Party in the front, beer in the back.
That’s the M.O. of Fairbanks-based HooDoo Brewing Company’s tricked-out fire truck-turned-beer-delivery vehicle. With room for “a ton” (technical term given by HooDoo Brewery’s owner, Bobby Wilken) of beer in the back, plus a roof deck that sleeps several, it combines our two biggest loves: drinking and sleeping under the stars.
HooDoo self-distributes its German-style Kölsch and American IPA to local Alaskan bars, and before opening Wilken wanted some sort of vehicle capable of transporting kegs. “We were just thinking we’d get a normal box van—anything we could cheaply get our hands on,” he says. But then he heard a friend in Seattle was selling his 1984 Mercedes-Benz fire truck. “The more we thought about it, the more we realized how perfect it was,” Wilken says.
The van is nicknamed "The Feuer"* from the word “Feuerwehr” (the German word for fire department), which is still painted on the front of the vehicle. Besides slapping the brewery’s logo all over it, Wilken says he hasn’t altered it much. “There are all these original details that are just really funky,” he says. “There are all sorts of crazy warning stickers in German on it, and it has places for axes and roll-up doors.”
Like any 30-year-old vehicle, the Feuer has its quirks. It doesn’t really work in temperatures lower than 15 degrees Fahrenheit, so it remains parked for most of the winter. Also, it doesn’t go more than 52 miles an hour—“that’s if you floor it, like really wedge your foot all the way down in there,” says Wilken. The gas mileage isn’t great either. “It’s a four-cylinder diesel, so it gets about 15 miles per gallon.”
The quirks seem like a small price to pay considering the van can haul you and five friends into the Alaskan wilds and no one will have to make a beer run for at least a week. Thank God for German engineering.
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the nickname of the beer van. It's The Feuer, not The Führer.