The Beer System

build Jan 20, 2021

It's surprisingly difficult to find out how to plumb in a draught beer setup in a horse trailer. Who'd have thunked it eh? So I thought I'd take all the knowledge I've gleaned from literally minutes and minutes of research and write it up to help future mobile-landlord-wannabes. This is meant to be a reflective 'as we go along' blog, not a technical 'this is what it does' blog... so it won't be done till it's done!

First, let's think of the start and end. On the input end we have three barrels of booze. More specifically we intend to run a barrel of ale and a barrel of lager from our favourite local brewery, and a corny keg of cider. Corny kegs, or Cornelius kegs, are relatively small kegs that you can fill yourself - as we don't expect to be selling too much cider and don't have a supplier for that yet we will be self-stocking.  At the other end we have three taps for them to come out of. We'll discuss the taps later on as that was a nightmare in itself (which I've not quite finished yet!)

So how does this all work? Ultimately you put gas (Co2 or a Co2/Nitrogen mix) into the barrel. This pressurises the beer so when you open up the tap it comes out the spout. Simples right? A few things to consider though - you have to get the gas into to barrel, you have to get the beer from the barrel to the tap. And somehow you have to get it (and keep it) cool on the way. Although I've started dealing with other bits (in that I have a cooler and taps) as I've gone along, we're going to pretend that didn't happen and start at the start.

Gas to Barrels

We will be running alternate twin bottles of gas - in that we will drive the beer from a single bottle but we will have two with us in case we run out!

Connecting to the gas bottle

tbc when parts arrive

Splitting the gas

The problem of having a single gas bottle and three beer barrels is you need to be able to split the gas, and potentially turn one or more off. Ideally you'd be able to adjust the gas flow for each one individually, but at the moment we're going to be running them all at the same pressure and hope for the best. To split the gas into three lines we got this:
It's described as "3-Way Splitter CO2 Beer Gas Manifold - JG 3/8" Push-Fit or 1/4" Barb Swivel Nut" From what I gather the 1/4" barb is the screw fit you can see on the ends of the input/outputs. 3/8" is the outside diameter of the tubing we will be using, which looks like this:

This is described as "Valpar 3/8" Outside Diameter Gas & Beer Line / MDPE Pipe (9.5mm OD) Grey, Clear". I got the grey, obviously. You can't just use any old tubing as this stuff can be at significant pressures!

To connect this lot together we need fittings. It seems "John Guest" is the standard. We got four of these with the manifold:
These are described as "John Guest 3/8" 1/4" FFL push-fit connectors". The idea is that you screw them on to the manifold, cut your tube to length (more on that later) and then, as long as your tube has a good straight clean cut end it just pushes in. When you then pull it back the grey collar at the back pulls out a bit and it's on. To remove you push the grey collar in and pull the tube out. So we have four of these push fit connectors with tube from the end going to the pressure regulator of the Co2 and the three on the bottom leading off to where the kegs will be stored.

Connecting to the keg

More to come when the next delivery arrives...

Beer Cooler to Taps

I thought I had this bit down. I went and bought a 3-tap (or 'faucet' as they're called in the biz) for £50 and was ready to roll. Oh no, life isn't that easy. When I started measuring up the hatches and so on, I realised (a) it's way too big and (b) it's scruffy as hell. Would be fine in a home bar or a posh place in Teesside (I can say that as it's where I'm from) but not in the Crab! So I ordered a nice 3-way tower from Amazon. It. Was. Rubbish. The return is still going through - it looks the biz but chrome is a problem, PVC is a problem, the build quality is a problem, the sizes are a problem... it's all problematic!

Take 3 - I contacted Neil at The Naked Keg. The guy is a dude - sorted me right out, explained what I needed, talked through stuff, and sent me a customised invoice. If you're making a bar, use him.

So the tower arrived. Looks nice. Not as shiny as the Amazon one, but that's 'cos it's not made of chromed crapium. First thing is to put the base cover over the top, or you're going to be undoing everything again. Now unpack the tap connectors and unscrew them. I forgot to take a photo of this bit but you might be able to see, you use a push-fit adaptor to connect the short lengths of 5/16 pipe (called Valpar) on to the spiggots and push through the holes in the tower, leading the pipe out of the bottom. Chuck the plastic shaped washer and the nut oer the pipe and jiggle them back up the inside. Finger tighted the a few turns with the included spanner.



I then ran a loop of 5/16 valpar up the tower, around the spigots and back down. This is going to be the coolant loop. I also took the opportunity to figure out which pipe was which and label them with a sharpie as 1, 2 and 3 by drawing 1, 2 or 3 lines around them. Hopefully I can get the drinks out of the right holes! IMG_3861

5x 3/8 - 5/16 reducers were then pushed on to the ends. The main beer line is 3/8 and the reducers were put on so I don't lose them - I won't be cutting the beer line to size until I have measured up a bit closer. Neil also include 8x 3/8 elbo push-fits which will be used to connect all the tubing to the cooler. I used elbows as the spiggots on the cooler stick out the side - not helpful and if time allows I may modify that situation to save a couple of inches.

Last thing for assembly, screw on the taps and handles and give them a good twist with the accompanying spanner. Note one of the advantages of this tap set, flow control on the side of the taps. Didn't have that on the cheap rubbish from Amazon! Looks pretty good - next step will be connecting it all up to the cooler and the corny keg and giving it a go!


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