It’s one part coffee shop. A little bit food truck. It’s completely free-spirited. You wouldn’t expect anything else from a business set in a roaming 1971 VW Bus.
“It’s about spreading as much love and inspiration as possible to those who wander up to the van to buy a cup of coffee,” founder Erik Gordon describes it.
This might be the most Boulder coffee shop ever.
It used to be lucky if you ran across the famous Carabiner Coffee Company van. And famous it is, with more than 28,000 Instagram followers, 4,000 Facebook fans and spreads in publications from Climbing.com to 303 Magazine to Backcountry.com.
The coffee van started out humbly, with no giant get-rich goals, Gordon says. Gordon, a lover of adventure and outdoor sports, simply traveled the country for about two years, dishing out coffee from spot to spot, wherever he landed. You might have seen unmistakable Ol’ Blue parked outside of ski resorts or film tours or climbing gyms.
Following Gordon’s passions, the main niche for this coffee was bringing quality caffeine and connection to outdoor athletes: climbers, hikers, skiers, bikers.
Today, however, Ol’ Blue and her caffeine cups have a permanent home. The Rayback Collective, Boulder’s food truck court, boasts a permanent Carabiner Coffee counter. You can often see the Bus parked out front. With the counter, that means no more novelty of ordering from the window of a vintage hippie van, but the brew remains the same; the menu is short and simple, but Carabiner has perfectly crafted its few, locally-roasted options.
Thanks to Carabiner Coffee, the Rayback Collective began opening at 7 a.m. for the early morning rush, too, so you can start your day with coffee, fill up at a food truck for lunch and wrap up the remote workday with a beer and (often) live music. All without having to pack up your laptop. Coffee is served until 5:30 p.m. daily.
Despite growing roots, the original spirit of Ol’ Blue has not been extinguished; Gordon and his Bus still travel. Follow (or join) their adventures by signing up for the email list or by watching them on social media.
Gordon now partners with Patagonia, which, despite being a big chain, is still pretty darn Boulder. Plus, Gordon’s role: traveling to promote refurbished clothing.
Meet Ol’ Blue
Gordon’s, uh, business partner, is Ol’ Blue, who’s been rebuilt four times now. Because the Bus only has a 65-horsepower engine, Gordon packs nothing other than the absolute essentials. You know, a slackline, bike and climbing gear. Of course.
Carabiner Coffee is:
- Small-batch roasted in Boulder by hand using original roasting methods.
- Simple and authentic.
- Offered in dark, medium and light roast (called The Business, The Skooch and The Dream).
- Responsibly and sustainably sourced from small farms around the world.
- Served as drip coffee, pour-over and aero-press. No lattes. No mocha-caramel-half-chai-blended-frappes with whip and sprinkles and drizzles and unicorn juice and fat, cutesy straws. As Gordon writes, “If you’re looking for a fancy latte, all I can offer is a smile, a high-five and a ‘good luck out there.’”
If you fall in love with Carabiner Coffee while you’re in town but (sadly) have to go back home to somewhere not Boulder (we’re sorry), you can sign up for a monthly coffee subscription to have the beans delivered to your home.