Avi Shemtov grew up in Sharon, Massachusetts; his dad was an Israeli immigrant, which helps to explain Avi’s main business, a food truck called The Chubby Chickpea, which serves soulful Israeli street food. Shemtov gradually began to do more catering with the truck, and some of his regular customers were breweries.
This is one of the hottest trends among breweries: small-production outfits with simple taprooms that skip kitchens in favor of a rotating list of food trucks. The Chubby Chickpea was becoming a regular fixture at such eastern Massachusetts breweries as Tree House, Aeronaut, Trillium, Exhibit ‘A,’ and Night Shift while Shemtov still catered events like weddings and birthdays, where people also liked their beer.
Shemtov had a brainstorm that linked both worlds: “I’d build a high-end, mobile draft system and cater high-end beers.”
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Most people would think, “No way this is legal,” and they’d just keep making falafel. But Shemtov kept thinking, and eventually he found a loophole in his Massachusetts license big enough to drive a beer truck through.
“The catering license allows you to transport the beer and to dispense it on private property,” Shemtov reasoned. “It says I can pour beer at events; it doesn’t say how I have to pour it.”
And that meant his catering license allowed for a draft beer truck. He bought a 1966 Chevy P36 step van, spiffed it up, and fitted it with custom-made keg-top hubcaps and a six-tap, top-of-the-line mobile draft system. The system, manufactured by Modern Draught, chills the beer on the way to the tap, so even on the hottest day the beer always pours cold.
Shemtov filled those taps with beers from the cutting-edge breweries he’d been catering. “My experience as a chef shows me that brewers are cut from the same cloth—they like making great stuff for people,” he says. “I’m just trying to be a conduit to pour their beer. They’ve been very receptive.
“The thing about craft breweries is that a lot of them don’t want to work with distributors. So we’ve made relationships with some distributors who are willing to work with them, willing to enter into relationships that don’t lock them up, that are nonbinding.”
Up next? Draft wine and barreled cocktails. “There are great wineries putting great wine on tap,” Shemtov says. “It’s especially easy to deal with white wine; it’s served cold. Red wine is harder: it’s served colder than ambient but not ice cold. We’ll have to add electronic [temperature controls], and that means batteries. But first things first: We get the beer working perfectly first.”
The Tapped beer truck concept includes the high-end draft system, safety-certified bartenders, license, and insurance. It also includes access to great craft beers throughout eastern Massachusetts. And it comes with a bright, innovative owner: Avi Shemtov.
Lew Bryson has been writing about beer and whiskey for more than 25 years and is the author of Tasting Whiskey. Find him on Twitter.