Beer line cleaning system hopes to tap into US market

Many beer drinkers have experienced the disappointment that comes from ordering a pint of a craft-brewed IPA or seasonal draft only to discover it tastes like a down-market light beer past the sell-by date. Usually, that is because the line between the keg and tap has not been cleaned.

David Buckley, a local entrepreneur originally from Ireland, wants to change that. He is working on the US launch of an automated beer line cleaning system called Glanola that was first developed in Dublin. A part owner of the Port Tavern in Newburyport, where he lives, Buckley recently installed the system there, and has since introduced it in pubs in Reading and Medfield. Word of mouth has been so enthusiastic that he is already fretting about supplying the demand.

After meeting Glanola inventor Greg Moore last November while on a golf weekend in Ireland with his Port Tavern co-owners Dermot Bolger and Phillip Wynne, Buckley flew to London to see the Glanola system in action. Gertie Browne’s, a neighborhood pub, had been using a prototype of the system for a few years.

“I was absolutely flabbergasted,” Buckley said on a recent evening at the Port Tavern, where a weekly Irish-music jam session was in full swing. “I saw how it worked, and the passion of the pub owner. And I had my checkbook out.”

Buckley quickly became an angel investor, helping Moore put the finishing touches on his invention, and they soon began building an American subsidiary. The Newburyport office is scheduled to open this month.

‘I’m in the business of product integrity and saving people money. This is beer drinkers’ heaven. It’s like you’re getting the milk from the udder.’

The Glanola unit is housed in a stainless steel box roughly the size of a dormitory refrigerator. It takes nine minutes to flush a beer line of its yeast buildup, allowing bartenders and managers to clean the line each time a keg is emptied. Traditionally, bars and restaurants have hired outside line cleaning services to perform the arduous task of manually cleaning lines, sometimes monthly, but often far less frequently.

Traditional beer line cleaning is done by a hand-pumped or pressurized cleaning bottle. The Glanola system uses patented technology to pump a cleaning solution and a water rinse through the line. The system is computerized, making possible individualized mix and timing rates, depending on water hardness and the length of the lines, as well as a digitized log of cleanings. The inventor says his patented “pulse” technology eliminates wear on all moving parts and claims a 100-year life expectancy on each unit’s stainless steel case.

Besides the ease of use and “the difference in the drink,” said Buckley, another benefit of Glanola — the name is Gaelic for “clean drink” — is that it eliminates the wasted beer that typically accompanies a line cleaning. Scores of pints of beer are drained away with every manual line flush, he said.

Chris Romagnolo, a sales and marketing contractor who lives in Medfield, has seen the system demonstrated at his local bar, the Noon Hill Grill. It is owned by Steve Slesar, one of two brothers who opened Boston Beer Works in 1992.

Romagnolo predicts Glanola could go “global,” noting states such as Connecticut have begun regulating line cleaning.

“Once states start mandating, then just sit back and watch,” he said.

Buckley, whose father, Maurice, is the founder and president of the Ireland Chamber of Commerce in the United States, is a connected businessman who attended Babson College in the 1980s and returned to the area more than a decade ago to acquire an equipment manufacturing company, which he later sold to Gerber Scientific.

Buckley is overseeing installation of three Glanola systems in New York area bars, and this month he expects to take delivery on 25 more units. “We’re just ramping up,” he said.

He said he has been inundated with calls since the rollout and that investors include an Australian entrepreneur who owns 300 bars.

After Moore, the inventor, began working with Buckley, they placed several units at bars in London and the United Arab Emirates, and in Heineken’s tasting rooms in Cork and Amsterdam.

“Our ultimate plan is to set up a distribution network,” Buckley said. “America is just too big.”

Ensuring the freshness of the pour, said Buckley, is “the brewer’s last link.”

He is fond of comparing drawing a microbrew through an uncleaned draft line to a master chef serving food on a dirty plate.

“After all that hard work,” he said, “your quality control goes down the tubes.”