Ladder 419, the area’s only beer-serving fire truck
Kevin Mullan was sitting on his couch, browsing the Facebook marketplace, when he saw it–an old fire truck for sale. He had been searching for months with the dream of transforming an old fire engine into a mobile beer server. Mullan said, “I turned to my wife and said ‘I found it.’ She said ‘Go get it.’” The next day he was on the phone with the farmer who owned the truck (and bought it in the hopes of watering his fields with it), but he was about to sell it to someone else. Mullan called up a relative to take a look at it in Coldwater MI. When his relative gave the thumbs up, Mullan bought it sight unseen.
That was the end of March. By mid-May, Mullan had his first event with Ladder 419 after installing the ten tap lines that morning. At that first event, they used bags of ice to keep the kegs cold, the way most beer trucks operate. But Mullan had grander designs, to add refrigeration to “hold 15 kegs at temperature for as long as possible.” Not long after, Mullan had installed a five-foot walk-in freezer, but it wasn’t easy.
“When I bought the truck I had no idea how to do any of it,” Mullan said, but “It all just came together.” His idea was the water tank would be removable and they could end up with a freezer, but no one, including his firefighter friends, knew what would happen if they removed the water tank. “Let’s figure it out together,” Mullan said and found a lot of people willing to help. Eventually, they got the 1500 gallon water tank, which weighed 3500 lbs, out of the truck. They raised the ceiling, added steps, insulated it, and installed a freezer unit.
The original idea stemmed from a fire engine food truck Mullan had seen preparing pizzas in Dallas, TX. He was friendly with a guy who built food trucks, and one had a wood fire oven and a couple of beer taps. But Mullan “didn’t want to be in the food industry.” Seeing microbrews popping up in Toledo, he wanted them to have a way to get into larger events. To date, he has worked with Wild Side Brewing, Patron Saints Brewery and Earnest Brew Works.
“I’ve always been entrepreneurial and I’ve always had a side hustle,” says Mullan. “I don’t have hobbies, I work.” But it’s not all work, and it’s not all beer. Ladder 419 can also serve soda and cold brew coffee. Now, despite being booked every weekend, Mullan can enjoy the work. “Kids like to get up on a fire truck and play,” he told me, “I like to get up on a fire truck and play.”
For more information or to reserve the truck, go to tapped419.com