The 3 Types of Commercial Draft Beer Systems & How They Work

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If you’re opening a bar or restaurant or just need an upgraded dispensing system, it’s important to know the differences between the major types of draft beer systems to ensure you choose the right kind for your business. Depending on the layout of your space, the types of beer you serve and other factors, one style of dispensing system may be more suited to your needs than others.

The three most common commercial systems can vary widely in terms of cost, installation procedures, maintenance and components, so it’s crucial for business owners to understand their differences to ensure successful pouring. These systems are the direct draw, long draw, and air-cooled systems. While each of these types has the same intended goal, serving a perfect pour of draft beer, they do have some major differences when it comes to cost, installation and method of dispensing. In this blog, we’ll explore each of the three types of commercial draft beer systems to help you decide which kind will help your business pour perfectly.

The Direct Draw Beer System

The Direct Draw Beer System, also called a Through-the-Wall system, is the no-nonsense choice for bars with their keg storage and cooler in close proximity to the tap. It’s straightforward, common and won’t break the bank, minimizing beer waste with its short beer lines.

With components like a cooler, CO2 tank, a trunkline and a beer tower, this system keeps things simple by storing, cooling and tapping the draft beer nearby. Whether in a walk-in cooler, kegerator or converted refrigerator, your beer stays cool with circulated cold air, regulated by a thermostat.

The direct draw system is effective and profitable when done right, offering simplicity, easy access and minimal waste during cleaning. Just dedicate the walk-in to keg beer, install the beer lines directly from the cooler to the tap and you’re ready to pour. Of course, installation can be more complex than this, but help from draft system experts like Glacier will ensure setup success. As long as your cooler is close enough to your taps, a direct draw system may be the most suitable for your needs out of the three draft beer systems.

Choosing the right draft beer system depends on your current setup, keg distance, beer variety, budget and goals. For smaller businesses or home use, go for the kegerator or direct draw system. If you’re running a bigger operation with a bit more distance, the Long-Draw System with a glycol power pack may be a better option.

The Long Draw System

The Glycol Cooled Remote Beer System, or the Long-Draw System, is a top-tier choice for draft beer setups covering 25 feet or more. It stands out for its ability to keep beer consistently cool over longer distances, making sure your customers enjoy an ice-cold brew every time.

In this system, the beer in the keg stays cold in the walk-in cooler, while glycol, a cooling agent, flows through glycol lines to keep the beer lines, tower and faucets nice and cold. This type of system is pricier than others, but the investment pays off in efficiency and delivering the perfect pour if you have a significant distance from your taps to the keg cooler.

The components in a long draw system include the glycol power pack, trunkline and the beer tower. The glycol power pack is the star of these systems, ensuring the glycol coolant circulates and keeps everything at the right temperature.

While this system is a bit more complex and costly, it’s the best method for ensuring your beer stays cold over longer distances. This not only ensures quality beer but also satisfied customers and profits. Make sure you pick the right glycol system, find a good spot for installation with help from professionals and schedule regular cleaning and maintenance for optimal performance.

If your walk-in or keg cooler is closer to your tap, the long draw system is likely not the best fit for your business. You may see better results with the direct draw system, or an air-cooled system.

The Air-Cooled System

The Air Cooled Beer System is typically the most budget-friendly option because it uses circulating cold air inside the cooler to keep your beer cold. It’s a classic choice, predating glycol cooling, and is still a great option for shorter draft systems, giving home brew enthusiasts and small business owners a cost-effective entry into the world of draft beer.

With components like the forced air blower, trunkline and beer tower, this system ensures your beer stays cool from the keg to the tap through constant cold air circulation. It’s simple and easier on the wallet than some other draft beer systems, making it a solid pick for those starting a business or considering brewing at home.

The effectiveness of the air-cooled system depends on factors like blower size, air duct configuration and refrigeration temperature. It’s a good fit for shorter distances up to 25 feet. Your draft system installer should ensure the blower is set up correctly, along with the air ducts and connector seals to ensure the best quality pour.

How to Determine Which Draft Beer Systems Are Right for Your Business

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the three commercial draft beer systems, let’s simplify the decision-making process. Your choice of draft beer system boils down to a few key factors:

Your Current Setup: Take a look at how you’re currently dispensing beer. Which of the 3 systems can be adapted to work within your current setup? How many changes are you willing to make to your current system?

Keg-to-Dispenser Distance: Consider the distance between your beer keg and the dispenser. Is it a fairly short distance, or over 25ft?

Beer Variety: Think about the number of beers and different styles you plan to offer. Do you plan to serve several types of beer on draft, or just a few staples?

Project Budget: Evaluate your overall budget for the draft beer system. Long-draw systems are typically more expensive and involve more in-depth installation, which is important to keep in mind if you are on a budget.

Overall Goal: Define your ultimate goal in setting up a draft beer system. Are you more concerned with simplicity and saving money, or are you looking for a more sophisticated system that can accommodate several lines?

If you’re running a smaller, cozier bar or just want a fresh cold one at home occasionally, an air-cooled or direct draw draft system is likely your best option. It’s user-friendly, simpler to install and it won’t break the bank.

On the flip side, if you own a larger bar or restaurant with a walk-in cooler located more than 25 feet away from the beer tower, the long-draw draft beer system with a glycol power pack is the top pick. It ensures your customers get that perfect pour every time, chilled to perfection.

Glacier Can Help You Choose the Best Draft Beer Systems

Choosing the right draft beer system depends on your current setup, keg distance, beer variety, budget and goals. By taking a close look at your current system and your service goals, you can better determine which of the 3 draft beer systems is right for your business.

Additionally, the team at Glacier can help you make sure you pick the best system for you with zero hesitation. We are one of the leading draft system installers in the Chicago area, and we’ve helped thousands of businesses select and install the optimal system for their business, helping them secure great pours and added profits. If you would like to discuss the different types of draft systems or have some questions about which kind is right for you, we are here to help. Our expert team of draft sales and installation professionals has the insights that business owners want when it comes to selecting equipment. Give us a call at 877-617-BEER to get started on your draft system perfection journey!

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