A photo of a bar’s commercial draft beer systems.

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

When you’re opening a bar or restaurant or looking to upgrade your draft beer dispensing system, it’s crucial to understand the different types of commercial draft beer systems available. Each system has its own advantages and best use cases depending on factors like your space layout, the variety of beer you serve, and your budget.

The Three Main Types of Draft Beer Systems

Understanding the differences between the three most common commercial draft beer systems—Direct Draw, Long Draw, and Air-Cooled—will help you make an informed decision. These systems differ in cost, installation complexity, and maintenance needs. Let’s dive into each type to see which might be the best fit for your business.

1. The Direct Draw Beer System

The Direct Draw system, also known as a Through-the-Wall System, is ideal for bars where the keg storage is close to the tap. It’s straightforward and economical, minimizing beer waste with its short beer lines.

  • Cooler
  • CO2 tank
  • Trunkline
  • Beer tower
In this setup, beer is stored, cooled, and tapped nearby, typically in a walk-in cooler, kegerator, or converted refrigerator. The simplicity of this system makes it effective and profitable when executed correctly. By dedicating a walk-in cooler to keg beer and installing the beer lines directly to the tap, you can ensure easy access and minimal waste.

2. The Long Draw System

For setups where the keg cooler is over 25 feet from the tap, the Long Draw system, also known as the Glycol Cooled Remote Beer System, is the top choice. It excels at maintaining beer temperature over long distances, ensuring every pour is perfectly chilled.

Components: The glycol coolant flows through the lines to keep everything cold, making this system more complex and costly but highly efficient for larger operations. Regular maintenance and proper installation are key to keeping this system running smoothly and ensuring customer satisfaction.

3. The Air-Cooled System

The Air Cooled system is typically the most budget-friendly option, using circulating cold air to keep beer cold. It’s a classic choice for shorter distances up to 25 feet and remains popular among home brewers and small business owners.

  • Forced air blower
  • Trunkline
  • Beer tower
The effectiveness of this system depends on factors like blower size, air duct configuration, and refrigeration temperature. It’s a great entry-level system that balances cost and functionality, perfect for smaller bars or home setups.

Choosing the Right System for Your Business

To determine the best draft beer system for your needs, consider these factors:
  • Current Setup: How can the new system integrate with your existing setup?
  • Keg-to-Dispenser Distance: Is the distance short or more than 25 feet?
  • Beer Variety: How many types of beer will you offer?
  • Budget: How much are you willing to invest in the system?
  • Goals: Are you looking for simplicity or a more sophisticated setup?
For smaller bars or home use, the Direct Draw or Air-Cooled system is likely your best bet. They’re user-friendly and cost-effective. However, for larger operations with a more distant walk-in cooler, the Long Draw system with a glycol power pack is ideal for ensuring perfect pours every time.

Stuever & Sons Can Help You Choose the Best System

At Stuever & Sons, we specialize in helping businesses select and install the optimal draft beer system. With years of experience in the industry, we understand the nuances of each system and can guide you in making the best choice for your establishment. Call us today at 630-307-8787 to start your journey toward the perfect pour.

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