Dogs, yoga, cycling, guitars — whatever your thing, there’s a good chance there’s a coffee brand that reflects it.
For rock climbers and other wanderlustful outdoorsy types, Carabiner Coffee has been fueling the adventure for more than two years, serving manual pourovers, Aeropress and cold brew coffee out of a refurbished VW van affectionately called Ol’ Blue. While struggling to find a suitable brick-and-mortar location for Caribiner, founder Erik Gordon eventually opted to add to his mobile fleet with two more VWs: a white one named Pearl and a yellow one named Daisy.
“I was like, you know what? The thing that I’m still stoked on and am able to control myself is buying another van and expanding the mission of the business that way,” Gordon recently told Daily Coffee News.
Then, while looking for a venue just to stage a one-night launch for a coffee beer collaboration with Portland, Ore.’s Base Camp Brewing, the first stationary home for Carabiner practically rappelled into his lap from inside The Rayback Collective, a new food truck pod and warehouse bar in Boulder.
“We were really psyched on the space, they were psyched on what we do,” Gordon said. “We decided to open our shop there and it’s just been super smooth ever since.”
The Rayback is an expansive 4,000-square-foot facility with an L-shaped bar with 25 taps behind the long end, and Carabiner will soon be occupying the short end. Offerings will be as uncomplicated as they are from the road.
“We’re just psyched on simple coffee,” Gordon said. “For us it’s more about the people that we get to talk to and what happens through the coffee than spending 20 grand on a machine and having to stress out super hard when it breaks or when we have to pay the bills.”
Coffees for Carabiner’s three staple blends — the Business, on the dark side; the Skooch, browned to a medium; and the Dream, roasted lightly — come by way of roaster Matt Kay at Silver Canyon Coffee, a company whose 30 years in the business make it look easy, and certainly simplify the experience as far as Gordon is concerned.
“They’ve got some badass knowledge,” Gordon said of the roasting partnership, which Gordon described as more collaborative than a typical private label deal. Even as Carabiner continues to grow, Gordon doesn’t envision himself going full on into roasting.
“I love adventure and I love being really free and meeting people and everything. Coffee roasting as an art is, I feel, like a totally different genre of business life,” said Gordon. “I’m stoked to be sitting in my van and making pourovers rather than in the roastery and being inside a lot.”
Such mobility is an integral aspect to the life of the brand. Carabiner Coffee has made its mark by appearing at trailheads, outdoor events and in front of outdoors stores. They’ve toured a series of REI store openings across the country, though Gordon said he prefers to remain flexible and avoid any exclusive brand partnerships.
“We’re sending samples to the REI buyers to see if they’re interested in carrying us around the country. We’re definitely at the front porch of that whole ‘expansion’ deal, and we’re just waiting to see what comes back to us,” said Gordon, noting that Carabiner-branded bags are currently on shelves at climbing gyms and outdoorsy retailers in Boulder, Denver and Seattle. Said Gordon, “Whoever has the balls to randomly email us and ask us ‘hey, could you send us coffee?’ We’re psyched to send it to those people.”
At the same time, opportunity has knocked more than once for Carabiner by the sturdily gloved hand of outdoors apparel-maker Patagonia, whose mission and spirit align squarely with the coffee company’s. Portable solar panel maker Goal Zero, too, is a likeminded brand that has fully outfitted Carabiner’s coffee vans with renewable energy resources, constituting a partnership Gordon is proud to stand by.
“Those are the two brands that are doing things in the outdoor world that I completely endorse, and those are the two that I work with the most heavily,” said Gordon. Therefore if one of those two came to Gordon seeking a permanent in-store installation vis a vis the Stoked Roasters bars inside The North Face flagships, Gordon said, “I’d talk about it at least.”
The next Patagonia-linked endeavor is the Spring 2017 Worn Wear College Tour, a 21-stop tour of college campuses across the U.S. running from February through April, during which a Patagonia van offers to repair weathered Patagonia apparel. The company asked Carabiner to tag along as an accompanying coffee purveyor for the journey.
The bar inside the Rayback Collective at 2775 Valmont Road in Boulder is slated to soft-open Feb. 20.