As with most people in the UK when it comes to that summer BBQ, party with the friends or an afternoon watching the rugby or football we have to stock up on bottled or canned beers.
This can be an absolute nightmare in itself as you fight with the other half for fridge space – bottles and cans jammed between salad items, fresh meats and sauces until you actually fear opening the fridge in case it all comes crashing onto the floor. For many of us that has happened far too many times and has forced us to resort to cooler boxes/bags jammed with ice blocks or old builders buckets full of iced water with lager bottles bobbing upside down.
Since purchasing a shiny motorhome (or MOHO as they’re lovingly called amongst owners) this dilemma has moved to the van and happens every time we head out for the weekend. As you can imagine the fridge found in motorhomes and camper vans is much smaller than those found in the home (unless of course you own an American RV) so the agony of getting that cold beer or lager whilst sat outside the van on a glorious summer (or winter’s) day is twofold.
Our drinking pleasure is Leffe blonde, which is a stunning Belgium beer, and I was first introduced to it in a bar near a Belgium Air Base when I was on detachment with the RAF. I loved it so much I took the Leffe glass home with me (don’t tell them) and it’s still intact even after over 15 years of use. We’re not what you’d call raving alcoholics mind you but even just 4 or 5 Leffe 33cl bottles each per evening, over a two night stay, means that the small van fridge is crammed and always vomits some item onto the floor each time we open it…and yes, we have to use a cooler bag too!
Why am I babbling on about this you ask? Well it’s because my problems have now been solved. Hurrah!
About a month ago an advert from Beer Hawk popped into my Facebook feed which changed everything and I have now turned my kitchen AND my van kitchenette into a bar. How? Well it is all thanks to Philips and their ‘PerfectDraft’ machine, which allows you to pour a perfect glass of beer from a keg in the comfort of your own home – in your shed, garage, living room, kitchen, motorhome, campervan or even in a wobblebox, er, I mean, caravan, if you have electric hook-up or a genny that is.
So, what exactly is a PerfectDraft (PD) machine and why would you want one?
Well, in simplistic terms it’s just a chiller cabinet that houses a 6 Litre keg of beer with a tap. This maintains a cool 3°C so each beer poured will be at a consistent temperature giving you fresh tasting beer every time you pull that lever like a proper barman. The PD machine’s regulated temperature keeps the beer fresh and carbonated for 30 days and it has a neat digital indicator on the display so you know exactly how many days of fresh beer you have left – not that it’ll probably last that long once you taste the difference – the Leffe out of my PD is less gassy than the bottles and tastes that much smoother for it. The less gas actually allows us to drink more, in fact when we recently watched the rugby whilst away in the van the missus got happily drunk on the draft Leffe but regretted it the next day, but that’s the joys of drinking and we’ve all been there. (Obviously if you haven’t why are you even reading this? Go and do some knitting, make yourself a nice protein packed smoothie or go and spy on your ‘drunk’ neighbours who are burbing in their back garden with a gassy bottle of beer in their hands wishing they had a PD.)
Fitting the keg and pipe (a new one is supplied with each keg) into the machine is really simple and quick. Just click your tap device onto the keg, insert the new pipe into the head of the tap, click the other end into the keg and your keg is ready to be slotted into the PD. To do this you just place the keg on the round chiller plate, tilt the keg forward, line the tap connector with the slot at the back of the machine and push.
The two blue arms come down locking the keg in place and you just shut the two doors. Simple. Takes about two minutes the first time you do it and just seconds after you’ve changed a few.
Obviously, if you’ve had a few and have just finished a keg, the changing times may be longer depending on whether your knees are coping with all that awesome draft beer and how well you can focus!
The PD machine is a lot smaller than you’d imagine for a keg machine. In fact we even took the PD machine with us in the motorhome with a chilled keg (from the house fridge) in a cooler bag. When we arrived at the campsite we connected our electric hook-up, popped the chilled keg into the PD and powered it on. The display showed that the keg temperature was 6°c and that was after an hour of driving with the keg in the cooler bag, so it was drinkable straight away and by the time we’d drank the first glass it was down to the preset 3°c. Awesome! 🙂
The PD machine draws very little electricity, especially if you pre-chill a keg in the fridge, and it is very quiet – which is great for when you take it away in the van as it doesn’t disturb your sleep. You don’t have to pre-chill your kegs so don’t worry if there isn’t room in your fridge for one, it just helps to cool them down quicker if you can – chilling a warm keg in the PD can take up to 12 hours otherwise and, as your home fridge is already on, it makes sense to pre-chill a spare keg if you do have room for it.
There are numerous beer kegs available for the PD machine but, as the PD has only recently started to take off in the UK, there’s only one UK company that currently sells the kegs and that is ‘Beer Hawk’ who can be found at: https://www.beerhawk.co.uk/perfect-draft
Beer Hawk currently only do six different kegs which are Leffe Blonde, Ruby, Royale IPA and Rituel, as well as Hoegaarden and Frankziskaner Weissbier. However, they are looking to sell more beers in the very near future with talk of them supplying Jupiler, Diekirch Grand Cru, Hasseroeder Pils and Diebels Alt after April this year, which is good news.
Initially I did have reservations about this company when they accidentally sent me a second-hand machine during my first order with them but they were very apologetic.
They resolved the issue quickly, dispatched a shiny new PD and gave me extra ‘beer tokens’ as an apology (I shall discuss the beer tokens in a bit.)
They have proved to be a good reliable company that really want their customers to get the best selection of beer possible and, hopefully, their PD keg range will soon be expanding.
Every quarter they also produce an in-house magazine entitled ‘Hoptical’ which is sent free with every order and gives you useful information on beers from around the world, home brewing, food recipes to accompany that delicious draft PD beer (or any beer for that matter) and much more.
Now comes the answer to the question in the back of your mind; how much is all this going to cost?
Well, like professional Espresso coffee machines, perfection isn’t cheap, but if you want a perfect draft beer at home (or in your shed/garage/MOHO/Van/Wobblebox) then, personally, I think it’s worth it.
You can currently pickup a brand new PD machine for approx. £199 (I paid £250 with a free keg) and some second-hand, mint condition, PDs can go for as little as £80-£100 on sites such as eBay or direct from ‘Gourmet Belge’ (who I shall discuss in a bit).
Kegs are approx. £30 each but come with a £5 deposit/return policy. This means that, no matter where you buy your kegs from initially, Beer Hawk will take the empty kegs off you (free collection too, just contact them) and they will credit your account with £5 worth of beer tokens towards your next order.
Each Beer Token (1) is worth £0.50 off your future purchases from Beer Hawk and you can also earn extra beer tokens every time you order from them, recommend friends or post a review of the beers on their website. (Note: I’m not on commission from Beer Hawk but I will gladly accept some beer tokens when they read this blog! )
Most PD owners wait until there’s an offer on prior to buying a batch of 3 or more kegs, which brings the cost (in some cases) down to just over £20 a keg and sometimes even less than that.
Ignoring the initial PD machine cost for the moment, the cost of my draft Leffe Blonde, which tastes amazing from the keg, now works out much cheaper than buying the small 33cl bottles (in packs of 4) or the larger 750ml bottles. The latter size we only ever used in the house as they took up way too much room in the van fridge. Plus Leffe Blonde from the PD tastes nicer, there’s no more fridge wars (and therefore more food to chomp on) and it looks awesome both in the kitchen and in the van.
Each PD machine comes with two yellow and white medallions which can be seen in the top right hand side of the picture below. It is also possible to customise your PDs tap unit with a medallion that shows people what keg is currently chilling in the machine. Unfortunately these medallions, which are just small pieces of plastic atop a magnet are only available in Europe and are well over £10 each and in some cases over £40, which is totally absurd. But there is some good news as ‘Gourmet Belge’ are considering providing/making their own and giving them away for free with each keg – something for Beer Hawk to think about too, perhaps? Although some PD owners have made their own medallions with separate bought magnets and a metal cap off the top of their beer bottles – very crafty.
If you prefer to dabble in other beers that Beer Hawk doesn’t currently stock then you need to look to European companies such as ‘Gourmet Belge’ who can be found at: http://www.gourmetbelge.com
In addition to the beers already mentioned Gourmet Belge also offer Stella Artois, Leffe Brune, Leffe Royale Whitbread Golding, Jupiler, Diekirch Premium Pils and Diekirch Grand Cru beers and lagers.
Another plus side to ordering from Gourmet Belge is that shipping is fast and free (considering they’re in Belgium) and they include a free beer glass for every keg you order, which matches the beer you order, i.e. 3 kegs of Jupiler = 3 Jupiler glasses – (you get the idea) and they also throw in loads of beer mats too. The glasses look awesome and compliment your chosen beer perfectly.
I assume these guys can do things cheaper as they are based in Belgium and don’t get hit by British taxes – but I’m not sure how Brexit will affect buying from these guys in the future?
When I first ordered the PD, and before it arrived, I searched Facebook for ‘PerfectDraft’ and found a group called ‘Perfect Draft keg tips’ available at:
If you are on Facebook, and you have bought or are thinking of buying a PD machine, then this is the group for you. It is an extremely friendly and, more importantly, useful group for PD owners or those with an avid interest in home bars/pubs or beer in general. Owners of PD machines share tips, discuss their home bars and beers and generally just chat about all things beer.
Members of the group are also given an exclusive discount code for 10% off all purchases made at Beer Hawk and staff from Gourmet Belge also regularly post discounts in the group too. Members of the group also alert other members when they spot new price discounts, offers or sales anywhere so everyone with a PD can obtain the cheapest beer possible.
Yes, a PD machine may not be for everyone but, personally, I love it and I hope it goes from strength to strength.