The superpub and beer quality

It’s great to see the rise and rise of pubs with a great variety of tap beer. I’m a big fan of tap beer, on the assumption it is fresher than the bottled stuff.

But the combination of good variety and freshness can cancel itself out. More taps means a slower average turnover, which means less freshness. This led me to do some back-of-the-coaster number crunching…

Let’s assume draught beer is best consumed within two weeks of tapping the keg. A pub with 40 kegs on tap must sell 40 x 50 litres in two weeks to keep that minimum turnover. That works out to a minimum of 1000 litres per week, or 2000 pints per week.

But of course, the entire range of 40 draft beers is not going to sell at the same rate. So let’s make another assumption: 20% of those taps account for 80% of turnover. So the remaining 80% of the taps (=32 taps in a 40-tap bar) account for 20% of turnover – and should be selling out within two weeks.

So, (32 taps x 50 litres)/2 weeks = 800 litres per week accounting for 20% of sales. That indicates total weekly sales of 4000 litres. That’s about 8000 pints per week, or more than 1000 pints per day, every day, all week.

Now I know I’ve made many assumptions in these sums, and they inevitably affect the conclusions.

First, smaller kegs would reduce the minimum turnover needed.

Secondly, the 80/20 rule might not apply, especially if staff have the confidence and beer knowledge to encourage drinkers to try something different.

Third, brewers may well expect a faster turnover – if you assume a keg should last a week, then double the figures above.

Fourth, don’t assume the beer is stored in a cool room. Some bar systems flash-chill the beer while it pours, and kegs are stored at (summer) room temperatures. I don’t know how long that beer can be expected to stay good enough to sell.

So question the figures, add your own assumptions, and let me know what you come up with. But either way, there’s an argument to be made for a small-but-perfectly formed craft beer range – provided, of course, you have what I want when I want it (and a surprise or two).

© Martin Craig, October 2011. Reproduction with permission.

4 Responses to “The superpub and beer quality”

  1. Dude, I want to own that pub that sells 8000 pints a week! #goldmine ;)

    Regarding beer quality in keg, if the beer has been filtered, whether coarse (5-10 microns) or fine (0.45-0.6 microns) it should last longer than 2 weeks. Even at ambient if there are no sources of infection.

    Cask ale is generally kept in cellars that may have seasonal variation between 5-15 degrees C and cask brewers will generally out 4-8 weeks shelf life on their casks. If unbroached, casks can last upwards of 2 years (one of the best Saint Petersburg Stouts I tasted was one I kept for 2 years before putting it on in the pub) at these temperatures.

    It could be argued that a sterile filtered beer may struggle to have the legs for this period of time due to the lack of any yeast activity, but we’ve had good success with Epic at ageing kegs and I know of numerous brewers that do this and get interesting results. Saying that though, pubs that keep their stock in direct sunlight during the summer months aren’t gonna be helping the beer in any way, shape or form!

    The major issues come with line-cleaning. If you have 40 kegs and you clean your lines every 2 weeks (which you should) and each line holds a couple of pints, you lose close to a keg of beer every couple of weeks just to keep the lines (and by consequence the beers) fresh.

    Bound to bite into the profit margins!



  2. I was going to mention lines being the biggest issue but notice Kelly does in his last paragraph… A long line, like what they had at the old Malthouse, may hold many more than 2 pints. I think the Malthouse ones held about 8.

    Short lines are probably the key but are we ready to see taps on the wall behind the barstaff? I’d say we are if there bar is good enough.


  3. I guessing your reffering to casks with breathers Kelly? otherwise bags not being the punter in that pub.

    I think there is a big difference between a brewer aging up a keg , probibly in a cool room, and a bar with one tapped and sitting warm under the bar next to an ice bank.

    I do worry about the freshness of beer in large multi tap pubs. I’m not necassarily saying there is a problem at the moment but the trend to more and more taps does offer up some concerning possiblilities. I know some of the the big tap bars in the states have a reputation for consistantly serving stale beer. Small and perfectly formed has its pluses.


  4. Kieran, was referrring to unbroached casks kept between 10-15 degrees for 2 years. Strength dependent, will keep even longer if filled sanitarily.

    Agree about ageing purposefully as opposed to a fail by a pub with an ice bank keeping a keg at ambient. Raises another question… if a pub/bar has 40+ kegs, surely they won’t be using ice banks and will have a proper chiller. Do these places exist?

    Still think there are more issues with bottled beer quality in NZ than there are with kegs sitting at ambient. Another issue for another day maybe :)


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