1952 bus full of real ale/bus enthusiasts visits the pub.
When I started drinking real ale in the sixties, I never once saw beer lines being cleaned when a pub was trading. Common sense dictated that this was unacceptable and dangerous.
I remember,over 40 years ago, a Newcastle Breweries’ manager in a Tyneside pub telling me that it was strictly against company policy to clean any beer lines while a pub was trading and that the penalty if caught in the act was instant dismissal.
Why then, when Health & Safety regulations now cover just about everything, is it such a common sight seeing beer lines being cleaned while bars are serving customers with food and drink ?
Murphy’s Law states : ‘Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong’ and in the event of a pub dispensing cleaning fluid solution to a customer accidentally, this could result in serious injury or even death, followed by possible bankruptcy for the licencee in the event of legal action being taken (Public Liability Insurance does not cover negligence).
An example of a good quality beer line cleaner is Proton Protinate. It is a concentrated solution of Sodium Hydroxide and Sodium Hypochlorite. If allowed to come into contact with the skin or other soft tissues it could cause severe burns and it is highly poisonous. If ingested, burns may appear around the lips and blood may be vomited. There may also be bleeding from the mouth or nose. For full details of this product, visit the Proton website and go to the 5 page Safety Data Sheet on Protinate.
NOTE : If line cleaner is used under sane conditions, i.e. before a bar opens and with the cellar operative wearing rubber gloves and carefully following the user instructions on the container, then it is perfectly safe to use.
(Other beer line cleaners on the market include MOLSON COORS LINE CLEANER, SAVOL, PIPELINE CLEAR and CleanPro)
It beggar’s belief why a publican should clean beer lines when a pub is open. Even if the cleaning fluid contains a dye, a customer could be served cleaning fluid solution and have swallowed some before the alarm bells start to ring.
Line cleaning of both real ale lines and also keg products should to be done once a week and should be completed before the doors open or failing that in an area that is sealed off to the drinking public.
When a barrel of real ale goes off while a bar is trading, all that is necessary is for the line to be quickly flushed through with water, then connected to the new barrel. This takes a couple of minutes. In fact, if the beer has not gone cloudy at the end of the barrel and the same beer is going back on, then the beer line can be connected straight onto the new barrel in the cellar and beer pulled through at the bar until it tastes perfect.
There are financial motives for a publican should choose to clean beer lines when a pub is trading. Firstly, it avoids the need to pay cellar staff to clean lines and secondly there is slightly less wastage, as the line is cleaned when a beer has gone off, but when lines are cleaned correctly once a week, any beer in the lines is wasted.
I often watch real ale line cleaning in busy pubs. The operatives rarely taste the clean water (or better still use a manufacturer’s LITMUS TEST STRIP to detect traces of line cleaner) that has been pulled through, nor do they taste the beer for purity when it is pulled through, so they haven’t a clue whether the beer is contaminated or watery (perhaps this is because the staff aren’t permitted to drink any alcohol behind the bar.)
Johnson Litmus neutral paper test strips are suppled with Molson Coors beer line cleaner. They are pastel coloured and if there are any traces of line cleaner in the solution they are dipped into, they turn blue. If the solution is just water, then there is no change in the colour of the strip.
There is only one way to test if a newly pulled through beer or lager is in perfect condition and that is to taste it. This is not rocket science.
(Historical note : it was common in the North East of England for a new pub customer to ask for ‘a pint of what the gaffer drinks’, as landlords not only took a pride in their beer but were often seen carrying out quality-control checks by the pint)
During regular weekly real ale line cleaning, the operative should wear rubber gloves and also eye protection if they feel that necessary. The beer lines are unscrewed from the barrel taps and dropped into a solution of cleaning fluid in a bucket. Cleaning fluid solution at measured dilution is drawn into all the lines and left for about half an hour, with quantities being pulled through every 10 minutes. The last of the cleaning fluid solution is pulled out of the lines, which are then dropped into buckets of clean cold water and lots of water is pulled through to flush the lines clean. Before pulling the last of the water out of the lines it is checked with a paper test strip for any residual traces of line cleaner.
Next, the beer lines are re-connected to the barrels and beer is carefully pulled up to the bar by handpump. This beer should be tasted at the bar, to ensure that it not only tastes okay but that it is full strength, at which stage the plastic creamers (if used) are screwed back onto the swan necks of the handpulls and the doors can then be opened to the drinking public.
When keg lines are cleaned, the remote cooler(s) should have been switched off for at least an hour, otherwise the line cleaning chemical (which should be mixed with warm water) does not work at optimum efficiency. It is also commonplace to see bar staff cleaning the odd keg line during trading hours, presumably when a keg has gone off. This practice is not only inadvisable and potentially dangerous, but as the remote cooler will still be running, the lines are not getting properly cleaned anyway, so it’s a waste of time.
Even the biggest managed pub operator in the country, have a policy of ongoing line cleaning when their pubs are open to the public, if my observations are anything to go by. Assuming that this mammoth company has very sophisticated cleaning systems, this does not detract from the fact that when their beer lines are being cleaned the products in question are off sale, which in itself is unprofessional.
The best way to dispense real ale is straight from the barrel behind the bar, with no lines or line cleaner or handpumps to worry about. Unfortunately, space behind a typical bar is usually at a premium and does not allow ‘gravity dispense’. Also, as real ale needs to be kept at a cool temperature so that it stays fresher for longer, it is usual for it to be dispensed from a temperature-controlled cellar beneath the bar.
Hardly surprising that some of the pubs in which I regularly see beer lines being cleaned, also have their unfortunate staff thoroughly cleaning the bar at closing time, so they presumably employ neither a cellar person nor a cleaner.
I called into an excellent CAMRA Good Beer Guide listed pub for a couple of pints in April 2016 on Royal Parade, Harrogate. Despite there being a queue at the bar for drinks on this lively Sunday evening, one of the bar staff was occupied cleaning real ale lines, pulling dangerous cleaning fluid into a plastic container right next to active handpumps. Unprofessional in the extreme and putting customers at potential risk. The two ales on handpump that went off when I was there could have been connected to new barrels and fresh ale pulled through in a minute or two. It is absolute madness to start cleaning beer or lager lines in a busy bar.
Request to readers (September 6th 2016) : I would welcome reports from readers regarding any incidences that they may know of, of persons having been served contaminated beer in public houses. Please email me on : email@example.com
For example, someone contacted me to tell me of an incident in a social club on Tyneside in which a customer who only drank grapefruit juice and who picked up what turned out to be a glass of cleaning fluid solution on the bar, took a swig and died later that day.
Also, in December 2011, an article in the Daily Mail reported an incident in a licensed premises in which childrens’ cordials were, by accident, diluted with a cleaning fluid solution and several children had to be taken to hospital.
It is obvious that such avoidable accidents could result, not only in persons being injured or killed, but the legal consequences could be catastrophic for the pub/club/licensee in question.
In January 2016 a Leeds bar owner was fined £20,000 plus hefty legal costs after a 48 year old man was left fighting for his life after being served line cleaner solution instead of beer. Spanish television producer David Caminal had to have his oesophagus surgically removed and has suffered a life changing injury, which should never have happened.
Mr. Caminal was given the toxic solution in an ‘upmarket’ bar in Leeds and what should have been an enjoyable pint in a bar turned into a nightmare for him and his family. David Caminal suffered excruciating pain as soon as he swallowed the liquid and was rushed to Leeds Infirmary with severe internal injuries. His family were told that he might not survive.
He was placed in an induced coma for 10 days, then flown back to Barcelona where it was eventually decided by surgeons that his oesophagus be removed and a new organ rebuilt linking to his stomach. His solicitor said that her client Mr. Caminal now finds it difficult to eat solid foods and suffers from a range of related problems which has meant him giving up his career.
This dreadful occurrence could not have happened in an establishment in which beer lines are cleaned outside of trading hours.
LEGAL GUIDANCE :
I have no vested interest, but David Caminal was successfully represented by his lawyer, Ms Jill Greenfield, who is a partner and head of the Serious Injury Sector with law firm Fieldfisher. Their contact number is 020 7861 4557 or she can be emailed on firstname.lastname@example.org
FOOTNOTE, January 2016
How come an employee has to go on a half-day training course and get a certificate to use a hot & cold pressure-washer machine in a business and yet bar employees who clean beer lines with LETHAL chemicals need no formal training or certification ? This defies logic. If beer line cleaning fluid had just been invented, I am certain that Risk Management would be brought into play in all licensed premises and proper certification of cellar staff would also be required, not to mention a stipulation that beer/lager lines must never, ever be cleaned when customers are in a bar.
NOTE : The Proton Group can provide training materials for use with new and existing staff that instruct safe and proper handling of all of their chemical products. This company can be contacted on 01924 892834, or visit their website : www.proton-group.co.uk
SEPT 2016 : 9pm on a Friday night in a town centre bar in Keswick and their house Bitter plus Carling Lager both off sale for an hour or so as lines were being cleaned. Several customers walked out. Lots of complaints at the bar. Are they trying to chase customers out of the door ? Get real : clean all lines once a week before opening time.
Tynemouth Lodge Hotel
It’s back to basics for Tynemouth Lodge boss
LANDLORDS in the North are toiling away for long hours and little pay, a new study claims.
And the situation is being made worse by the actions of big pub companies who leave their tenants “without a sporting chance”.
The findings, published in a new report, say that nearly half of all publicans in “tied” pubs are earning less than £15,000 a year and almost 40% plan on giving up by 2014.
Hughie Price, who owns the successful Tynemouth Lodge Hotel, a free house in North Shields, said politicians were to blame for the bleak situation as they had allowed non-brewing businesses to buy up so many pubs.
He said: “The difference between a ‘free house’ and a ‘tied’ house is that the proprietor of a free house can negotiate and buy from any supplier they like, while a tied house has restrictions in place.
“It does make sense that a brewery be able to tie their tenants to own-brands in the interests of ensuring the long-term survival of the brewery.
“But it beggars belief that any pub-owning company without a brewery has been allowed by Government to enforce any tie whatsoever.
“In short, many tied pubs are not on a level playing field with a free house owner and consequently do not stand a sporting chance of lasting the course. This explains the high failure rate of big pub company tenants.”
Hughie’s pub, The Tynemouth Lodge, is well known for its back to basics approach.
And he’s offering some clues to his success as part of our Back Our Boozers campaign.
The Sunday Sun is running a series of articles that highlights how pubs are an essential part of our culture – with advice on how to thrive.
The Lodge has a no frills approach with just tables, chairs and the bar so customers can enjoy a pint the old fashioned way.
They have banished the TV, the jukebox and pool table…it is just the pub.
And they say The Lodge is all about their community and helping local charities like the Tynemouth lifeboat.
The good news is that the IPPR report, written by politics research fellow Glenn Gottfrie and the institute’s associate director for public service reform Rick Muir, described pubs as “an integral part of Britain’s culture and way of life”.
“Outside the home, the pub is the most popular place for British people of all ages and classes to relax and socialise,” it said.
“Alongside the monarchy, the football match and the fish and chip shop, the pub is an iconic British institution.”
But it warns: “And yet pubs are under considerable pressure, with the latest figures showing that pubs are closing at a rate of 25 a week.
“The evidence of this is clear to see in the large number of boarded-up pubs along almost any British high street.
“We have found that tied publicans earn substantially less as a whole and are more likely to say they are struggling financially.
“There is a higher level of ‘churn’ in the tied sector and while we cannot conclude that this is due to higher financial pressures in that sector, neither – given our other findings – can we rule it out.
“As such, we believe that the Government should act to reform the way the industry operates. The Office of Fair Trading decided not to refer this matter on competition grounds, because it did not find evidence that consumers suffered from a lack of choice in a competitive market.
“However, even if this matter cannot be pursued on narrow competition grounds, the fact that a significant proportion of publicans appear to be being put under significant financial pressure is matter of serious concern. “This is not only because of the personal financial hardship involved but also because the sustainability of vital local amenities is being put under pressure. Any reform must have as its objective a rebalancing of the unequal relationship between pubcos and their lessees.”
One solution could be to see more residents’ groups forming and attempting to buy back their local so it can operate as a free house.
Tynemouth Lodge Hotel manager Damien King added that way a pub could cement its place as “more than just somewhere for drinking”.
He said: “I’ve been here 12 years and we’ve an old guy who comes in regularly, and if we’ve not seen him for a few days we know to go check on him and see if he’s all right”.
To read the full IPPR report visit www.ippr.org.
Read the original article here.
I was in my mid-twenties and living on Tyneside at the outbreak of CAMRA in 1971.
The biggest pub-owner in the North East, Scottish and Newcastle Breweries, had removed all real ales from their bars some 7 years earlier, although Draught Bass was still on sale in most Bass houses, so there was no problem getting a pint of Britain’s Finest. Also, Tetleys had a foothold in the area and cask Tetley Bitter was fairly ubiquitous and a great session drink.
In those days at least you knew where you stood : If there was an illuminated blue star outside a pub, it was a Newcastle house with processed beers, likewise if the symbol was a red triangle or a jovial huntsman there was a sporting chance that a pint of decent Bass or Tetleys awaited.
I opened my own pub in Tynemouth in 1983, at which time little had changed other than the brief incursion of Matthew Brown beers into Tyneside, only for them to be taken over (at the second attempt) by S&N in 1987 and who quickly shut their Blackburn brewery.
Matty Brown were famed for their award-winning, mind-blowing, 5% Slalom D Lager, which S&N quickly delisted in favour of Foster’s pseudo-Aussie fizz with more brewery workers jobs down the pan.
Interesting that Slalom D was brewed at the Lakeland Lager Brewery at Workington, right by the docks and formerly the Workington Brewery, but enough said as it was not a real ale.
Whitbread were a bit thin on the ground on Tyneside in 1971, although they were still brewing real ale at their Grade 1 Listed Castle Eden Brewery which they had bought from Nimmos in the early sixties and where they brewed Castle Eden Ale. Sadly, this is now a housing estate, although the original Georgian buildings are intact.
As Newcastle Breweries had taken out all real ales by 1964, having replaced Newcastle Ordinary, Exhibition and Scotch Special with Starbright and Younger’s Tartan, Tyneside really was something of a real ale beer desert by 1971.
Despite there being no BII trade certificates for bar staff in 1971, I contend that in general, pubs were better run in those days. The tenant or brewery manager was often ex armed forces or ex Police and in the case of Vaux Brewery, they had a penchant for taking on ex professional footballers.
There was no need for doormen and Pubwatch had not been invented, but trouble was less of a problem then than it is now, despite that fact that a lot more beer was sold in pubs in those days.
The Police made unannounced weekly walkthrough visit to all pubs and it has to be said that they were treated with great respect.
Licensing was controlled by the Magistrates and was much better regulated than it is in 2011 under local council control and a lot cheaper for the licensees.
It is Tony Blair who we have to thank for taking licensing from the Magistrates who had overseen it for over 800 years and who had performed their duties impeccably.
In 1971, trading hours were 11-3 and 5.30 -10.30 weekdays and 12-2, 6-10.30 on a Sunday.
Pubs filled up quickly for the 5.30 early doors session and the Sunday lunchtime 2 hour session in most pubs was their busiest of the week.
Shops were closed on a Sunday and it was the norm for a drinking man to return from the pub at 3pm for dinner with the family, have a snooze then out again at six o’clock.
It was said that many a bairn on Tyneside was conceived on a Sunday afternoon !
The working men’s clubs were in their heyday in the early seventies, selling cheap tank beer from their own Federation Brewery, no food, but plenty of entertainment in their concert rooms. But the clubs were their own worst enemy, not moving with the times.
It was a sad day for Tyneside when the Federation Brewery, established in the 1920s by working men, shut its doors.
Sir John Fitzgerald Limited had a chain of free houses on Tyneside, with real ale in some of them, including the Crown Posada where a fine pint of Draught Bass was on sale and which was extremely popular with barristers from the nearby courthouse. They also kept a good pint of Sam Smith’s Old Brewery Bitter in The Bacchus.
There was a bit of Camerons and Vaux real ale on Tyneside, but neither were popular north of the River Tyne.
I can not recall drinking in any privately-owned free houses on Tyneside in the early seventies as they simply did not exist. The big brewers had a stranglehold in the area and they guarded their territory with a watchful eye.
Forty years down the line and what a difference.
For a start, there are now more supermarkets than there are pubs and supermarkets sell a lot more alcohol than public houses.
It is arguable that the supermarkets and to a lesser extent corner shops are directly responsible for the big surge in alcohol-related illness by selling cheap booze. In my experience, not many alcoholics use pubs, but our politicians can’t see the wood for the trees and continue to persecute publicans.
In common with the rest of the UK there have been mass closures of pub and clubs, but there are many more privately owned free houses on Tyneside than there were in the seventies and there are a good few small breweries, the oldest being Big Lamp and Mordues. Also it has been great to see the emergence of smaller mainstream brewers such as Black Sheep in nearby north Yorkshire and a relief that Samuel Smith continues to thrive in the 21st century, as does the Fitzgerald chain of pubs.
Vaux brewery in Sunderland was sold to Tesco and still remains undeveloped. It is a sad irony that Vaux were getting their act together on the real ale front when there was a bitter boardroom squabble, resulting in the brewery closing in 1999, after 150 years of brewing and with the loss of 700 jobs. They still had a team of dray horses for local deliveries right to the end. Perhaps they should have stayed a family-owned firm like Sam Smiths of Tadcaster instead of going Public.
CAMRA supported the ill-fated Beer Orders brought in in 1989 and although it forced the large brewery groups to reduce their tied estates to 2000, it resulted in the brewers spinning off purely pub-owning companies (‘Pubcos’) such as Punch and Enterprise and these were much, much worse than their predecessors and are currently just about bust and en route have closed thousands of potentially viable pubs.
We have the Tories to indirectly thank for the creation of the Pubcos.
The Beer Orders, brought in by the Tories under Lord Young’s guidance was a total disaster and had a devastating effect on the UK beer and pub market. In 1989, the two biggest breweries in the UK owned some 16,000 pubs between them, but in 2004 Punch and Enterprise owned more tied houses than that and yet did not brew a single drop of beer. The Beer Orders were revoked in 2003, but by then the damage was done. The Beer Orders could only have been conceived by blinkered politicians.
It is the same Lord Young who was sacked by the Tories in 2010 when he declared to the nation that ‘we have never had it so good’.
He clearly lives in his own little world.
Better that he had gone into the family business of flour-importing, as he did not understand the workings of the pub industry nor the needs of pub goers.
It is a safe bet that like most of his colleagues in the Palace of Westminster, the noble Lord more than likely never ever uses a public house and regards them as a quirky little things for Commoners.
It has to be said that the nature of the product that the four Founding Fathers of CAMRA set out to protect has changed dramatically.
In 1971 a typical real ale took at day or two to settle, having a high yeast content and the hoppy ales really did have lots of leafy hops in the barrel.
For example, Draught Bass took approximately 2 days to clear, but the end product was truly superb.
By trying to make modern real ales idiot-proof, the brewers have blandardised the beer.
It was said that Bass could go cloudy if a jacket was put onto the barrel !
Contrast this with typical real ales from micro brewers in 2011.
For example, when I was given the task of tapping and spiling some 70 different real ales at a Cockermouth CAMRA beer festival, within one hour of all the beers going onto the gantry, every single one was as clear as a bell and ready to serve. Real ale ?
Drinkable yes, easy to look after, but lacking the body and full flavour of the real ales of yesteryear that the founders of CAMRA set out to protect.
I would like to see the return of some difficult-to-look-after Real real ales, but either way, modern real ales are 100% better than smoothflow keg beers.
Forty years down the line, The Campaign for Real Ale is alive and well and with a record number of members.
My Life Membership subscription in the early seventies has proved to be a good financial investment and I’ve beaten the Actuaries at their own game.
The continuance of real ale in the UK is dependent on the survival of the public house.
The message is quite simple, use them or lose them.
Tynemouth Lodge Hotel
Clear pricing must be displayed for all food and drink on sale and in the room in which it is consumed.
The price list must include the following :
· The price of the food and drink
· The quantity in which the drink is sold, e.g. 25ml spirits or pint of beer
· The strength of the alcoholic products, e.g. Draught Bass 4.4% abv
· The price of each measure, if not priced proportionately, e.g. £2.75 per pint / £1.60 half pint. (Sadly, this practice is not illegal.)
· Any service charge must be clearly displayed
Beer, lager and cider can only be sold in 1/3 pint, ½ pint or pint.
Beer may not be sold in metric measures such as litres and yet the licensee must purchase his draught alcohol in metric quantities, e.g. 50 lt. Fosters Lager, courtesy of our masters in Brussels.
Common sense would dictate that pubs should be allowed to sell the likes of Warsteiner German lager beer in traditional litre glasses.
If metered dispense is not used (and it is a rare sight these days), the glasses used for the above draught products must be stamped with a crown mark and may be either brim measure or outsized lined glasses.
Under a Code of Practice between the brewing industry and the Government, 5% head of froth is permitted in a glass. However, if the customer asks for a top up, this wish should be complied with and without question.
If lined glasses are used, this should negate the top up factor, but it is actually illegal to serve over-measure and could theoretically push a customer ‘over the limit’.
In practice it is very difficult exercise to pull a pint of real ale to a line if tight ‘Northern creamers’ are used on the beer nozzles. A common sight in a busy pub is a pint of ale settling ever so slowly to eventually settle well below the line, by which time the barperson is a distant memory.
Common malpractice is for bar staff to pull the real ale as fast as possible, leading to short measure on a grand scale, but great for the bar profits.
Gin, whisky, rum and vodka may only be sold in 25ml and 35ml measures and multiples thereof.
Wine is most commonly served in 175ml and 250ml lined glasses in pubs, which is a bit silly, as neither is a ‘small’ glass.
Legally, wine must be sold either by the bottle, by the glass in 125,175 or 250ml sizes, or by the carafe in 250ml, 500ml, 750ml or litre quantities.
However, a new mandatory code is coming into play in the near future that states that in addition to any other measures sold, wine MUST be offered in 125ml measure, this being equivalent to about 1 unit of alcohol. It is also a sane measure for using in ‘wine and soda’ which is a very popular slimmers’ drink !
Under the Trade Descriptions Act, all written descriptions of products must be accurate.
It is illegal for instance to use a branded spirit optic with the wrong name on it or to describe frozen chips as ‘home-made’.
Under the Business Names Act, if the licensee trades under a name other than their own, it must be displayed in a prominent position on the premises, such as on the price lists and menus.
The above legislation is enforced by local Councils.
First offences would perhaps only merit a verbal warning.
Hugh Price, FBII.