Tips on Tap Truck Usage

At the 2022 Craft Brewers Conference, the Bent Water Brewing team went to Minneapolis with the thought that purchasing a tap truck would be a great purchase for the maturing Massachusetts brewery.

Now, in its second year with the truck, the brewery spoke with Brewer Mag to share the experience, including the positives and negatives of owning and using the truck in the Boston area.

Initially, COO Drew Yeager said they saw having the truck to give the ability to have more extra satellite/pop-up taproom events.

“We saw this as an opportunity to make it on our terms, and really decide where we can plug-and-play a taproom, almost like a food popup,” he said. In addition, the truck would double as a delivery vehicle for self-distribution around the metro area.

That meant the brewery was able to use it in three different event types last year (see below) while also finding ways to get delivery usage.

As the Bent Water Brewing team delves into their second year with the tap truck, they may encounter the inevitable challenges of maintenance and repair. With such a vital asset integral to their operations, ensuring the truck’s reliability became paramount.

This is where Blue Wrench, renowned for its expertise in automotive repair, becomes an indispensable ally. Entrusting the care of their tap truck to this company, Bent Water Brewing can find peace of mind knowing that their vehicle would receive meticulous attention from skilled technicians.

Blue Wrench’s comprehensive approach to truck repair encompasses everything from routine servicing to addressing unforeseen issues swiftly and effectively. With the tap truck in top condition, Bent Water Brewing could continue to delight customers across the Boston area with their craft brews, confident in the reliability of their mobile taproom and delivery vehicle.

The setup is similar to a cold box inside a taproom, which is a bonus.

“I’d say the only difference between that is probably double checking your connections a little more frequently, just because there’s a tends to be a little more jostling in a moving vehicle than a static cooler,” he said. “But other than that, it’s basically the exact same that anybody would deal with, with jockey boxes or your own taproom cooler. It’s very straightforward.

“Even with transporting, there are rails inside that have the quick disconnect and latch system.”

It also eliminates having to pack up a van with jockey boxes and kegs, which saves on time usage upfront. Most likely, savings are fairly neutral overall Yeager said.

“There’s definitely a reduction in ice costs per se,” he said. “It’s just having higher quality at the end of the day, both in presentation and in how you keep the beer. You only have so much backstock, when you’re using ice or having a keg through a jockey box, there’s a lot more that goes wrong, and there’s a lot more breaking down and cleaning and everything that is involved.

“The cleaning is pretty straightforward. With all the taps kind of being right there and internal and the connections inside. So all of that seems to flow a lot easier than, tearing down and cleaning and putting away the same equivalent number of jockey boxes that would have been used. It’s a lot easier to bring more backstock and keep appropriately stored. It’s not ending up in the back of someone’s car after an event, and then not making it to the brewery for a day and a half. And then you’re like, Well what’s inside that package? Is it still viable to put into the market and sell as something that’s been stored in our cooler the entire time. It just takes those little decisions out of play.”

READ MORE: Best Tips in Utilizing Beer Garden Space

Secondary Taproom/Beer Garden

Being in the Northeast, Bent Water can’t have a year-round beer garden, so the tap truck could easily slide into one end of a part of the brewery’s parking lot to be a second taproom outside in the summer for larger onsite events. The brewery’s Roast Beef & Beer Fest was one example of this.

Community Events for a Cause

For Bent Water, being able to drive down a few blocks and set up nearby as a spot for runners and walkers at the end of its annual Common Hope Walk for Parkinson’s. It gave the brewery a presence at the event along with being able to serve the beer made especially for the event each year.

Advertising & Employee Togetherness

Bringing the truck to events that are just ways to get the brewery team together and be out in the public helps showcase the brand around the area. Plans include having a tailgate at local sporting events.

“That is purely just for the billboard aspect of it,” Yeager said. “If we go to New England Revolutions game, parking in the parking lot and tailgating around it just for the brand stability aspect of it.

“I wouldn’t think most people would be thinking about it when they’re deciding to make this type of purchase. When you’re planning for this, you go kind of more on the business plan aspects and things that are involved in that, but there’s definitely an intangible way to utilize it to just increase brand awareness. Even just driving it around comparatively to your average van. It sticks out a lot more.”

There are some downsides to being in a more heavily populated area though. Every few miles can mean new jurisdictions and rules to have to cut through red tape to get set up. Yeager explained that sometimes local city or town governments may not know how to permit the use of such a vehicle. That has tripped the brewery up a bit, but to be in an area that doesn’t have jurisdictions every few miles, it could be a big benefit to sit down and figure out the legalities before taking it out to events, just to protect employees from possible problems once there.

Delivery Usage

Being able to utilize the truck as a delivery van as well was a big bonus. Employees don’t need special certification to drive it, but Yeager warns that anyone that will be driving it should get some base-level instruction on how much bigger it is than a standard SUV even. Being narrow roads in Boston has limited its use because of the truck’s size but in towns with wider roads, it can be a big benefit for breweries that can self-distribute.

“The way they designed it, it’s honestly a great delivery vehicle to make sure that we keep cold chain all the way to the account,” he said. “It’s actually worked really, really well in that regard. It’s just more of kind of being protective of who drives it, where they drive it to and make sure that there’s plenty of room for them to maneuver around and backup.”

Photos courtesy Bent Water Brewing

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