The last thing most of us think about when drinking our pints is how the beer gets delivered from the keg to the glass—but for David Keogh, it’s the first thing that comes to mind. His creative genius produces some of the zaniest beer taps in the world, and he’s still going strong here in Toronto. I wrote about David for The Grid back in 2011, and wanted to share this story on our new site, cause he still rocks. Here it is:
Sure, you could sidle up to the bar and get your pint out of a boring old draught tower. Or you could have it poured from one of David Keogh’s ingenious beer delivery systems.
What do a fish tank , samovar, snare drum, car bumper, outboard motor and fire extinguisher have in common? They’ve all been turned into beer delivery systems for Toronto bars thanks to David Keogh.
After having started out in the restaurant industry at 14, the wiry 48-year-old with spiky Keith Richards hair says he “stumbled into beer” after being offered a job cleaning draught lines for Brick Brewery. In ’93, Keogh started his own line-cleaning company, The Linemen Draft Beer Services.
But the aha moment came 10 years ago when his sister, Dora, of Dora Keogh’s and Allen’s, wanted to save valuable bar space at her Danforth Avenue pubs. So David flipped the T-shaped draught tower, taking off the clunky vertical post and screwing the taps and remaining hardware to the underside of the bar. Voilà—a neat row of tap handles along the bar’s edge. Restaurant owners soon began asking for similar systems: There’s one at Mark McEwan’s One in Yorkville, and another was recently installed at Stout Irish Pub in Cabbagetown.
“Then I started thinking about all the different ways of doing it,” Keogh explains, sitting at the bar at Lil’ Baci in Leslieville, where he turned an antique brass espresso machine into a four-flavour draught tower. “The owners needed something that didn’t take up much space, and I saw this espresso maker sitting on the shelf above the bar as decoration and said, ‘How about that?’”
Keogh hollowed it out, removed the bottom and ran the trunk line (which carries the draught and refrigeration lines from the kegs into the tower) through the machine. He then drilled four holes in the front of the urn for the taps and insulated all the lines. The entire procedure took him about a day.
These days, the born mechanic (and eBay addict) can’t look at objects without picturing them dispensing beer. His iPhone contains a catalogue of snapshots taken of waiting-to-happen vessels during his frequent junk store visits: a frozen drink machine from a carnival, a rocket ship ride salvaged from a mall, a deer head. Keogh also takes pride in keeping the original mechanics of the vessel working—so the bumper at the Cadillac lounge still lights up, and the three-tap snare drum at an Aurora jazz club goes rat-ta-ta-tat when hit.
Next up? The tower he made from a World War II–era shell box will be installed at Magpie this week. Despite being immersed in beer, though, Keogh’s go-to is club soda. “I gave up drinking 21 years ago,” he says, and laughs. “I got full.”
The Linemen Draft Beer Services, 416-825-0995.
Originally published in The Grid newspaper, 06/12/11.