At Bar-i, we love our beer. Both Scott and Jamie are craft beer drinkers and consider the large number of quality local breweries to be one of the great perks of living in Colorado. So when we found out that craft beer sales hit new record highs in 2013, we weren’t all that surprised. In fact, it is likely that the craft beer industry will continue to grow in 2014 and beyond.
This trend has caused many bars to increase their selection of craft beers, especially on draft. We find that most bars are responding to this demand for craft beers in one of the following ways:
• Some bars are staking their reputation on their ability to cater to craft beer drinkers, offering as many as 40-50 different selections on tap.
• Some bars have simply chosen to rotate their taps more often. It is very common for bars to keep about half of their draft beers the same at all times while rotating the selections offered on the other half of their taps. By changing up their tap list periodically, many bars find that they are able to provide better value to their customers.
• Some bars choose to place a greater emphasis on local beers. This is particularly common in states like Colorado where there are many local breweries producing high quality craft beers.
If your bar focuses on providing a good selection of craft beers on tap, it makes the inventory process even more important. Craft beers cost more per ounce. In addition, the confusion caused by changing out many of the beers you have on tap can make it difficult to calculate your costs unless you take accurate inventory and match it up to your sales data.
For these reasons, we strongly encourage bars that sell a lot of craft beers on draft to use a sophisticated liquor inventory system that can accurately evaluate the performance of these beers. This is especially crucial if you rotate the taps at your bar.
There are essentially 3 main ways to perform inventory on a beer keg. The best option for you will depend on the unique needs of your bar as well as the selection of beer you carry on draft.
The most common beer keg inventory method used by bars is called “tenthing.” This is also the most rudimentary approach. Tenthing involves lifting up the keg and estimating how much beer you think is left to the nearest tenth. For example, if it feels like the keg is approximately 70% full, you’d label it as .7.
There are two main problems with using the tenthing method:
• It is extremely subjective, and it’s very likely that if two different people performed inventory on the same keg, you would receive two different measurements.
• It is very inaccurate and fails to provide you with the detailed information necessary to properly evaluate the performance of your draft beer products.
If you are only trying to calculate liquor cost, then this isn’t a terrible method for taking inventory of your draft beer. But if you’re looking to gather the detailed data necessary to run your bar more efficiently, you need to have a more accurate way to measure the inventory of your beer kegs. In addition, you will want to use a sophisticated liquor inventory system so that you’re not just lumping all of your beer cost together into one figure.
A sophisticated liquor inventory system will allow you to evaluate the performance of each beer you sell individually, providing you with the actionable information necessary to more effectively run your bar. On Bar-i’s reports, we provide liquor cost for each product individually, allowing you to see how each product performs compared to other products on your line.
A better way to perform inventory on your beer kegs is to buy a keg scale. These are easily purchased from most scale manufacturers as well as online.
If you choose this option, make sure you purchase a scale with a significant weight capacity so that it can accommodate a keg. Full ½ barrel kegs are 15.5 gallons (approximately 160 pounds), so we recommend buying a keg scale with a capacity of at least 200 pounds. Bar-i uses a keg scale with a 300 pound capacity.
Each time you use your keg scale, you should test it first to make sure it is accurate. This will prevent you from recording incorrect inventory data. You can test the scale by standing on it. If you know what you weigh, this will be an easy way to confirm the accuracy of the scale.
You will also need to account for tare weights. We typically apply a 500 oz./31.25 lb. tare weight. Keep in mind that import kegs are a little smaller (they are approximately 13.2 gallons), so you will need a slightly different tare weight to accommodate for this difference in size.
To calculate a tare weight, collect 3-4 kegs of a particular size, weigh them, and use this as the tare weight. You don’t need a tare weight for every different brand, but it is important to calculate one for every different size keg you carry.
There is no need to untap your kegs before weighing them. Untapping kegs can be an annoying process, and it often will cause your beer to foam up. As long as you consistently weigh your keg with the tap connected whenever performing inventory, you will get consistent readings. Just make sure your line isn’t pulled taut when you weigh your kegs because it will change the pressure and as a result, change your measurement.
Using a keg scale to inventory beer kegs is more accurate than necessary if you are only trying to calculate liquor cost since the detailed data you receive will not benefit your bar in these situations. However, it is an effective option if you are using a sophisticated liquor inventory system.
There is one problem to be aware of when using a keg scale to take inventory. Beer kegs are very heavy. If you have to pick up kegs that are stacked on top of each other, this can become dangerous for your staff, especially if the person performing inventory isn’t a big guy.
In our experience performing inventory for more than 60 bars nationwide, we find that Keg Check is the best solution for most bars. Keg Check uses a torque wrench that is specially designed to measure the amount of beer left in a keg.
This method provides two important benefits:
• Achieves a great balance between speed and accuracy, allowing you to complete your inventory in the shortest amount of time while still providing you with detailed, actionable information
• Measures to the gallon – 1 gallon of beer is approximately 9 pints, and this level of accuracy should be acceptable for most bars
One thing to keep in mind before choosing Keg Check is that it doesn’t work on smaller kegs (1/4 barrel and 1/6 barrel kegs). These smaller kegs are becoming increasingly common, especially among bars that carry a large selection of craft beers and rotate their taps frequently. If you use a lot of small kegs at your bar, we recommend using a keg scale. Since these kegs weigh a lot less than full sized half barrel kegs, you won’t run into the safety issues we discussed above.
To find out how a modern liquor inventory system can benefit your bar and help you maximize profits, please contact Bar-i today to schedule your free consultation. We provide services to bars nationwide from our offices in Denver, Colorado.