Just when you think there isn’t any new ground to break when it comes to making beer, someone comes along, such as the guys at Motorworks Brewing in Bradenton, Florida, and spontaneously ferment a beer in the back of a 1984 El Camino Conquista.
The idea, as you can imagine, started off as a joke. The car, with its flatbed rear, is owned by Lead Brewer Jose Martinez, and last summer, when the mercury was spiking and after a long day of brewing, the staff was looking for a little relief. Their thoughts turned to the makeshift pools popular in that part of country, where a tarp is put in the back of a pickup truck and then filled with water for a little outdoor refreshment.
It was also around the time that the brewing staff had been angling the ownership for a coolship. It’s when inspiration struck. “We measured the bed of the El Camino, and the dimensions were damn near perfect for a 3.5-barrel brew,” says Martinez, noting that’s the same size as the brewery’s pilot system.
While many beer drinkers are still enjoying the beers of summer, sipping on watermelon wheats or Mexican lagers, brewers and homebrewers have already started turning to cooler-weather recipes.
Coolship brewing has grown in the United States since Allagash Brewing Company—believed to be the first of the modern beer renaissance—installed theirs in 2007. The shallow pools are filled with steaming wort and are naturally inoculated by microflora in the air as it cools. The beer, traditionally lambic, is then transferred to barrels where it continues to age and ferment.
Breweries such as Allagash in Portland, Maine, or Bluejacket in Washington, D.C., or Dovetail Brewery in Chicago all have dedicated rooms where yeast cultures can live and thrive over time. Other breweries such as Mantra Artisan Ales and Yazoo Brewing Company (both in Tennessee) have mobile coolships that allow them to inoculate wort in fields, state parks, or just about anywhere else they can travel in order to get “local flavor” into beer.
Then there was the collaboration between Trinity Brewing and TRVE Brewing Company (both of Colorado) where they loaded steaming wort into the back of a truck and drove it up I-25 from Colorado Springs to Denver, picking up all the night highway air had to offer.
When Motorworks in Florida filled the El Camino, they used a heat-resistant, food-grade membrane that has been used in marijuana production. They secured it to the sides of the bed with industrial tape and, without spilling a drop, pushed the car into the beer garden where they parked it overnight underneath a 150-year-old oak tree.
Martinez and Head Brewer Bob Haa put a tent over the car to keep anything from falling into the wort and then spent the night alongside it to, in the words of brewery Marketing Director Barry Elwonger, “make sure no cats jumped in there.”
The beer was transferred to barrels the following day, and Elwonger says that it’s coming along nicely and that the brewery hopes to release it in a few months, or whenever it tells the brewery its ready for the showroom.
Motorworks plans to use the ride again this coming coolship season, proving that when it comes to beer, nothing is off the table and that there’s still a lot of road to explore.
This article first appeared on Craft Beer and Brewing Magazine’s website.