Why Clean Draft Beer Lines In WV Are An Issue
Of the 50 states in America, only 10 require bar and restaurant operators to maintain the cleanliness of their beer line systems instead of having the process professionally regulated by the wholesaler — and yes, West Virginia is chief among them.
It’s widely accepted among those working in the beer industry nationwide that the states where it is mandated that beer line cleaning responsibilities fall to the retailer are the areas where draught quality suffers the most.
This happens for a couple reasons.
First, although West Virginia does have guidelines and regulations set by the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission concerning retailer cleaning practices (*Title 176 Article 8.4.b), it is essentially little more than a cleaning “suggestion” due to the fact that there are absolutely zero forms of enforcement. It is so under-regulated, actually, that many establishment owners (link to crunching numbers article) aren’t even aware their beer systems need to be regularly cleaned at all.
This lack of priority on the ABCC’s behalf has naturally, in turn, taken line cleaning off of the priority list for many bar and restaurant operators working in the Mountain State.
The Blame Game
The thing to remember is, although one could place blame for this particular unhygienic state-of-affairs on the State for poor regulation or on bar operators for lazy maintenance or even brewers and distributors for passing the buck, it really comes down to a lack of coordination industrywide.
For example, draft beer retailers may be reluctant to pay for the service themselves as they see it as an unfair additional expense. Other bar operators that are aware of the necessity of cleaning but don’t fully comprehend the importance of high quality and regular maintenance will opt to clean the system themselves, and in many cases, do lackluster, infrequent, and incorrect cleaning jobs which can run the risk of creating much more harm than good.
Then there are the beer makers; the most educated of the bunch when it comes to beer system sanitation. Although any quality brewer fully comprehends why clean beer lines matter, they can many times simply be just too busy to take on the additional work of cleaning.
And what about WV state regulators? Well, it’s safe to assume the ABCC have yet to address this issue purely on the basis that it hasn’t created a big enough problem for them yet. Much like the beer lines themselves, the problem is out of sight, out of mind and thus not a priority.
At the end of the day, wagging the finger really doesn’t do anyone any good because everyone loses in the end when beer systems go unchecked.
The cleaner the system, the better the flavor. The better the flavor, the better the profits. More profits mean more business which means everyone involved in the process reaps more reward.
It’s really as simple as that.