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April 13, 2021

The Glycol Beer System Most Popular Beer System Today Serving Cold Beer

 A glycol beer system benefits a bar or pub that would like to dispense beer away from their beer cooler. This type of system allows users to dispense beer ready to drink from 10 feet away up to five hundred feet away. The glycol beer system also allows users to dispense beer at many bar stations. While using one consolidated beer cooler.

 In this post. We’re going to talk about the glycol beer system, how it works, how to maintain the system and an investment cost of the system.

What is A Glycol Beer System?

 A glycol system or remote beer system. Is a beer system that uses glycol to keep beer at the proper temperature for dispensing. Glycol is a food-grade antifreeze. The proper name is Propylene Glycol and also used as a lubricant for the pumps on glycol chillers.

 Beer needs to stay at a temperature of 38 degrees. This gives beer the best flavor profile, allowing the user to maximize keg yield. Glycol systems help cool beer inside a beer trunk line, with the help of a Glycol Chiller

 Using the proper glycol system equipment, and glycol. Will allow users to dispense beer at multiple bar stations, or dispense beer away from the cooler. But how does it all work exactly?

Picture of a Glycol Beer System

How Does a Glycol Beer System Work?

 For a glycol beer system to function properly you will need these pieces of equipment below;

  • Glycol Chiller
  • Beer Trunk Line 
  • Glycol Beer Tower

Glycol Chiller

 A glycol chiller is a piece of equipment that cools glycol down and circulates the glycol through the draft beer system. Chillers come with a reservoir that is filled with glycol. The chiller will then cool the glycol inside the reservoir. Circulate it through the system via pumps and motors. Pumps and motors are usually attached to the outside of the glycol unit.

 Air Cooled and Water Cooled Chillers

 There are two different types of glycol chillers when it comes to beer dispensing. Air-cooled and Water Cooled.

 Air cooled chillers use the ambient temperature to cool themselves, and they usually sit on top of a beer cooler, or on a rack next to the beer walk-in. These are more commonly used in commercial beer systems.

 Water cooled chillers hook up to a water source. They are cooled by water circulating through the unit. These chillers are great for places with higher humidity. Closed and confined spaces would make air-cooled chiller inoperable.

Picture of a Glycol Chiller

Air-cooled Glycol Chiller with 2 Pumps

 Beer Trunk Line

 Carries beer from the beer cooler to the bar where it pours from a glycol beer tower. Beer trunk lines come in a variety of sizes. I typically use ⅜ I.D. lines that are mixed with glycol lines. A standard trunk line for beer is a 10+4. 10 brands for beer and 4 lines of glycol.

 There are other sizes of lines available in 5/16” and ¼”, but ⅜ is most common. Beer bundles can be made as large as 20+4 and can be as long as 500’. The bundle is put together where glycol lines are touching the beer lines. Then it’s wrapped with a water barrier plastic, followed by foil tape, insulation, and barrier tape. This protects and keeps the beer insulated from the ambient temperature. 

Picture of a Beer Trunk Line

Here's a beer trunkline 12+4 (12 Beer) (4 Glycol)

Glycol Beer Tower

The glycol beer tower is very important in the glycol beer system. A glycol beer tower has glycol lines running inside of it usually touching or wrapping around the beer shanks inside of the tower.  This keeps the beer cold and on temperature for dispensing. These towers are usually hard piped inside and spray foamed to keep out the ambient temperature. Most importantly...keep the beer cold.

Picture of a Beer Tap Tower

Glycol Chilled Beer Tap Tower

How Much Does a Glycol System Cost?

 This is going to vary widely. However there are a few things to know that will paint a picture as to what type of investment you would be looking at.  With this information, you can look at pricing from Micro Matic to get a ballpark idea.

 Let's assume we are going to pour 12 Brands at our bar. There is one bar Station, and our Distance from the Cooler is 100’. There aren’t any Nitro Beers to pour, just ales and lagers.

  • Number of Brands to Pour?
  • How Long is the Beer Run?
  • The Size and Type of Glycol Chiller Needed? 
  • How many Bar Stations are at the Bar? 
  • Are there Nitrogenated Beers to Pour ? 
  • Beer Cooler Equipment For Dispensing Beer 
  • Installation Cost
Picture of a remote Beer system components

Glycol Beer System showing the Glycol Chiller, Beer Trunkline and Glycol Cooled Tower

 Number of Brands To Pour

 This will give you the size of your beer tower. More beers to pour equates to a higher cost. This number will also paint a picture of the design of the beer tower. Custom towers can be all shapes and sizes so I’m going to leave that out. Brands with 10+ more taps usually look like a bridge or pipe tower with legs at either end.

 The 12 Brand Glycol Beer Tower we will go with is $2,207.25

 

How Long is The Beer Run ?

 We will need this measurement for the right length beer run. We will need the measurement from our beer cooler (source) to our dispensing destination (Glycol Beer Tower). So in our example, we would be looking at a 100’ 12+4 Beer Bundle for our bar. According to Micro Matic it would cost us 22.48 per foot for our 12+4 Beer Bundle.

 Approximate cost of $2200. For a 12+4 Beer run.

The Size and Type of Glycol Chiller Needed

 In our example, our beer run is 100’ so the entire loop would be 200’. We have 4 glycol lines, so a supply and return line would be used per pump. We have 4 lines we would need 2 pumps on our glycol chiller.

Unless specified, I would usually default to the air-cooled chiller because it’s less expensive than a water-cooled unit.

 If we were working in a high humid area or the placement of the chiller was tight and in a confined space I would choose a water-cooled unit.

 So for our example, a ½ HP Dual Pump Chiller would fit what we are looking for. The Price from MM is roughly $3,140

How Many Bar Stations?

 In our example, we have one bar station so we need to account for one Beer Tower.

 If there were 2 bar stations we would need a total of 2 Beer Towers.

 

Are There Nitrogenated Beers To Pour?

 I always ask this question because Nitro beers need to pour Guinness. We will need to include Nitrogen Gas in our dispensing system. Which would include straight nitrogen or a blended gas such as Guinness Gas.

 In our example, we are pouring ales and lagers so we don’t need to worry about this.

Beer Cooler Equipment For Dispensing Beer

 In remote systems, each brand of beer will need a coupler to tap a keg. I also use beer pumps, FOBS, Flojet Reversal Valves for every brand too. Beer Pumps push beer. Flojet reversal valves to help clean the beer system and FOBS keep the main trunkline full of beer after a keg blows. This roughly costs about $ 250 Dollars per brand.

 Now you can set up Remote Systems a little differently if you use mixed gas instead of beer pumps, but I use beer pumps so I just assume that cost with each brand. So if we have 12 brands of beer and $ 250 per brand our total would be roughly $ 3,000 Dollars for the equipment needed in the walk-in cooler.

Installation Cost

 This cost will also vary across the country.  For good draft techs that install commercial beer systems. Figure the cost around $ 100 per hour.

Usually, it’s 2 guys on a job, and the size of this one would take around 4-6 days of work. We will use 5 days as an average. Working 8 Hrs a day. The approximate labor cost would be around $ 8,000 dollars.

So the rough estimate for a 12 Brand Glycol Beer System install would be roughly $ 18,547.25. Granted there are some other costs associated with beer line/ beer air line in the cooler that aren't accounted for.

 We would need to know the size of the cooler, our penetration points for our beer trunkline entering the cooler. Lastly, how the set-up of the inside cooler will look like with commercial racks or not.

 Other factors would include pouring nitrogenated beers, or specialty products. Shipping costs associated with beer dispensing equipment and sales tax for each respected state.

 However, with what I have highlighted above you can ball park a price, and know what your investment will be.

Glycol Beer System Temperature

Glycol Chillers are usually pre-set when they leave the factory. Glycol Temp is usually set at 29 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t change this setting unless I need to. But more often than not I leave these settings at the factory settings.

Remote Beer System Maintenance

There are a few things to keep in check when it comes to beer glycol chillers.

 Maintain that the glycol level in the unit is full

  • Glycol in the system should be changed annually to maintain proper cooling of the beer system 
  • If there is any ice located in the glycol bath of the unit. Shut off the unit and empty the glycol mix. Add proper glycol/water mix. Usually 2.5/1 ratio water to glycol. 
  • Clean the condenser fins with a small brush every 2 months 
  • Check for adequate airflow around the unit so it can function properly. Need 16 inches around the entire unit 
  • Check electrical safety on the unit yearly. The same time that the glycol reservoir needs to be switched out and replaced.

Summary

In closing the beer glycol system is a great system and more popular than it has ever been. More restaurants, bars, breweries and casinos are using this type of beer system. It allows users to dispense beer at different locations away from a beer cooler.

 Users can also dispense beer hundreds of feet away at multiple bar stations too. Understanding how all the glycol components work together. Will help the user understand what's needed to have an effective glycol beer system. How to properly maintain the system. Lastly, feel confident in purchasing a glycol beer system.

If you have any other questions feel free to reach out to me here at my contact page. You can also check out my recommended products page. This page shows the products I currently use for my commercial beer installs and what I recommend.

Lastly, if there's something else you'd like to hear about leave me a message. 

Cheers!

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About the author

I've been a draft beer technician for 9 years  building, designing, and installing large commercial beer systems. Through the years I've worked on breweries, tap houses, casinos and stadiums around the country.

I enjoy sharing my passion for draft beer dispensing by talking about it, recommending dispensing equipment I've used in commercial installs, or private settings. 

Cheers!

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