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Dude Your Beer Line Stinks! Wash It Out!

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Every so often beer lines need to be cleaned. They can get so dirty the poured beer will smell and taste funny. This is a normal issue that all home brewers, bars, and restaurants have to contend with.

Beer stone

The off colored crystalline sediment is officially known as beer stone (Calcium Oxalate). It builds up over time naturally. This line was used for probably two months. Already it has a large deposit on the inside. Even if the line is used regularly, beer stone build ups can happen in a matter of weeks. Whenever I notice beer stone building up I change the line. I’m kind of surprised it got as far as it did this go around, but hey it makes a good blog post!

You may note ‘goaty’ smells and flavors in beer served through a dirty line. This is can be a common problem in bars or restaurants that take a lax approach to beer line cleanliness.

What does Goaty really smell like, you ask?

For scientific and journalistic purposes, I have subjected myself to analyzing the aroma of this beer line. At first it smells like a sweaty locker room with a bit of wet animal and a hint of stale beer. I also get rotten cheese, curdled milk, and rubber. The rubber is no doubt from the hose itself. All in all, flavors we do not want in our beer.

Cleaning process:

It is pretty simple to clean the line. Start by soaking the line in a solution of line cleaner. Line cleaner can be purchased inexpensively at your local home brew store (LHBS). A little goes a long way. A splash of the line cleaner in a quart of warm water does the trick. Then the next day, I pour out the hose, and run a specially designed four foot long line cleaning brush through it. From there I flush thoroughly with hot water in both directions, then hang it up to try. Ready to use again!

Cleaning beer stone with beer line cleaner

Hose cleaning brush

Removing beer stone

Clean beer line

Keep a backup serving line:
Beer stone and the need to regularly clean beer lines is a downside to kegging beer at home. I keep a clean, ready to go serving line in case I notice a serving line is dirty. That gives me plenty of time to clean out the dirty one while keeping the beer flowing.

For more about beer stone, and a detailed look at removing it:
http://www.birkocorp.com/brewery/white-papers/removing-beerstone-a-look-at-alternative-cleaning-methods/

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