As most homebrewers know, the best part about making beer is sharing it with your friends. For the last several years I have hosted three annual beer and food pairing parties, combining my homebrews with chili, homemade pizza, slow cooked pulled pork and other foodie favorites.
Every year each of the parties have drawn a larger crowd than the year before. To accommodate the growing numbers and their thirst for good beer, I needed to move beyond my three tap kegerator to a larger and transportable system. I started looking around for jockey boxes but nothing quite captured my interest. They were too ordinary, a plastic cooler with hoses and a tap. Instead, I decided to merge two of my passions: brewing and woodworking to build a customized jockey box.
The Construction Process
A lot of thought went into the initial design. In particular, we focused on reducing the visibility of hosing. One thing I disliked about most jockey boxes was how visible all the external hoses were, so I designed it so that the beer lines would come in from beneath the front or back depending on whether we were serving or letting our friends serve themselves.
The jockey box was a dual track project: one part engineering and fabrication, one part woodworking. My brother joined in on the project and we started with the most basic of raw materials. We fabricated a custom-sized insulated cooler out of cut sections of 4’X8’ sheets of foam insulation, foil duct tape, fiberglass and resin.
For the exterior, we purchased tiger maple, an exotic hardwood. To begin the wooden box housing, we cut and glued the tiger maple into panels. After a second round of sanding and cutting, we cut them to size and secured them with biscuit joints and glue to form a very solid and heavy wooden box that rivals the quality of fine furniture. Next, we fitted the fiberglass cooler into the wooden box, drilled the necessary holes and ran the extensive hoses. No small task. For the internals, we chose a four product cold plate rather than coils so that we could expand to eight taps at a later date. Now was the time to personalize our effort. We have the dream of one day of opening our own brewery and have already developed a logo that brands us.
Story Behind The Logo
The logo pays homage to the neighborhood tavern in Buffalo, New York that my grandparents and great grandparents owned. They operated it from 1946-1988. One of my favorite parts of hosting beer parties has been listening to stories about the tavern from my father and uncle the night before. It was time to add the logo to our jockey box.
My brother carved our Call’s Craft Brewery (CCB) logo onto the front and back. It was a long arduous process with lots of dust. Once finished, the logo was hand painted and we sealed the jockey box with several coats of spar polyurethane. To personalize even further, we cut a set of tap handles out of a wide variety of exotic hardwoods. The next step was carving the names of our various beers into the handles and adding the CCB logo to each handle.
The first test of the jockey box was Chili and Beer in October. It worked wonderfully; held the ice long into the next day and poured some great beers. With our biggest event of the year, Beer Madness (a tournament of beers, eight homebrews vs. eight commercial beers), fast approaching in May, we just completed upgrading the jockey box to the eight taps we planned on at conception.
I have been accused of over-engineering things, but the jockey box has been a big hit for both function and style. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing…right??