MORRISTOWN – Two beer enthusiasts turned a hot day in traffic into an emerging business that’s popping up throughout New Jersey.
The Morristown-based startup Pourbox is helping to bring personal beer gardens to corporate events, weddings, backyard barbecues and more thanks to friends Eric Demmers, 33, of Kinnelon, and Jamie Emma, 39, of Verona.
Demmers and Emma, pharmaceutical consultants, were sitting in traffic on Route 23 a few years ago on a hot summer day when a landscaping truck pulled up next to them.
“We looked over at it and said, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to put beer in that?'” Emma said. “So we thought why not try it?”
In a matter of weeks, the pair collected products to make their hybrid Pourbox in Demmers’ garage and developed the eight tap model still in use today.
“It’s basically a hybrid of a bunch of existing products on steroids,” Demmers said. “It was more configuration than construction. We took the products and placed them in a convenient capsule.”
Next they had to test the Pourbox to make sure it worked.
“So we invited a bunch of friends over to drink beer in Eric’s driveway for two weeks,” Emma said. “Never stopped working. We knew we had something.”
Demmers and Emma made three Pourbox units of varying sizes, completely green with no cables or electricity necessary.
A chill system run by ice stores the equivalent of six beers at one time as opposed to refrigerating all of the beer at once like a beer truck, which allows the Pourbox to run without electricity as a silent, self-contained, mobile beer garden.
In Fall 2013, they began to rent out their Pourboxes and have seen interest grow for weddings, corporate events, golf outings, festivals, and more.
The Pourbox that holds four taps is priced at $399 for a one day rental, plus delivery and set up fees. The eight tap unit is $599 for a day, and the 16 tap unit costs $899 for a day.
Pourbox is strictly a two person operation, and Demmers and Emma deliver the units themselves and set up within an hour.
They’ll even pick up the beer, though the customer has to pre-pay for it because Pourbox is not allowed to distribute alcohol. This freedom allows customers to mix and match their favorite brews. Taps can include a few beers, a hard cider, and even some root beer.
“We can arrange for a bartender if they want, but the system is so simple it allows people to be their own bartenders,” Emma said. “The idea of this is do it yourself. We show up and tell you how to serve it, and that’s pretty much it.”
The Pourbox taps can handle any combination of domestic, imported, craft or home-brewed beers and are guaranteed to pour cold, with no foam and limited waste. One wedding, a homebrewer filled all 16 taps with his own personal beer.
“It’s a convenience item. It’s about making the beers the star,” Emma said. “The beer goes straight to the glass, no lines, so there’s no foam. That saves 15 percent of beer from a keg that would have been wasted. And there’s no electricity, no maintenance, it’s easy.”
Their 2015 sales are on pace to double from their first full year, as word begins to spread.
“We pick up more customers every time we have an event, and always positive feedback,” Emma said. “I’d say we get five to 10 inquiries a week at this point, and two or three convert on that. But most are for months down the line, so we’re going to start getting busier soon.”
If someone is looking to rent a Pourbox during peak wedding season, September and October, they recommend doing so soon.
“It’s popular at places like weddings and festivals because we don’t use electricity so there’s no noise. You can put it anywhere,” Emma said. “And there’s no cables, which frees things up more. We’ve brought a Pourbox right up to a tee box at a golf outing.”
Emma said a long term goal for the company is to link up with local breweries. Cricket Hill, Ramstein, River Horse, Flying Fish have all used Pourboxes.
“We can design a Pourbox especially for them in their own image, or we can take their beer to events so they know it’s being poured the way it’s intended,” Emma said. “We look at Pourbox from a beer maker perspective – how do you want to represent yourself?”
That question works the same for a brewery looking to showcase their best-sellers, a bar looking to serve in an outdoor space in the summer, a homebrewer looking to prove his skills, or a craft beer enthusiast looking for a finely-curated tap list for a party.
“For some reason 40th birthday parties are big,” Emma said. “The beauty of this product is it has all the benefits of a jockey box and a beer truck put together. It takes up such a small space that it can go anywhere, and it’s much more professional looking.”
Now that they’ve passed the one year mark, they’re starting to get repeat business and they plan to create more Pourboxes in the future to meet the growing demand. Their next Pourbox will be designed strictly for indoor use.
“And one day an 18-wheeler,” Emma said. “This is the business we want to be in. It’s fun and it’s giving people a great experience.”
Go to http://www.pourbox.com to learn more.
Staff Writer Michael Izzo: 973-428-6636; firstname.lastname@example.org