Beer is a food product and like all food products is subject to microbial contamination. There are four common types of bacteria (that you cannot see) that can exist in beer:
- Acetobacter: This type of bacteria produces large quantities of acetic acid and can cause beer to become sour and discoloured.
- Lactobacillus: This type of bacteria, of which there are about nine different species, produce lactic acid causing a sour taste.
- Pectinatus: This type of bacteria causes probably the most easily detectable of problems by the average consumer - the rotten egg smell! It produces acetic, lactic and propionic (causes mould in bread) acids as well as hydrogen sulphide and dimethyl sulphide. Beer that has been broken down by these acids will taste foul, be cloudy and have that distinctive rotten egg aroma.
- Pediococcus: This type of bacteria causes the production of diacetyl, a compound that is used to flavour beers. Beer will take on a buttery/butterscotch aroma with higher levels of this compound.
Beers are brewed from organic substances or "live" ingredients and the presence of bacteria is relied upon to "manipulate" or "shape" the beer in to its final condition as designed by it's brewer. When this condition is impacted by any number of outside influences or contaminants then the designed balance between it's microbial substances is upset and the beer becomes "out of control" causing haziness and poor taste.
As you can see, sterilizing agents or detergents (beerline cleaners) have a tough and complicated job to do on a broad spectrum of bacterium. If used inconsistently and incorrectly the detergent presence gives no guarantee that it's job of sterilizing is done effectively.
Over the last decade the licensed retail market has begun to recognize the benefits of a "non-human" or "de-skilled" method for maintaining high standards of beerline condition. Phoenix ABC have developed their system from many years of experience and with the guidance and demands of the licensed trade in mind. "Designing a machine which benefits it's user as well as improving stocks that still only emulates a traditional standard beerline clean has been one of my most satisfying projects" Technical Director, Phoenix ABC Limited.
"Live Beer" or Real Ale
Real ale is the term normally associated with cask beers (beer containing live yeast which continues to ferment after leaving the brewery).
"Real ales" reach maturity in the cask in the cellar of a pub rather than in the brewery. Most beer is cold-fermented lager beer and is filtered and often pasteurised in the brewery at the end of the brewing process. It is ready to serve as soon as it reaches the pub. Cask beer is different because it is a living product and gains maturity and flavour in the cellar. When ale fermentation is complete, cask-conditioned beer is run or "racked" into casks and sent off to pubs. Finings made from isinglass is poured into each cask to help clear it while many brewers add a handful of hops and extra brewing sugar for a good hoppy aroma and a successful secondary fermentation.
In the pub cellar, kept cool at 11 to 12 degrees C (52-56 F), the living yeast cells in the beer continue to turn the remaining sugars into alcohol and CO2. The publican, or his cellarman, monitor the development of each cask carefully. The beer is then pulled by beer engines, triggered by handpumps on the bar, to the drinkers' glass.
Beer pipe manufacturers also assist quite significantly in the delivery of quality product to end consumers. Hi-Tech manufacturing systems, machinery and techniques help produce pipes with ultra-smooth inner layers to help reduce bacterial growth and yeast adhesion. Other benefits include extended cleaning times and improved carbonation levels of dispensed product.