Christmas came early to the brewery this year. It came with a bang, it came with great cheer!
Yet it came without ribbons, it came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags.
You see, each brewer in Brewville loved canning a lot. But all they had was a bottler, and that wasn’t hot.
So they called up a canner — Iron Heart was their name — and each week with a canner to the brewhouse they came.
Till one day Hank said, “Oh, this just won’t do. We must get a canner! It must be brand new!”
To the Internet went Jimmy to find the right one. Brian searched and he searched, till his searching was done.
They ordered one up, and, oh, their hearts quivered. ‘Till Tuesday, our new canning line was delivered!
(Okay. That’s enough Seuss for one day. Apologies to anyone who was expecting this blog to be entirely in rhyming, anapestic tetrameter couplets.)
But, yeah. We got a new canning line!
Those cans you’ve been enjoying over the past few months have been canned up by a mobile canning team from Iron Heart Canning. Using a mobile canning team allowed us to get our cans to you guys a little faster — it took six months for the canning line to get here.
“Plus, it offered us the opportunity to have experts come in and can our beer, all the while soaking up much of their knowledge without having to make mistakes first, compromising the beer, or having to scrap a bunch of cans,” says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm. “Now that our own line is in, we already know much of what it takes to operate one of these lines.”
Also, we weren’t entirely sure how cans would sell. It made a lot of sense for us to test the waters first before jumping in with both feet.
“What a lot of us suspected was that can sales would blow right past bottle sales and would become the main packaging option,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink, “and within a month of using Iron Heart we knew cans weren’t the future — they were the now.”
If you’re looking for a mobile canning option — and, let’s face it, you’re probably not — we wholeheartedly recommend Iron Heart.
“It was awesome!” Brian says. “We had four different teams of Iron Heart guys coming down and every one of them were great people, friendly to work with, extremely professional. I couldn’t be happier with our decision to bring Iron Heart in to package our beer.”
Those twenty-two teams have pretty much seen it all. They’ve got the knowhow to get the best beer into the cans, how to troubleshoot along the way, and our guys learned a lot while they were in-house. Nonetheless, it was important for us to get our own line.
“Think about it,” Brian says. “We spend good money and time bringing in the ingredients after countless hours conceptualizing the beer, and Mark and Andrew sweat their asses off on the brewstand for eight hours, and Mike and Eddie spend a week or two keeping a watchful eye over the beers in the cellar before harvesting the yeast, dry-hopping, and centrifuging the beer, over to JP, Kevin, and Sean in packaging to get the beer ready. And at this point, at the goal-line, after our crew has carried it almost to the finish line, we hand it off to a new team to take over? Naah.”
Furthermore, packaging is the last line of defense to ensure that the quality of the beer is as high as possible, so we wanted this final facet of the process in our hands.
Another huge benefit is the scheduling aspect.
“Things don’t always go as planned,” Jimmy says, “and trying to make changes with a mobile canner we had scheduled weeks in advance can be difficult, but now if we need to delay a run by a day or two it’s not that big of a deal.”
So, we picked ourselves up a brand-spankin’-new Wild Goose 250.
Brand-spankin’-new is not exactly the norm around here. Hank basically welded together our bottling line from leftover pieces of Sputnik and an old toaster or something, and, while it works great because Hank is a freakin’ MacGuyver-style genius, it was pretty cool to get something right out of the box.
The Wild Goose 250 — whom we affectionately call “Goose” — comes very highly recommended. They’re located out in Denver, so Brian, Mark, and Ryan were able to visit them while they were out there for GABF. Also, a lot of local breweries use the same system and had nothing but great things to say about it.
And, whooo, what a beaut! Weighing in at a lean 700 lbs, this baby behemoth’s got four fill heads, patented bottom-fillers, and a pneumatically actuated, cam-driven seamer. What’s all that mean? It means that it allows for some of the lowest levels of dissolved oxygen in the business, keeping your beer fresh as a freakin’ daisy.
This thing can shoot out cans faster than Beertender Steve Wilson can chug a King Porter Stomp: 38-42 cans a minute. That means that it can go through a 30-barrel batch of beer in just over four hours.
We also picked up a new depalletizer, as well. Essentially, a depalletizer is exactly what it sounds like — a machine that… takes things off pallets. The new one is much more automated than what we’ve used in the past.
This guy is going to free us up quite a bit, allowing us to focus on more details of the canning process. Because, honestly, there are more important things going on when we’re packaging than how the packaging material gets off the pallet — things like dissolved oxygen rates, fill levels, seaming, etc.
The great thing? There’s actually more room in the brewery, now. Since we’re not giving up on bottles, we’re not getting rid of the bottling line, but since we’re bottling less in favor of cans, we were able to cut it down to its bare bones.
Furthermore, the canning line takes up less room than the bottling line. So much more room for activities! Or, most likely, more room for additional fermenters.
But that’s news for another day.
In the meantime, enjoy the products of Goose’s labor. Swing down to the Brewtique and pick up some cans!