Yesterday I travelled over to Yorkshire where I enjoyed some beers in a few pubs. I won't put the reviews here since it's well out of the area, but the trip did remind me of a question which has bugged me for some time: What is the status of the beer economiser?
For those who've never seen one, a beer economiser (or Autovac) is a system which collects the overspill as a pint is poured and recycles it by mixing it with fresh beer as the pump is operated. It is traditional in Yorkshire and parts of Scotland I'm told.
My personal philosophy has always been that a bit of dirt is good for the immune system, so I have no complaints, but I must say I'm surprised that more people (Not to mention Environmental Health.) don't object to drinking beer that has washed over the hands of the serving staff. Perhaps most drinkers aren't even aware of the system?
I found one web site which claimed these were no longer legal, but I find that hard to believe since I observed them in a number of pubs. UPDATE: I have communicated with the Environmental Health team responsible for the area I visited and they confirm that economisers are used and are legal.
How to spot an economiser
1. There is a square metal funnel below each swan-neck.
2. The barman/barmaid seems very wasteful of beer. They often give a hefty squirt from the pump before putting the glass under, and any excess head is dealt with by pulling more beer and letting the head overflow.
3. If the beer is too lively, larger quantities may be pulled with the glass held aside, driving the excess gas out before recycling.
4. I'm told they have a distinctive noise as the valve opens and closes, but to be honest I've never noticed.