Two-second pint

A-B to test 'Ultimate Draft System' in British pubs

Dec 15, 2003 - Anheuser-Busch is taking a high-speed beer tap developed for use at sporting events into English pubs. The "Ultimate Draft System" allows a pint to be pulled in less that two seconds.


The system was developed in the United States and was used to pump Budweiser beers at stadiums during the World Series baseball championships last year. It is now undergoing trials in Britain, and could be installed at venues throughout the country if the tests are successful.

Michael Hockley, the European manager of Shurflo, which designed the tap for Anheuser-Busch, told England's Sunday Telepgraph that it was already becoming popular with drinkers.

"People don't have to wait so long for beer, sales increase, and I think it actually improves the flavour because the taste of the foamy head is retained throughout the pint," he said. "It has proved massively successful at events where lots of beer is consumed, for example at baseball games in the US and at German beer festivals."

The new system, which is computer-controlled, uses a flexible tube attached to a conventional beer tap to dispense alcohol at high speed into the bottom of the pint glass. The computer controls the flow rate and the amount of gas in the beer to prevent there being too much "head" or any spillage.

Coors, whose Carling brand is the best-selling draught lager in Britain, is developing a similar tap. It is expected to be a less expensive but slightly slower version of the Budweiser model. "We have developed the capability to pull a pint in about five seconds. We can't say when we will introduce the faster system until we get feedback from the trials," a Coors spokesman said.

Mark Hastings, the chairman of the British Beer and Pub Association, said that any reduction in waiting times in pubs would be welcome.

"This is an innovation developed purely to tackle the issue of frustrated customers waiting at the bar during busy periods on a Friday or Saturday night. It is about improving the pub experience and as long as it doesn't detract from the quality of the beer, then I don't see any problems," he said.

Nigel Pollard, the marketing director for Scottish Courage, the brewery which produces Foster's, Kronenbourg and Miller lagers, said, however, that his company would not be using the faster tap.

"Our priority is the quality of the beer, not the speed at which it is served. We want to guarantee that our customers get the very best pint they can. Our taps ensure that each pint is served at the perfect temperature with a nice creamy top and locked-in freshness," he said.

Guinness last year tested and abandoned a fast-draw system. After giving its FastPour system an extensive three-month test in 30 accounts, the brewery decided to stick with the traditional 119-second (one minute, 59 seconds) two-part draw.

The new system used ultrasound technology to trigger head creation and cut average pour time to 25 seconds. Guinness said the reaction in pubs was different than in pre-test research and with focus groups. Younger Guinness drinkers first said they liked the idea of a quicker pour in a busy bar.

"But those results were not carried through into real life. It turns out that consumers love the two-part pour aspect of a pint of Guinness and they don't mind waiting," said brand manager Radha Rajamohan. Bar workers in the test pubs said they missed the theater of the traditional pour. "Skilled barstaff like to know they can handle the two-part pour. It makes them seem more professional," Rajamohan said.

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