As you might imagine, draught beer is very important to us, and we take beer quality very seriously. Storage and serving temperature are critical to delivering a quality pint, and the first step in that chain is our walk-in cooler.
It seems the typical lifespan for the condenser/coil unit on a commercial walk-in is about 10 years. Ours went to 11. Last week, it began leaking refrigerant and the temperature began to creep up. A stopgap repair got us through the busy ACL Fest & Pecan Street Festival weekends, while the new parts were ordered and a plan put in place to effect the repair, which required emptying the cooler completely.
Most pubs would simply close for a day. Not us. In 11 years we have closed exactly 2 days, and today was NOT going to be one of them. Instead a hardy team (which did not include me, though I offered) pulled off the equivalent of the old “tugging the tablecloth and leaving the place settings intact” trick, and opened for business as usual at 4:00pm as we do every Monday.
To accomplish this we had a lot of help, especially from our friends at KEG 1 TEXAS, LLC, our primary beer distributor, who helped us locate a large refrigerated truck, essential to the process. At dawn, the crack team of cooler ninjas hit the pub and kicked off the plan.
Besides food and produce, our cooler typically holds about 50 kegs of assorted beers, in barrels ranging from 5 gallons to 15.5 gallons, and weighing 60-160 pounds each. This means that nearly 4 tons of beer and food would have to be moved.
We had run our stock down some in preparation for this quick change act, but there was still a lot of brew to get out of the walk-in cooler and load into the reefer truck. The cooler was emptied, the truck filled and driven offsite, then all the shelving in the cooler (double aluminum shelves line each wall, holding double decker rows of kegs and a shelf at top for food) was removed.
The now empty cooler gave our superstar refrigeration technician Lane Haviland all the room he needed to make the compressor swap, and allowed us to deep clean every inch of the cooler in the process. While the cooler was empty and the now full reefer was taken offsite, Keg 1 beer gurus also performed cleaning and preventive maintenance on our beer lines, dispensing system, regulators, hoses and beer FOBs, devices seen at left which we use to minimize excess foam and simplify keg changing.
By about 2pm, the new cooling unit was fully installed and tested, the team began moving all the shelving back into the cooler, and called for the driver of the reefer rig to return. Cold beer and produce were returned to the cold cooler in time for our doors to open at 4pm, as they always have.
We take beer very seriously. Keeping our product fresh, cold and served just as the brewer intended is a big part of what has made us a success these past 11 years.
A very special thanks to Lane Haviland, Scott Alves, Greg Glarza and all at Keg 1, and the pub team of John, Jorge, Marty, Erik and all who were up at dawn to make sure our beer stays cold and our doors opened on time. Mission accomplished.