therefore, a crowded bar can be deemed safer than a dead one because the beer is always flowing, but fresh beer through a dirty line is still bad. You wouldn’t paddle out at a foreign spot without watching the locals first, so treat your beer drinking the same. What’s on special? What are they drinking? Do your pipes a favor and stick to that.Beer Visuals
Once your beer has been poured, look closely. If there isn’t any head retention on your glass it probably means the glass is dirty. This is called “lacing” and is a key sign. When you’re drinking a beer and the head sticks to the glass, that’s a good thing. It looks pretty, like lace…or a pearl necklace. Glass/Plastic
If the establishment reuses pitchers and glasses without properly cleaning them, it might not matter how clean the lines are. Cleaning agents may also be dirty or the bottles may not be clean. Some countries’ idea of recycling is simply refilling the bottles. Good for the environment, but bad for your morning after surf session…especially if you’re in wetsuit territory.
Few things on earth are better that a post-surf cold pint, done properly. Actually, nothing is better. But don’t be afraid of a little draft dodging. Bottom line: bottled beer is safer. Be weary of your surroundings, listen to common sense (not your wallet), and make sure dawn patrol won’t consist of an Advil/Imodium cocktail.