J is for Jockey Box
J is for Jockey Box – part 10 of our A to Z guide to craft beer terms.
In the early days, Devil’s Peak was a tiny operation with a handful of employees. We brewed out of a 500L system (now on display at the Taproom), used a single bottling machine, and at festivals, we poured our beer to the masses using the humble jockey box instead of a large, conventional beer chiller.
These larger chillers run on electricity. Water in the unit is lowered in temperature until a thick ice bank forms inside. There is a series of thin piping that run back and forth through the chilled water. These pipes have beer pushed through them as it makes its way to the tap. As the beer passes through the pipe, winding its way through the cold water inside the unit, it drops in temperature. Depending on the temperature setting in the machine, the beer can go from warm to just above freezing in a matter of seconds.
While some breweries tout the advantages of near arctic beer, Devil’s Peak drinkers know that the ideal serving temperature for their brews is between 8 and 12 degrees. That’s because they’re not fooled by marketing hype, and are keenly aware that cold is not actually a flavour.
While we eventually upgraded to these fancy rigs which you can now see at our pop up bar, there’s still a special place in our hearts for the little red box that could be ready to serve up ice cold DPBC at a moment’s notice.
This jockey box, or simply “the red box,” as it was known, was an insulated container which housed a cold plate, plastic piping, and taps. It works on the same concept as its bigger cousin, but boasts a much simpler package.
Inside the bottom of what is essentially a cooler box, there is a large block of aluminium called a cold plate. This cold plate has piping that runs through its interior and has “beer in” and “beer our” connection points. When you’re ready to serve up some ice cold draft, you simply cover that cold plate with a few bags of ice, hook your keg up to the “beer in” pipe, hook the tap to the “peer out” pipe, and send your room temp beer through the now ice cold block. In a matter of seconds, out comes a cool, refreshing pint.
The simplicity of the system makes it a favourite for back yard parties and events where electricity is not available. They’re so simple to make, many beer enthusiast have built their own rigs so they can enjoy draft beer at home!