Current Weather
The Spy FM

Canning Factories On Wheels Rev Up The Beer ‘Canvolution’

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
August 9, 2012

Beer snobs and craft brewers alike have rediscovered beer cans in recent years, defying the old stereotype that quality beer comes only in bottles, or that cans are just for mass market stuff. But for the smallest microbreweries, the question wasn’t “can or bottle,” it was whether they could afford the equipment and storage space to package their beer at all. Many could not.

That began to change last winter, when new companies sprang up in three of the U.S.’s craft beer capitals – Colorado, northern California, and the Pacific Northwest – with a can-do proposition: Put a fully automated canning line on a truck, and package beer wherever and whenever a brewer requests.

Mobile Canning, based in Longmont, Colo., was the first to get up and running back in November. Co-owners Pat Hartman and Ron Popma were inspired by the mobile bottling companies that service California wineries and other areas. “I got to thinking, why not cans? Cans are the way to go these days,” Hartman says.

Small brewers say canning services save them the cost of having to order cans by the thousands or find a place to store them all, plus the cost of equipment. And while bottles can be bought in smaller quantities, filling them by hand is time-consuming.

Mobile Canning is just one of a handful of cans-on-wheels services found around the country. Others include The Can Van in San Francisco and Northwest Canning in Washington state.

All three use automated canning lines from Wild Goose Engineering, which include machines that clean, fill, seal and label the cans. They’re designed to be modular and easy to set up and break down. “Everything’s on wheels,” Hartman says, so the equipment can be unloaded and assembled in about 45 minutes. Canners also make the investment in bulk orders of blank cans to which breweries can affix their own labels.

Tom Horst, owner of Crystal Springs Brewing Company in Boulder is Mobile Canning’s smallest customer. He brews on a two-barrel system, the equivalent of just four kegs of beer per batch. That’s about 50 times less than most other craft brewers. “I think what Mobile Canning is doing is really cool,” Horst says, especially for “nano breweries” like Crystal Springs that can’t make canning work on their own.

Horst was already filling 22-ounce bottles by hand and distributing kegs to Boulder restaurants, but jumped at the opportunity to can his summer seasonal brew, a light German-style ale. “It’s a pretty delicate beer,” he says. “The bottle is not a good package for it.”

That’s because bottles – even the dark brown ones – can let in small amounts of light and oxygen, two of beer’s worst enemies. Cans not only keep out light and air, they also weigh less and are more easily recyclable than glass.

“I was aiming for cans,” says Brian O’Connell, the chief beer officer at Denver’s Renegade Brewing, another Mobile Canning customer. Renegade now cans about 600 cases a month, which puts their beer on store shelves throughout the Denver area. O’Connell says the cans are popular with outdoorsy types, because they can take them to national parks and other places where glass is banned. “Especially in Colorado, I think people seek them out,” he says.

O’Connell says Mobile Canning frees microbreweries to “grow in other ways. Instead of spending my money on a canning line and space for it, I’m spending my money on buying more tanks and hiring more staff.”

And, of course, brewing more beer. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

6AM to 7AM On Being

On Being

On Being engages listeners across the spectrum of belief and non-belief in conversation about life's deepest questions. From autism to the ethics of torture, Krista and her guests reach beyond the headlines to probe faith and meaning, ethics and new ways of being, amidst the political, ecological, economic, cultural and technological shifts that define 21st century life.

Listen Live Now!

8AM to 10AM Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition Sunday premiered on January 18, 1987, and was the last of NPR's major newsmagazines to hit air. Since then, Weekend Edition Sunday has covered newsmakers and artists, scientists and politicans, music makers of all kinds, writers, thinkers, theologians and all manner of news events.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10PM Sound Opinions

Sound Opinions

Take two nationally respected rock critics, the latest music news, personal commentary, and exclusive interviews and performances, add a huge pile of records old and new, and the result is Sound Opinions-the world's only rock and roll talk show.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center