If there’s one good reason for a big old, bright-red fire truck to come out of a well-deserved retirement after a half-century of fighting fires, it would surely be to quench people’s thirst. And in matters related to such noble service, the beverage that readily comes to mind is foamy and refreshing, a suds most adept at dousing the smoldering embers of discontent.
“Ice cold beer and a vintage fire truck; need we say more?” says Keith Kraus, who recently launched a new custom beverage catering service. Hook and Lager is the name of the North Fork-based business, and also the name of a 1957 Seagrave Quint fire truck that served with the Lincoln Park Fire Department in Michigan back in the day. Now, it’s lovingly restored and retrofitted with 10 taps that pour beer, wine and cider, and it’s ready to turn up to any celebration, festival or event in the region. Its first major public debut will be at the Greenport Maritime Festival on Sunday, Sept. 21.
“It just works so perfectly; the drinks stay cold and they pour so fast,” says Kraus. “You can keep a lot of people happy. And the cool thing is that you can have whatever you want, whatever combination, as long as it comes in a keg.”
Along with local beer from Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. and Moustache Brewing Co., a number of local wines, like Lieb Cellars, and hard ciders, like Woodside Orchards, also come in kegs. Kraus can also source hard-to-find American craft, international and seasonal brews for serious aficionados who want to offer something unique to guests. And of course there’s good ol’ Bud and other crowd-pleasing suds for those who like to keep it simple.
“I find that when it comes to beer, people usually name their favorites right away,” he says. After that, if a customer isn’t sure what else to choose, he can suggest pours that balance out the mix, such as a red, a white and a rosé wine. Prices vary depending on the choice of beverages.
Kraus is a Long Islander who spent summers on the East End, and moved out here full-time 10 years ago to work in the restaurant industry, including the Frisky Oyster in Greenport. He’s good friends with Matt Michel, owner of Greenport-based Rolling in Dough wood-fired pizza truck, which is also a restored vintage vehicle. The two were looking around online for other vintage service vehicles for sale and found the fire truck in Michigan. “We both looked at it, and were like, it’s beautiful! But what the heck are we going to do with it? I said I don’t know, but I want it!” Kraus says.
The idea for a beverage truck came up, and that sealed the deal. Kraus bought the truck in 2012 and had it shipped out, but it took two years to restore, working in his spare time around day jobs and family, including a new baby son for him and his wife, Vanessa. The main problem was shelter: “It’s 40-feet long; it was hard to find a big enough commercial space to work on it,” he says. A warehouse in Cutchogue was eventually found.
Now, word is getting around. Hook and Lager just did the annual party at Macari Vineyards for Sea Tow, a large Southold-based international company. It will also be pouring at the finish line celebration of the Long Island Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life charity event on Saturday, Sept. 20 at Hotel Indigo East End in Riverhead. It’s an event near and dear to the Krauses, as their son has been diagnosed with the disease. “It’s an awesome foundation,” he says. “Every dime goes to research.”
Also, as mentioned, Hook and Lager will be at the Greenport Maritime Festival on Sunday, Sept. 21 in the Capital One Bank parking lot. For more information call 516.515.1301 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.