As an integral part of dispensing cask beer, cask taps are very important items of equipment. Without using proper well maintained cask taps selling good quality cask beer will be difficult. With every pint of your precious cask beer flowing through these taps they play a key role in ensuring consistent good quality beer.
Up until the health and safety regulations appeared cask taps where made of wood, or more commonly brass. Due to the high lead content, brass cask taps were outlawed. These brass taps were very substantial pieces of kit and would last for years. If they developed leaks in the valve body they could be easily repaired by the old cellar-man using a crude lapping in powder[Vim].
Generally these old taps could be badly abused and still do their job. The new modern plastic cask taps are not such robust items and require a degree of maintenance and care to ensure they last a reasonable amount of time.
Selecting a good quality tap is essential. Cheapest is not always the best. A well designed robust plastic cask tap will last quite a long time provided it is looked after. Regular stripping down and cleaning will ensure the tap body does not become sticky and tight. Use a proper small brush and hot water to clean the shank and barrel of the tap. Never mix different parts of different taps together and always after cleaning store them away clean and dry. Use a blank when tapping a cask, this will prevent threads getting damaged and ensure cask nuts go on easily. A good idea also is to replace hop strainers regularly. These can become damaged and twisted and not provide a proper seal.
Like with all things plastic, sadly they do not last forever. If your cask taps are showing signs of age and wear get some new ones and save yourself a lot of hassle.