First and foremost, we want to thank all of the people who voted for us for the Your American Story contest Running With The Bulls, hosted by Raja. We couldn’t be more honored and humbled that we were chosen as the listener’s choice. In addition to the much-appreciated recognition of our hard work, we’re also excited to receive the $2,500 prize that is part of winning.
Special thanks as well to Raja and Mike Matesic from Idea Foundry, who were integral in making this an excellent experience for all of the entrepreneurs. Finally, we would be remiss in thanking Roger Byford, Alicia McGinnis, and Mel Pirchesky, who were excellent judges and gave helpful, candid feedback.
Finally, we want to congratulate Colin Huwyler, CEO of Optimus Technologies, who was able to secure $50,000 investment from Roger Byford, as well as the other companies that are currently being explored by the judges. This is excellent news for Pittsburgh’s start-up ecosystem.
Once again, we appreciate everyone’s support and look forward to continuing to help people have a great time — and make money — through the implementation of our PortaDraft systems across the country.
Listen to the radio announcement and interview with Raja and Albert:
The perfect serving temperature of beer isn’t a settled debate among beer drinkers. Some like their brews to be mountains-turn-blue-cold, others like an ideal Oktoberfest/Marzen temperature of 46.4 degrees. In addition, there are critical differences between how temperature impacts packaged and draft beer, which can have significant impact on taste and spoilage. Most breweries agree that beer should be poured at a temperature of between 36 and 40 degrees.
Packaged beer is easy. It can be kept warm and go through a couple of cooling cycles without having a major impact on quality or taste. The reason for this is pasteurization. Almost all packaged beer is pasteurized (the process of heating the beer to the point that it kills bacteria, then rapidly cooling it). This greatly reduces the possibility for spoilage and allows for more flexible transportation and storage, but it has a negative impact on the taste.
Draft beer is very different. Domestic draft is rarely pasteurized, which means that some microbes remain in the keg (these are not dangerous to your health). If the beer is kept cold (about 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit or less), those microbes will remain dormant and the taste of the beer will not be affected. Go above that temperature and things get dicey — the microbes are reactivated and quickly spoil the beer. For these reasons, it is absolutely critical that draft beer is kept under that limit.
Now that we’ve covered the why draft should be kept cold, it’s time to talk a little bit about how.
Cooling a keg is a lot different than cooling packaged beer. Bottles and cans can be dropped in ice, going from room temperature to ice-cold in 15 minutes or less. Kegs aren’t quite that easy.
A 1/2 barrel of beer is 15.5 gallons. With such high volume, it takes a lot of time to cool the barrel. The rule of thumb is this: a 1/2 barrel of beer sitting in a room temperature environment will lose 1-2 degrees of temperature in an hour, while it takes four hours in an ice bath to cool that same keg one degree. In other words, if a keg starts out at 36 degrees, it will take 14 hours to get to 50 degrees, but more than two days to cool that beer back down to 36 degrees in an ice bath.
Ice is most effective when it is around and at the bottom of the barrel, not the top. The top of the keg is empty and beer is pulled from the bottom through a siphon tube (see our Conquer the Keg #2 post), which means that any ice left on the top of the keg is wasted and ineffective.
A common misconception is that one can determine the temperature of the beer in a keg just by feeling the outside of the barrel. This isn’t actually true — while the outside vessel might be cold, the beer inside might not yet be at the same temperature. The only accurate way to determine the temperature of a beer is to pour a glass and use a thermometer.
As mentioned, 36-40 degrees is the ideal serving temperature. This is not only a matter of taste, but it is the temperature at which a draft system functions best. The combination of the temperature of the beer, the amount of CO2 dissolved in it, and the air pressure/system balance used to pour the beer determines the difference between the perfectly-poured draft and a foamy mess, resulting wasted beer (and money). At temperatures greater than 40 degrees, the CO2 dissolved in the beer will begin to escape, which is the most common cause of foam. Temperature changes don’t necessarily stop at the keg, either. If the beer line, the tower, the faucet, or even the glass are significantly warmer than 40 degrees, there’s a good change that the beer you dispense will be foamy as well.
With all of this background, how do you pour the perfect beer, particularly in off-site situations where there is not a plug-in draft system? Here’s the bottom line:
Keep the keg cold, preferably at 40 degrees or below. Ice can be sufficient, but it is ideal if the keg can be kept in a well-insulated cooler.
Ensure that all elements of the draft system are kept cold. Keeping your system, beer line, CO2 mechanism and other components out of direct sunlight, and continuing to pour beer out of the tap, will be the optimal way to achieve this.
Make sure the cups/glasses you are serving beer in are kept no warmer than room temperature. This is especially true for glass, as it is exceptionally good at retaining heat. Plastic Solo-like cups will be cooled by the beer much more quickly.
Warm beer at any point of the process makes beer foamy. This means a bad drinking experience, wasted beer and money, and lost revenue and profit.
Have any questions or something to add? Feel free to comment in this post or email me at email@example.com. Cheers!
We’ve had a couple of leads come into the email box and a whole lot of support on Facebook and Twitter. We’ve also had a few questions, so we thought a Q&A is in order. Here goes…
Q: Did someone really steal a PortaDraft or are you doing this as a publicity stunt?
A: Yes, a PortaDraft was actually stolen. And security really did think it was a drum. We’re not creative enough to make that up.
Q: How did you find out?
A: We received a call Friday night while driving to Erie for a beer festival that was being held the next day from the organizer of Pittsburgh Beerfest. He asked us if we had taken one of the units that we had lent them with us to Erie. I said that we had not. We confirmed the next morning that the unit was indeed gone.
Q: Do you have any idea who did it?
A: From what we’ve heard, it was taken by between one and four event volunteers. Because there were no credentials for volunteers, breweries, vendors, etc., it was very difficult for security to know who was doing what. That made the drum story more believable.
Q: Why aren’t you angrier about it?
A: We are angry. But we’re also rational people who understand that hopping up and down about this being stolen doesn’t help. Instead, we want to make it a funny thing and, if somehow we get the unit back, all the better.
Q: Will you really give a brand new PortaDraft to the people who stole the unit if they bring the old one back?
A: Yes. We want to shake their hands and congratulate them on an impressive heist. What we won’t do is call the cops or take justice into our own hands. That’s just a waste of energy and bad Karma.
Q: What happens if you don’t find it?
A: Good question. We’ll probably still have a party and invite the folks who helped because that’s what we do. But we’d really like for it to be a victory party.
Q: What have you learned from this experience?
A: People only steal stuff that has value. To some extent, it’s nice to know that our four years of work has led us to build something that is worth taking. We also learned that it’s way more fun to laugh at things like this than get mad about them.
Up to four draft lovers took this PortaDraft. Can you help find it?
On Friday, July 26th at approximately 10pm, up to four draft beer lovers successfully executed a brilliant heist at the inaugural Pittsburgh Beerfest at Stage AE, stealing a black PortaDraft from the heavily guarded venue. How? They convinced the security detail working that night that the PortaDraft was not an ultra-portable dispenser of draft beer awesome, but rather a drum that had been used by the live band playing the excellent Green Day covers. In addition to our system, they successfully made off with a not-yet-empty keg of Yuengling Traditional Lager.
Bravo. We couldn’t have pulled something like that off.
We want to meet whoever did it. Seriously. If you’re so committed to draft beer that you’re able to sell to security what we would have assumed to be a unbelievable story, we’d like to shake your hand (though we probably won’t leave our cell phones around you unattended, no offense).
We’d like to trade. You see, this is one of the units we use at events, so it is a little beat up. Plus, it’s one of our first units, so there’s some sentimental value. We’ll trade a brand new unit with the one that was stolen. That way, the folks who stole it still get to tell a great story, and we get our unit back.
When we get the PortaDraft back, we’re having a party and you’re invited. We’ll pour some great local brews and have a great time and celebrate both the return of a cherished PortaDraft and the redemption of some seriously slick draft beer drinkers. What could be better?
Are we calling the cops?
No. Unless you steal our cell phones. Then it’s war.
You’ve heard it before: “Don’t shake the keg” and “You have to let it settle so that it doesn’t pour foam.” Keg agitation is one of the biggest fears faced by those who are rolling out kegs at an event. There’s only one problem.
Keg Agitation is a Myth.
The origin of the agitation myth isn’t easy to track down, but the idea seems logical enough — if you shake a soft drink and open it, the can will explode and you’ll be drenched, so the same must apply to kegs. But it’s not the case.
Siphon tube of keg shown in this cross-section cut of a keg (image posted at Beer Wiki)
While the keg looks like a giant can, the way you get beer out of it is very different. Attached to the valve at the top of the keg is a long tube that stretches to the bottom of the keg (see right). This feature, called a siphon tube, pulls the beer from the bottom of the keg rather than the top. As a result, a perfectly-poured beer can be dispensed out of the keg and through the draft system, no matter how much you’ve moved the barrel of beer.
Not convinced? Check out the short video below of what happens to the bubbles/foam when a bottle of pop is shaken. As you can see, the bubbles/foam float to the top and the rest of the liquid looks like it had never been shaken.
So, if agitation doesn’t causes a crappy, foamy draft beer experience, what does? Three things:
Dirty draft beer equipment
So, keg fans, rest easy — you can enjoy your great tasting beer wherever you want to without fear of a bad experience. Unless, of course, your draft system isn’t as easy to use as the PortaDraft.
We love draft beer! But not everyone feels comfortable with kegs. We want to help, so we’re launching a new blog series called Conquer the Keg.
What is a keg?
What we usually refer to as a keg is a large vessel that holds 15.5 gallons of beer, also known as a 1/2 barrel (a barrel is a unit of liquid measure equal to 31 U.S. gallons). In addition to the full keg, which can dispense up to 165 12oz. beers (or about 7 cases), there are a few other common keg sizes:
Common keg sizes (courtesy of Micromatic.com)
Is the beer in a keg different?
Actually, yes. Bottled and canned beer is pasteurized to ensure that the beer can survive the many bumps, bruises, and temperature changes that the beer will encounter when getting from the brewery to the retailer. This process tends to kill the flavor of the beer, which makes the whole experience less enjoyable.
Draft beer in kegs, on the other hand, is not pasteurized, and is transported and kept cold throughout the entire distribution. As a result, beer that comes from a keg is “brewery fresh” and tastes exactly the way that the brewery intended.
What else makes draft beer awesome?
It’s cheaper – Draft beer is about 15% cheaper than beer that comes in bottles or cans
It tastes better – See above
It’s greener – Kegs are usually made of recyclable aluminum, but more importantly, can be reused for up to 40 years!
It creates less waste – Draft beer creates much less (or no) waste compared to cans in bottles, which are either thrown away into a landfill or require high amounts of energy to recycle.
Have any questions? Shoot them over to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to answer them! Cheers!
With arguably the most entertaining sporting event starting tomorrow, we at PortaBeer decided to make our own bracket featuring all 68 eligible teams in their appropriate PortaDraft colors using the PortaDraft Builder (try it here at www.portabeer.com/builder).
Want to fill out your own? Download a PDF of the PortaBeer Bracket here.