Learn what goes into selecting the right draft tower for a draft beer dispensing system.
The hub of any draft beer system is the draft tower. Standing tall with its gleaming metallic exterior, it’s the final stop for your beer on its journey from keg to tap before it’s dispensed into your glass. When choosing a tower for your draft system, there are several factors to consider, and we’re here to help guide you through that process.
What is a draft beer tower?
A draft tower, also known as a beer tap tower or draft arm, provides an area to mount your draft faucets and is where the faucet connects to the beer line via the faucet shank. The raised tower allows you to fit a glass, pitcher, or growler under the faucet to be filled.
The beer line runs from the keg coupler into the draft tower, which attaches to the end of the shank opposite the faucet. This requires an opening cut into your counter or bar top to mount the tower properly. Most towers require a 3” diameter hole, but this can vary depending on the size and style of your tower. Kegerators typically have an opening for the draft tower at the top of the unit.
Draft beer stored in the lines inside the draft tower can stay chilled through a flow of cool air from the refrigeration unit where the keg is stored up into the tower (known as an air-cooled draft system) or through a mixture of glycol coolant running in a line packaged with the beer line, known as a trunk line (known as a glycol-cooled draft system). Keeping this beer cool is important because it will pour foamy if it gets warm while waiting to be dispensed, which leads to wasted product and a potential mess.
Choosing the right tower for your draft system
There are a couple of things you’ll want to know before selecting your draft tower:
- What kind of draft system do you have?
- How many beers do you want to have on tap?
Most home draft beer enthusiasts own a kegerator, which is known as a direct draw draft system. Kegerators for home use typically use what we refer to as a standard draft beer tower or draft arm that mounts to the top of the refrigerator. This tower style is suitable for serving 1-3 different types of beer at a time, depending on how many kegs your kegerator can hold.
Commercial establishments can also have a direct draw system, whether it's a kegerator stored under a bar or counter or if they have a cooler or refrigerated area adjacent to the point of distribution with the tower and faucets mounted to the adjoining wall. Commercial kegerators and walk-in coolers can hold more kegs than residential units, which allows you to use a tower that can hold more than three taps.
A long-draw draft system is required for areas where kegs cannot be stored in or near the same space you are pouring them from. Long-draw systems deliver draft beer from your cooler to the draft tower through insulated beer lines. These beer lines are kept chilled as they travel from the kegs to the draft tower to prevent the beer from pouring foamy and prevent the formation of bacteria in the lines. As stated earlier, air-cooled and glycol are two methods for cooling beer in a long-draw draft system. A draft tower compatible with the method of cooling used for your system is required to keep the beer inside your tower properly chilled.
A glycol-cooled beer tower has room to fit the trunk line. From there, the coolant line runs across glycol cooling blocks inside the tower to help keep the beer cool and then runs back out of the tower to return the glycol to the chiller via the trunk line. Air-cooled towers receive chilled air, which is directed into the draft tower by an air baffle and air separator, while spent air is sent back through the ducts to the cooler.
Types of draft beer towers
A standard tower, also known as a draft arm, is probably what you imagine when you hear the term “draft tower.” These tall cylindrical towers can be mounted to the top of a kegerator, a bar top, or a counter and can hold up to three draft faucets as part of a direct draw draft system.
T-shaped draft towers work with a variety of commercial draft beer systems. They have a cylindrical base, much like a standard tower, but with a box-shaped top where the faucets are attached. T-Towers can be mounted to a bar or counter as part of a direct draw system or an air-cooled or glycol-chilled system. They are popular because they require only one mounting hole and can accommodate 2-8 draft faucets.
These towers, also known as pass-through towers or H-Towers, allow you to maximize your draft offerings by holding up to 20 faucets. Double-pedestal towers are ideal for air-chilled systems because it allows you to circulate air to and from the draft tower with separate ducts. Using this style of draft tower will require multiple holes to be drilled in your bar or counter.
As their name suggests, a wall-mount draft tower attaches to a vertical surface and allows you to serve a large variety (as many as 12 taps) of beer, allowing you to serve draft beer without having a tower mounted on your bar or counter. Typically these towers have a drip tray under the faucets to catch spills and hold glasses to prevent beer from spilling on the floor. They are a perfect solution for a direct draw system where a walk-in cooler is on one side of a wall, and the distribution point is on the other.
Wall-mounted towers also work with glycol and air-cooled systems. In addition to the holes required to mount the tower, you will also need to cut openings for the air box on the back of the tower or the tubes that feed the beer lines into the tower.
Another way to save space on your bar while serving draft beer is to mount your tower under the bar or counter. The box on the back of the tower attaches to the corresponding surface above it to secure the tower. They are compatible with air and glycol chilled systems and can hold 4-12 faucets.
Specialty draft towers
While most draft towers are constructed of stainless steel or metal, you’re only limited by your creativity when it comes to constructing one. In addition to stainless towers, KegWorks also offers draft towers made from ceramic, black iron pipe, wooden barrels, and designer towers.
For more help with draft towers or just questions in general about setting up your draft beer system, don’t hesitate to get in touch with KegWorks’ draft experts.
Dave Buchanan has been the Content Writer for KegWorks since June 2019. He has a fondness for craft beer that developed while working for a local beer distributor. Dave also worked for an area sports talk radio station for several years, and continues his broadcasting work as a motorsports announcer and indoor lacrosse reporter.