David Labarbara began homebrewing beer as a hobby about thirteen years ago while he was still gainfully employed at his oil and gas job. When the price of oil fell dramatically and they wanted David to take a massive pay cut and work longer hours, he said no thanks and quit. David wanted to pursue a career in a field he was actually interested in, so he did what any freshly unemployed person would do: started scanning Craigslist. He was seeking a brewing job, but instead got hired on as a bartender at the about-to-open Evergreen Taphouse & Brewery, which — at the time — thought itself just a taphouse that would serve other brewery’s beer.
David tells us how the establishment had applied for a brewery license on a whim, not thinking they’d get approved. When they did, it was a shock to the staff who quickly realized that no one amongst them actually knew how to brew beer. Fortunately for David, he did.
Initially, David was hired onto Evergreen Brewey’s staff because he was the “token guy with a beard,” which they’d previously been lacking. But his role quickly became much more important than that. Evergreen’s initial brewing system was just a small and simple 10-gallon homebrew system with two fermenters. “We were very limited on what we could do,” David explains. So he slowly and steadily began to upgrade things with what little resources they had in the beginning.
The brewery opened up in the fall of 2015 with a 20-gallon fermenter space and a 10-gallon system. David purchased some used 15-gallon food grade containers to store the beer. They started off with just three beers on tap. A few months into opening, one of their customers noticed their small brewing system and offered up his own, which he’d purchased with the intent to open a brewery of his own that never came to fruition. So in June 2016, David upgraded to a 1-barrel system (31-gallons). This new system allowed Evergreen Brewery to put out 3-5 beers at a time. And since then, they’ve slowly started taking over more of their 15 total taps. In February 2018, the brewery was putting out enough product to serve all of its own beer.
Now that Evergreen was steadily producing lots of beer, they needed much more room for keg storage. “If you wanted to go into the keg room, you had to climb over lots of kegs stacked on top of one another,” tells David. “It made inventory and cleaning very hard. We’d have to take all the kegs out to clean the floor and to know what we had.”
“We had been working on taking over this backroom of the brewery, it’s not connected but it’s in the same building. We really wanted to be able to utilize that space for our cold storage,” says David. It was around this time that Store It Cold’s CEO recommended a CoolBot to transform their space. David and our CEO, Brian, had met when Brian and his brother brewed their hefeweizen on Evergreen’s 1-barrel system. After doing some research, David was pleasantly surprised to find out the Store It Cold was located right in Colorado, so drove right over to our offices to pick up his CoolBot in person instead of waiting for shipping.
David had already owned an Ideal Air Mini Split from a (legal!) marijuana grow room he’d previously run, so he decided to have that installed by an electrician for Evergreen Brewery’s new walk in cooler. The walk in cooler room is about 12’ x 12’ and they’ve utilized the entire space, reinforcing the floors to hold the weight of the kegs and insulating it. “It was very easy to hook up the CoolBot,” says David. “Luckily I had the service manual for the mini split, which told me exactly how to take off the front cover — otherwise I might have never figured it out!” Then David had help from an electrician friend of his with the wiring and hired an HVAC guy to come out and vacuum the lines. “We wired to a 240 volt, then wired the inside unit to the outside unit. I had to take off the cover and put probes in the right spot. It was all very simple,” David tells us.
Fun fact: Most CoolBot customers in the US operate using a window A/C unit, which was much cheaper than a mini split and easy to install one’s self. But most customers outside the US actually use a mini split. While you typically need to hire a proper electrician to install the mini split, labour tends to be cheaper abroad and so the mini splits are more common.
Evergreen Brewery has had their CoolBot for about and month and it’s made a huge difference for them, in terms of space and ease. “Now instead of keeping all the kegs in the keg room behind the bar, we only keep one keg on per line and one back up. So instead of having 60 kegs in the keg room, we’ve got 20,” David explains. Thanks to the CoolBot, David’s cut his labor hours — and frustration! — down substantially.
“With everything stacked up, it was one big game of tetris to fill and find kegs. The new layout has simplified doing inventory,” says David. “Now there’s even room for a dance party back there!”