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beer on tap
Image by Andreluiz Cunha from Pixabay

There’s nothing quite like enjoying a refreshing, ice-cold beer after a long day of work. My favorite beer is a good pale ale, or an IPA with a higher alcohol content.  But when it comes to the best way to enjoy your beer, the debate between beer on tap and draft beer has been a long-standing one.

Beer Dads and beer enthusiasts often argue that draft beer is superior in taste and quality compared to bottled beer or canned options. While it’s not always the case that draft beer is better, there are several reasons that can make a significant difference in the overall beer-drinking experience. 

I owned a bar here in Seoul a few years back and with my hotel and educational background, it gives me great pleasure to speak about this topic today. From bar owners to draught beer lovers, we’ll talk about the world of beer and the main differences between tap and draft beer and everything in between. 

What is Draft Beer and Beer on Tap?

Before we dig into the differences, let’s first clarify what we mean by draft beer and beer on tap. The basic understanding is that, draft beer refers to beer that is served straight from a keg or cask. Usually through a draft beer system.

The term “draft” comes from the Old English word “dragan,” meaning “to carry or pull.” This yummy juice comes out from a lovely beer ‘tap’. This type of beer is in a pressurized keg and it goes through a carbonation process that differs from the bottled or canned alternatives. 

What’s the Difference Between Beer on Tap vs Draft?

Beer on tap specifically refers to the same thing as ‘draft beer.’ So, why the confusion? Here’s a prime example: When you say, ‘I want whatever’s on tap,’ you’re actually referring to what’s ready to be pumped from the keg through tap lines and into a glass.

‘On tap’ basically means it’s ready to be served straight from the keg’s spout. So if you order a beer that’s ‘on tap’ it’ll be draft beer. Get it? They are the same. They both come out from a tap and into a glass. You’re drinking a draft beer that used a tap to be poured into your glass. Drink up!

Now that we have a clear understanding of the terms, let’s sip our fresh beer and make it an enjoyable experience.

++”Draught” and “draft” are alternate spellings of the same word, with “draught” being British English and “draft” American English. Both refer to beer served on tap from stainless steel kegs or casks, rather than from bottles or cans.

Man pouring draught beer
Image by Nicola Giordano from Pixabay

Beer’s Freshness: A Key Factor in Beer Quality

Freshness is one of the most crucial factors that can greatly impact the taste and quality of beer. When it comes to draft beer, one of its biggest advantages is the potential for greater freshness. The freshness of draft beer is primarily influenced by two factors: the cleanliness of the beer lines and the freshness of the kegs.

Cleanliness of Draft Beer Lines

One of the main culprits that can affect the freshness and taste of draft beer is dirty beer lines. Over time, beer lines can accumulate residue, yeast, and bacteria, which can result in off-flavors and a less-than-optimal drinking experience. These lines are a pain in the a** to maintain and you must get a pro to deal with them. 

Freshness of Kegs

Another aspect that contributes to the freshness of draft beer is the quality and freshness of the beer keg. Unpasteurized draft beer can maintain its freshness for approximately 45-60 days, while pasteurized draft beer can stay fresh for up to 90-120 days.

To ensure the highest quality, breweries often print a freshness date on each keg to guarantee that the beer is consumed within its optimal timeframe.

Temperature and Pressure

In addition to freshness, temperature and pressure play a crucial role in the overall beer-drinking experience. Proper temperature control and optimal pressure are key factors in achieving the perfect pour and ensuring that the beer retains its carbonation and flavor.

Temperature Control

Maintaining the right temperature is essential for preserving the flavors and aromas of the beer. Draft beer is typically stored and served at colder temperatures compared to bottled or canned beer, which enhances its crispness and refreshing qualities. Most bars and establishments keep their kegs refrigerated at the ideal temperature to ensure that the beer stays cold and refreshing until it’s poured into a glass.

Optimal Pressure

Pressure is another critical factor in serving draft beer. The right amount of pressure is necessary to ensure a well-carbonated and properly poured beer. Too much pressure can result in a foamy, over-carbonated beer, while too little pressure can lead to a flat and under-carbonated pour.

Achieving the optimal pressure requires proper calibration and maintenance of the draft system, including the gas regulators and dispensing equipment.

To ensure consistent and precise pressure control, many establishments now utilize advanced draft systems, such as Pubinno Smart Taps. These systems provide real-time monitoring and alerts, ensuring that the kegs are fresh and the pressure is maintained at the optimal level.

With such technologies, bars can always guarantee that they are serving the freshest and most flavorful draft beer to their customers.

Taste and Texture: The Ultimate Test

At the end of the day, the taste and texture of a good beer are what truly matter to beer lovers. Let’s check out how the serving method can impact the overall flavor and drinking experience.

Draft Beer Tastes Fresh and Flavorful

When all the factors align – cleanliness of beer lines, freshness of kegs, proper temperature, and optimal pressure – draft beer shines with superior quality. Draft beer is often praised for its freshness, as it’s served directly from the keg, eliminating the potential for light exposure and oxidation that can occur with bottled or canned beer.

The lack of light exposure and minimal contact with air helps preserve the delicate flavors and aromas of the beer, resulting in a crisp and more vibrant taste. On top of that, the carbon dioxide process in draft beer contributes to a smoother mouthfeel and a more enjoyable drinking experience.

Bottled and Canned Beer: Mass-Produced Convenience

While draft beer holds a reputation for freshness and flavor, bottled and canned beer offers convenience and a homey feel. They are both often mass-produced beers and widely distributed, making them easily accessible to consumers, like Moi!

However, the packaging process involved in bottling and canning beer can introduce certain factors that may affect the taste and quality. Light exposure, temperature fluctuations, and extended shelf life can potentially impact the flavor profile and freshness of bottled or canned beer.

Despite these considerations, many breweries have implemented advanced packaging techniques and technologies to minimize these effects and ensure that the beer retains its quality until it reaches the consumer. If you’re curious about what beers are on tap here in Korea or what is in people’s fridges, read on.

I personally think that there’s a big difference between bottled and canned brews. Read this article to see~~

Beer Bottles vs Cans… Who wins? Read on…

Man enjoying draft beer
Enjoying a Cold Draft

Your Best Bet?

So what now? Choosing between beer on tap = draft beer or bottles vs cans ultimately depends on personal preference. All options have their merits and can deliver exceptional drinking experiences when executed properly.

For those seeking the freshest and most vibrant flavors, draft beer is often the preferred choice. The controlled temperature and minimal exposure to light and oxygen contribute to a superior taste experience for all beer lovers. Seriously, have you ever had a bad draft beer? Not me…

On the other hand, bottled and canned beer offer convenience and wide availability. I love cans, and their versatility makes them suitable for various parties and settings. While they may not provide the same level of freshness as draft beer, advancements in packaging techniques have helped ensure that the beer retains its quality and taste.

Ultimately, the best option is the one that aligns with your preferences and the specific circumstances. Whether you choose the crispness of draft beer or the convenience of a bottle of beer or canned, the most important thing is to sit back, relax, and savor the flavors of your favorite brew.

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